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17 January 2005 @ 01:36 pm
Japanese pronunciation draft 1, comments please  
Here is the preliminary guide to Japanese pronunciation for my upcoming panel at Anime Los Angeles. If you find it useful, that's great. If you find a problem or have a suggestion, please let me know!

Japanese Pronunciation

Vowels

The main challenge English speakers have when speaking Japanese is pronouncing vowels. The sounds are close to some English vowel sounds.

There are five basic vowel sounds, represented in Roman letters (Romaji) as:

A as in father, otter, manga, katakana.
I as in pinky, dream, ichigo, chibi.
U as in rule, stew, uke, sushi.
E as in red, deck, ecchi, bento.
O as in hope, store, koi, korosu.

There are also the same basic sounds in long versions. Just hold them twice as long. A common way to Romanize them is: aa, ii, uu, ee, ou.

Note: There are several proper ways to Romanize, and I don't have time to get into them, but we can go over them some at the end if people are interested. I tend to use the Hepburn method.

A "U" at the end of a word is very short and sometimes seems dropped altogether. "Desu" sounds a lot like "dess."

What about blended vowel sounds? There aren't any! Okay, the "I" sound gets
blended in a little with neighboring vowels, but that's it. Also, don't "round" your vowel sounds. Oh, and "I" and "Y" are interchangable when you Romanize.

To help avoid blending vowels, look at a word and pronounce each syllable as if it were separate. Don't pause between them though. Here is a good sample word:

Yaoi

Break it down into: Ya oi. Wasn't that easy? Here's another one:

Ka ra o ke


Consonants:

Most Japanese consonants are pretty close to those used in English. Here are the main differences:

F: Don't quite bite your lip when you pronounce it. It should be a little like an "H."

L/R: You'll have to learn this sound. It's somewhere between the English "L" and "R." Say "Larry." Feel where your tongue is for the "L" and the "R," and try putting your tongue in between those two places.


Syllables:

For reference, these are all of the syllables in the Japanese language. Now you'll know why some words in English are hard to sound out with Japanese syllables.

A I U E O

KA KI KU KE KO KYA KYU KYO
GA GI GU GE GO GYA GYU GYO

SA SHI SU SE SO SHA SHU SHO
ZA JI ZU ZE ZO JA JU JO

TA CHI TSU TE TO CHA CHU CHO
DA JI ZU DE DO

NA NI NU NE NO NYA NYU NYO

HA HI FU HE HO HYA HYU HYO
BA BI BU BE BO BYA BYU BYO
PA PI PU PE PO PYA PYU PYO

MA MI MU ME MO MYA MYU MYO
YA YU YO
WA WO
N


For the common words used in anime section, I'll include borrow words from English, Portuguese, and German. Okay, I only know "pan" (bread) from the Portuguese "pão", and "arubaito" / "baito" for short (part-time job) from the German "Arbeit." But I know plenty from English!
 
 
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ShrewKattshrew on January 17th, 2005 06:06 pm (UTC)
What's the Hepburn method?
ashi: p-chanashi on January 17th, 2005 08:17 pm (UTC)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hepburn

Some examples: "toukyou," "oosaka," and "pikachuu." Looking further into it, it seems there are variations of the Hepburn method, like the one where you put a line above a long vowel sound.
Nikithespatula on January 17th, 2005 08:04 pm (UTC)
are you planning on bringing in the projector to display the romaji alphabet?
make sure to make arrangements with programming if you are.
I would suggest using at least one of the "big scary words" that japanese uses in your examples, since people are often daunted by them.
ashi: mayuashi on January 17th, 2005 08:18 pm (UTC)
I was thinking of providing hand-outs. Ooh, I could include a URL too.
Nikithespatula on January 17th, 2005 08:23 pm (UTC)
handouts would be good :}
"D" is for Dori: Piratedzayde on January 17th, 2005 09:12 pm (UTC)
And monkeys... make sure to give out monkeys
ashi: charyb-deskashi on January 18th, 2005 06:24 am (UTC)
Can you bring the monkeys? I may be driving down with a full car...
"D" is for Doridzayde on January 18th, 2005 05:39 pm (UTC)
No problem, I wil lget the monkeys... and yes i loev your Snoe icon.. lol.. want a coloured one?
ashi: mayuashi on January 18th, 2005 05:54 pm (UTC)
Yes please!
"D" is for Doridzayde on January 18th, 2005 06:00 pm (UTC)
OK, email me the image, in a larger size than an icon.. lol.. and I will colour it.
ashi: toddletashi on January 19th, 2005 07:38 am (UTC)
Naw, email is too easy.