February 14, 2008

Japanese pronunciation guide

Japanese Pronunciation Guide

I decided to make this guide because I have been embarrassed too many times by other gaijin who give my Japanese a bad name. I want the Japanese people themselves to lift the embargo of their already hardened idea and assumption that gaijin cannot speak their language. In America, a full blown Japanese person, or a Chinese person, or a Korean person, or anybody from any other country is thought as strange if, in America they don’t understand English. So instead of outright ringing the necks of Japanese learners who fail to take into account their lips, teeth and tongues when studying the pronunciation of Japanese, working with great care for the progress of their own improvement in the field, I created this article.
Although it’s not recommended to learn Japanese pronunciation on your own, this article can be used as reference in your for those with a sincere desire to help me save gaijin face by giving them more an impression that there are gaijin who can speak their language, and speak it like a native. So by reading this article you can help me change the world a little, well at least change the minds of a lot of Japanese people and their already hardened thoughts and pre-assumed, generalized opinion that if you are a gaijin, then it follows that you can’t speak Japanese like a native. My best advice to beginning learners is to live by the adage, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”
Of all the facets of Japanese language learning, pronunciation isn’t one of the harder ones. The three toughest things about Japanese language which a SL2 learner will face in regards to pronunciation will be 1.) The pronunciation of the syllable tsu, 2.) The ra, ri, ru, re, ro row of the Hiragana and Katakana syllabary (and their words) and 3.) The words that contain an apostrophe between 2 syllables where one syllable ends with an n. The rest of pronunciation can be mastered quite quickly. It may take some time to actually develop the tongue or the workaround for being able to speak the language like a native.
The similarities between Japanese and English
1. Even stress or accent given to each syllable.
2. Rising pitch for questions
3. Stressing of words for emphasis

In Japanese there are times when the meanings of words can change dramatically. Depending on the length of time a vowel sound is sounded. There are two types of vowel sounds you will want to get familiar with in your Japanese studies. They are: 1.) Long vowels and 2.) Short vowels. We can see how these vowel sounds affect the meaning of words by taking a closer look at the Japanese words for grandmother and aunt, or o-baasan and o-basan. In the first word the longer aah in o-baasan means grandmother while if you shorten the length of that ah but just to a quick ah and pronounce it o-basan the meaning changes with minimal effort. So it is wise to pay very close attention to the length of vowels when memorizing words and developing our Japanese vocabulary. with no elongation of the vowel.
Another area worth consideration in your quest to master Japanese pronunciation, is the use of double consonants. Although in English there isn’t quite an equivalent sound so hard as there will be in Japanese, something similar in English can be found