Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Let's Learn to Pronounce Japanese Sounds

Japanese is very easy to pronounce, much easier than say English. It is based on a very limited collection of immutable syllables which we call 五十音 gozyuuon The Fifty Sounds.
Although there are actually less than fifty base sounds in Japanese, they are arranged into a grid of 5 pure vowels and 10 consonants some of which can be slightly augmented.

The five vowels of Japanese are あいうえお a i u e o, and that is their "alphabetic" order.
あ a sounds likes the a in father
い i sounds like the ee in feet
う u sounds like the oo in zoo
え e sounds like the e in bet
お o sounds like the o in solo

the vowel sounds stay the same no matter which consonant you pronounce them after
か ka さ sa た ta な na は ha ま ma や ya ら ra わ wa

All Japanese sounds are pronounced one syllable, one beat, ending in a vowel
(bonus, this is why Japanese poetry is syllable based 5,7,5 and not stressed or "rhyming")

There is one exception that comes at the end of our syllabary ん nn is pronounced like a mix between English m and n, and never begins a word.

There are some other consonants that might be confusing to foreigners. かきくけこ ka ki ku ke ko is very simple, but
さしすせそ sa si su se so
し si is pronounced like the English word "she" with an sh sound
たちつてと ta ti tu te to
ち ti is pronounced similar to an English "ch" sound rather than "t" = chi
つ tu is pronounced "tsu"

つ is an important letter because if you write it small っ it becomes a symbol meaning "guttural stop." In roman letters this is represented by repeating the consonant it precedes.
Let's practice!
きて kite (ki te = kee tay) means come (please)
きって kitte (ki guttural stop te) means a stamp, or it could mean "please cut"
きいて kiite (ki i te) means listen (please), be sure to pronounce every syllable for one beat

はひふへお ha hi hu he ho
ふ hu sounds similar to an English F, but you don't bite the bottom lip "fu"

There are two other tricks to pronouncing Japanese
゛ dakuten and ゜ handakuten
ゃ ゅ ょ a few more little letters, ya yu and yo

゛ dakuten are too little marks you can put on a letter that mean "pronounce this sound deep in the throat"
it turns
か ka into が ga
さ sa into ざ za
た ta into だ da
は ha into ば ba

Note: the Japanese sound じ zi like the Japanese sound し si sound different to English ears
we already learnt that "si" sounds like "shi"
but "zi" sounds like "ji"

゜handakuten (half deep throat sound mark) only goes on ハ行 hagyou the H row
はひふへほ hahihuheho
ばびぶべぼ babibubebo
ぱぴぷぺぽ papipupepo

And the last thing you have to know is!

You can write や ya ゆ yu よ yo small after a consonant in the い段 i dan I row, and make a new sound
So き ki becomes きゃ kya し si (shi) becomes しゃ sya (sha) and so forth
you can use it if the letter has dakuten or handakuten as well ぴょん pyon

It is important to know that Kya is one syllable, not Ki A.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goj%C5%ABon Wikipedia

はつおんの れんしゅうを がんばって ください
hatuonno rensyuuwo ganbatte kudasai
Please work hard your pronunciation practice!

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