The issue many non-native Asian speakers of English have with pronouncing the L and R sounds found in many western languages are well known and frequently the subject of comics’ and their audience’s amusement. Two of the most famously difficult to pronounce words for Asian non-native speakers are “fly” and “fry.” In a fantastic twist of irony, I learned in class today that at least one of the words for fly and fry are exactly the same. Not only do they have the pronunciation, but the kanji as well is exactly the same. Ageru （揚げる）means both to fly (in the sense of flying a flag or a kite) and to fry in oil. In a wonderful twist of fate, the example given was a different homonym, tako, meaning both octopus and kite. Consequently, the sentence たこをあげて！Could mean not only, “Go fly a kite!” or “Fry an octopus!” but also “Fry a kite!” and “Fly an Octopus!” I personally find the last the most amusing option. Perhaps this explains a bit why Japanese English learners are so often confused by fly and fry. ; ) I know for a fact that there are many Japanese homonyms we Japanese learners struggle to master. (ie. The pronunciation of hasshi and hasshi)
Here are some pictures of flying octopus to stare at as you ponder the intricacies of human language.