The Japanese language has fewer sounds (phonics) than the English language. So while some of the sounds are the same, there are a few that are new and a few that are hard for the Japanese ear to pick up. This game challenges students to listen for the difference in words that sound very similar.

Basic Info

Time: 5 - 10 minutes
Level: Any age
Works with: Listening, phonics
Class size: Small to large

You will need:

  • A black/whiteboard and chalk/marker.

Lesson Description

  1. Pick two words that sound very similar, and test a sound that your students may be having trouble with. (See examples below.)
  2. Write the two words at the top of the board. From each word draw two branches down, writing the two words at the end of the branches. Draw more branches, and then one more level of branches. (You don't need to write the words every time, just as long as everyone understands that the left branch is for one word and the right branch is for the other word.
  3. At the end of the tree diagram, write letter from A to P (or you can mix the letters up).
  4. Now call out words to lead everyone down the path to a specific letter. (See examples below.)

You can test a few times, checking after each round to see who got to the correct letter; or you can do it multiple times and spell out a word or very short phrase and check at the end.


  • When drawing this on the board, you need not write the words out for every level. Often just the first level is sufficient with the explanation that saying the word on the left means take the left path; saying the word on the right means take the right path.


  • The B and V sounds: berry - very, rove - robe
  • The L and R sounds: light - right, fellow - pharaoh
  • The S and SH sounds: seen - sheen, fished - fist
  • The S and TH sounds: think - sink, path - pass
  • Certain T and CH sounds: tease - cheese
  • The F and H sounds: hind - find

As an example, to get to the letter G, you would call: "Link, rink, rink, link."



Read more about teaching English pronunciation in Japan.


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