As in title; I can't hear difference between /j/ and /ʎ/. I also cannot reliably pronounce /ʎ/. Can any of you help me?

Sorry if this is not the right place to ask this.

  • What is your native language? Nov 1, 2016 at 19:56
  • @J.Siebeneichler English Nov 1, 2016 at 20:05
  • Which language are you trying to learn that has these sounds? If it's Spanish, the answer is simple :-) Nov 1, 2016 at 20:12
  • 1
    Spanish: not really. In Cuzco it's ʎ, in Imbabura it's ʒ, in Lima it seems to be j.
    – user6726
    Nov 1, 2016 at 20:29
  • @J.Siebeneichler It is Spanish. Nov 1, 2016 at 20:46

2 Answers 2


Since the asker has clarified that the language in question is Spanish, the likely explanation is that they are hearing the pronunciation in a dialect that exhibits yeísmo, which causes /j/ and /ʎ/ to be pronounced the same (usually [ʝ]).

If that's not the case, what I recommend is finding some minimal pairs in languages that have these phones and listen to them until you can recognise the difference. My native language, Portuguese, does; here are the links to the pronunciations of the minimal pair malha (with /ʎ/) and maia (with /j/).

  • I've also been listening to the audio provided by the Wikipedia articles on the sounds. (I'll have to listen to your links a bunch before I get it, probably.) Nov 1, 2016 at 23:48

You need to locate (adequate) examples of [ʎ] in some language. Avoid made-up pronunciations by English-speaking linguists. It exists in Italian, Portuguese, Catalan and some dialects of Spanish and Hungarian, among the more widely-spoken languages, as well as some more obscure languages like Cuzco Quechua, Aymara, Saami. It also exists in a number of Slavic languages though it behaves there like a "palatalized l". Then listen to examples that have [j] versus [ʎ] in comparable environments, until you get to the point that you can hear the difference. Forvo.com has lots of recordings for major languages (and 4,709 recordings of North Saami)

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