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:
Break it down into: Ya oi. Wasn't that easy? Here's another one:
Ka ra o ke
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.
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
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!