October 28, 2008

Japanese pronunciation for advanced beginners

Intermediate Japanese pronunciation for beginning Japanese learners – An oxymoron

RA - ら, RI - り, RU - る, RE - れ, and RO - ろ
This article is on how to pronounce the unfamiliar sounds of this line of syllables in the Japanese language.

Explained in ghetto American English so that even the Author has a hard time understanding – I am just kidding when I say this…

Japanese pronunciation tips - JPPGG #102

These tips are my lazy explanation for lack of knowing the correct technical terminology for what I will be describing so gomen ne! Forgive! I am a born American and English is my native language. I did not start on my path towards Japanese language mastery, until I was 19 years old. I was taught at the University during a linguistics class that after the age of 12 the part of the brain that handles the understanding of languages hardens and solidifies to the point that pronunciation and the understanding of words

Understand how the English letters L and R are and D are pronounced in English then experiment with variations and cross-mixes by combining the letters as you do red, blue, and green in fine-tuning the color or warmth of a television set. RA - ら, RI - り, RU - る, RE - れ, and RO - ろ are pronounced by lightly flicking your tongue on the roof of your mouth at the hard palette area. The tongue it seems to me is softer and wider when flicking and flattening it at the top of your mouth. D is stiff, but "ra, ri, ru, re, ro" pronunciation is more flexibly soft when struck against the rooftop of your mouth.

Do you remember making a taco out of your tongue when you were a kid? Make a taco toward the tip of the tongue. It is a smaller taco than the one you played with as a kid. The taco is more towards the tip of the tongue and then flapped in directions as to lay the tongue back down into its normal location in the mouth. Ra is jaw dropping wide from nose to chin. Re is made with a cheeks wide smile, Ru is rounded lips in a circle, ro is both the dropped jaw of ra + ooh lala.

Here is more insight I give to serious Japanese wanna' speak it correctly soon Japanese language learners, in my non- technical jargon at-ed language sort of explanation. I hope you can bear this, because I am sure any linguist out there would kill me for shame and spite, thank you in advance. After making a canyon in your mouth or by pushing the tongue, forward to the upper harder palette at the roof of your mouth. Pretend as if your mouth was a hot potato and your tongue being separate when saying the ra RI Ru re ro line in the syllabary and that your tongue must come quickly off the roof of your mouth because it is hot.

The “r”’s in Japanese, of which there are but five are usually difficult for foreigners or non-native Japanese speakers to get correctly. You can simulate actual native pronunciation by pronouncing your "ra, ri, ru, re, ro" line to yourself like gooey l's or softened d's. The r’s are often miss-heard as d’s in English. I was saying some words to a junior Japanese language-learning apprentice and she heard the Japanese r’s at first as d’s. So go figure, and get out their and practice.

One note of caution, before you even attempt the “ra RI Ru re ro” line of the Japanese syllabary, master the first five syllables, which constitute the Japanese vowels.

In pronunciation:
eh, and

In short hand:
e, and

In Hiragana:

あ - a
い – i
う – u
え - e
お – o,

in Katakana:

ア - a
イ - i
ウ - u
エ - e
オ - o

Remember, the first five syllables or morae as they are known in Japanese, are the five vowels used in the Japanese language. If we first master the first five Japanese vowels correctly, then pronunciation for all the rest of the syllables shall fall into place in due time and learning hiragana and katakana should be a little easier to understand and memorize quicker.

The following is a link to the International Phonetic Alphabet or the IPA http://www.unc.edu/underling/images/ipachart.gif/ here you can see all about vowels as seen from the ears and mouth of international phonetic champions.

How to pronounce the 5 Japanese vowels –

a - あ ah - like when the dentist tells you, “Say ah.”

i - い ee - as in “leech” or me.

u - う not exactly ooh, but for beginning pronunciation masters
stick with the pronouncing “u - う” like ooh as in “ooh lala,” or the pooh part of “Winnie the pooh”.

e - え eh as in bed-head. (Edges of mouth as when smiling corners
of mouth stretched

o - お oh as in “boat”, or “note” (long, long, closed mid-back)

It is interesting to note that as we have in English the “e” at the end of the word “note”, that if it weren’t there, it would simply be - “not”. However, with the addition of the “e” at the end, it somehow takes the “o” of the word, which was pronounced as “ah”, and pulls on it, through the letter “t” forcing a long – “oh” pronunciation.

*It is interesting to note that in, the plosive bilabials, “pa - ぱ”, and “ba -ば” come from the aspirated “ha -は” in written kana in this order:

HAPA then BA.

は ぱ ( then ば.

or, ha -は then ha - はwith the degree symbol (ぱ), then ha - は with the ten ten marks (ば) or a single quotation mark – “. The order in the dictionary also follows that pattern in its other dignified grouping like that of "ta -た" going to "da -だ"; and "ka -か" going to "ga -が" in the velar group.

Makurasuki says “Ganbatte Ne!” 頑張ってね but needs to edit this weird take on Japanese pronunciation, I hope you enjoyed it….

Ganbatte ne!
Do Your Best!