Language Japanese Pronunciation

By JREF · Nov 15, 2011 · ·
  1. JREF
    Japanese pronunciation is comparatively easy to master. There are hardly any sounds in Japanese that don’t exist in English. Also, Japanese is not a tonal language like Chinese or Thai.

    The simplest way to describe the pronunciation is to use English pronunciation for the consonants and Italian for the vowels with a few exceptions. Find examples for all the basic kana below. These are approximations to the correct pronunciation.

    あ(a)as in America--
    い(i)as in image--
    う(u)as in put--
    え(e)as in ever--
    お(o)as in ork--
    か(ka)as in carさ(sa)as in son
    き(ki)as in keepし(shi)as in she
    く(ku)as in Kubrickす(su)as in super
    け(ke)as in kelpせ(se)as in set
    こ(ko)as in cornそ(so)as in Sony
    た(ta)as in tarな(na)as in gnarl
    ち(chi)as in cheapに(ni)as in niece
    つ(tsu)as in tsunamiぬ(nu)as in numerous
    て(te)as in tempね(ne)as in net
    と(to)as in tornの(no)as in norm
    は(ha)as in hardま(ma)as in market
    ひ(hi)as in heみ(mi)as in me
    ふ(fu)as in whoむ(mu)as in mousse
    へ(he)as in heavyめ(me)as in met
    ほ(ho)as in hornも(mo)as in more
    や(ya)as in yardら(ra)as in large
    --り(ri)as in leak
    ゆ(yu)as in universeる(ru)as in loose
    --れ(re)as in left
    よ(yo)as in Yorkろ(ro)as in lord
    わ(wa)as in whatん(n)as in kin
    を (wo)as in ork--
    The "h" in ひ (hi) is a little more throaty, and the "h" of ふ (fu/hu) is pronounced more like an "f".

    The "r" sound lies somewhere between an "l" and a "d". The tip of the tongue touches the palate briefly.

    The "w" sound is different from the English "w". The correct way of pronouncing it is by putting your lower lip against your upper teeth and releasing it at the beginning of the sound.

    The n’ is pronounced as "ny" when it’s followed by the hiragana え (e):

    きんえん禁煙kin'en = kinyenno smoking
    せんえん千円sen'en = senyenone thousand yen
    かんおん漢音kan'ona reading of a kanji
    げんいん原因gen'ina cause
    If the "n" is followed by a "k"-, or "g"-syllable, the "ng" and "nk" sounds are pronounced as in English:

    まんが 漫画mangaa comic strip
    いんかん印鑑inkana seal
    If the "n" is followed by a "b"-, "p"-, or "m"-syllable, the "n" is pronounced as an "m":

    さんぽ 散歩sanpo = sampoa walk / a stroll
    はんばい販売hanbai = hambaisale / marketing
    よんまい四枚yonmai = yommai4 sheets

    The small tsu (っ) and long consonants:

    The small "tsu" (っ) is pronounced as a small pause or an extended consonant in the case of s-syllable:

    すっきり-sukkiri = su_kirirefreshed feeling
    むっつ六つmuttsu = mu_tsusix
    けっする決するkessuruto decide
    The "n"- and "m"-syllables are extended by placing the hiragana ん (n) in front of it:

    こんな-konna like this
    さんまい三枚sanmai = sammai3 sheets

    The "w" in を (wo) is silent, and when used as particles, は (ha) is pronounced as "wa", and へ (he) as "e".

    Silent vowels:

    In the following hiragana the "i" and "u" are silent when followed by a voiceless consonant:

    し (shi), す (su), ち (chi), つ (tsu), ひ (hi), and ふ (fu)

    This includes occasions where a word ends on one of the above syllables, and the next word starts with a voiceless consonant.

    したshita = shtabelow
    すてき素敵suteki = stekicool
    ちからchikara = chkarapower
    ふとん布団futon = ftona futon
    Polite forms:

    In です (desu) and …ます (-masu) the "u" is silent.

    To speak (言う)

    The verb 言う (iu), meaning to speak or to say, is pronounced as "yuu". Also in contractions with the ren’youkei 言 is pronounced as "yu": 言って (yutte), 言った (yutta), 言ったり (yuttari) and 言ったら (yuttara). In all other cases, the normal "i" pronunciation is kept.

    言ういうiu = yuuto speak / to say / to tell
    言っていってitte = yutte(please) tell me.
    言ったいったitta = yuttaI told him.
    言ったりいったりittari = yuttarito speak (and such)
    言ったらいったらittara = yuttaraif you say it
    言いますいいますiimasu to speak / to say / to tell
    言えるいえるieru I can speak.
    言えばいえばiebaif you say it
    言わないいわないiwanaihe doesn't speak


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  1. Guest
    It’s a good lesson which enlightens me with proper pronounciation of certain Japanese words.

    Fan Chun
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