Jun 21, 2007
When I hear badly pronounced Japanese its like the unbearable fingernails scraping against a chalkboard syndrome. I would turn red in embarassment for the person committing the language mal-practice. If you want to be well liked and a well respected speaker of Japanese, then put pronunciation on the priority list of things to study.
It would be a whole other article just telling you why bad pronunciation is uncooth. Let it suffice to say that I feel that it is un-cooth, un-civilized, un-educated, never natural and simply irresponsible of a learner of the Japanaese language to neglect this all important aspect of communicating in the Japanese language.
Don't worry yet if your pronunciation fails passing for a native. Pronounciation can be handled gradually and increasingly in proportion to the amount of vocabulary you pull into your Tip #4 the vowels will show you how to get started on perfecting your Japanese pronunciation.
You will improve in this aspect gradually and eventually become so good at pronounciation that when spoken to on a telephone will be Japanese mistook as a real native. Pronunciation is perhaps an easier aspect of Japanese to learn yet it is often neglected. Simply put, mimicking, or speaking in a manner of just anybody can have ill effects on how you will be percieved.
Language is associated with our personalities. Just simply picking a nearby native speaker and mimicking exactly their speech patterns may not always be the best way to go about learning pronunciation. You have to be selective of your words for they are more powerful than the sword. Carefully chosen words, timely spoken can make for expressive speech with clearly understood meanings exchanged between the locutors.
Your words can identify you as a feminine or a masculine. Men should never speak similar or should never copy in like manner the speech of a woman. There are at least 6 levels of common speech in Japanese. If you don't want to be considered an okama!, then your best bet is to stay Thats harsh and if you don't know what okama is, look it up in the Sanseido's wa-ei and if you don't have one, go to my site Japanese 1 there is a link to the sanseido publishing company. Their dictionaries are absolutely invaluable towards comprehension of the language. It will be of primary importance in you Japanese language acquisition. It is important to get a Japanese to English Dictionary, if you don't already have one.
If you are going to learn to speak Japanese please try to speak with correct pronunciation. It shows bad manners, and lack of commitment. It also sends a message of disgrace for your native country. It is important also while in Japan to show that you love your country. They are quite accepting of many gaijins in this respect. Especially since you'll usually be the only gaijin within a couple of hundred miles so make your pronunciation count.
One cool thing about Japanese pronunciation is that vowels do not vary as they do in English. They stay straight. English uses the 5 letters a e i o u to make around 20 vowel sounds. You have many elided or dipthongated vowel sounds that Japanese just doesn't have. it is for this reason I find it easier to find the pronunciation of any foreign difficult word like words in the Bible deuteronomy that you'll never figure out or philosophical names and the like, if you read those foreign difficult name type words in Japanese it comes out closer than attempts I have made in english. Actually using both your native tongue and Japanese together you can come up with the pronunciation of any difficult biblical term.
In Japanese there are 5 vowels and 5 vowel sounds. That makes learning Japanese vowels easier. The order is a little different, so that might be the first thing to look at. The first 5 syllables in the Japanese syllabary are a i u e and o It has to be said that if you were to gather a Japanese ensemble and make a choir out of them, oh how satisfied the director would be. Because they only use 5 vowels and they are pure. International phonetics could straightway use Japanese for these vowels written in Romaji as a i u e o.