May 8, 2008

Don't Mis-pronounce Japanese or look like a baka

When I hear badly pronounced Japanese, it’s like hearing fingernails scraping against a chalkboard. I have been known to turn red in embarrassment for the person committing the foul pronunciation. Why is pronunciation such a big deal? There are many reasons why language learners should practice pronouncing their words correctly.

In this article I I’ll touch on a few topics I feel are important concerning learning, studying and practicing pronunciation in Japanese.
In speaking another language it is important to be understood quickly and clearly. Without correct pronunciation there is no way for this to happen.

If you want to be a well liked and a well respected speaker of Japanese then put pronunciation practice at the top of your priority list for things you need to study. Bad pronunciation is not cool. It is simply irresponsible for a beginning Japanese language learner to continue learning Japanese without making attempts to improve upon their own particular pronunciation situation.

A good steward of second language acquisition, makes sure that he/she is pronouncing their Japanese words correctly. A learner of the Japanese language must never neglect pronunciation in their studies. The art or skill of the lips the teeth and the tip of the tongue can spell the difference between effective communication or utter confusion.

A tongue is a people, how words are communicated amongst individuals also defines who they are and the type of people they represent; their long heritage and lineage of traditions, festivals, and ceremonies. Giving a little extra effort in your practice of correct pronunciation displays a sincere desire to understand the people and culture through the words of their mouth. Words of a language were not just some accident. Or were they?

Japanese pronunciation is probably one of the easier aspects of the language to learn yet it is often put aside due to the seemingly lack of similarities between the two languages; Japanese, and English. I use to think that if I just copied the way native speakers spoke then I should be ok, right? Well, in retrospect I do believe it is a good thing to copy speak when it comes to simple pronunciation of words, but be careful not to copy speak grammar or sentence structure because that can turn out to give you trouble later on. Mimicking native speakers is good as long as you aren’t copying their bad habits also. Men should never copy the speech of women.
Copy pronunciation but stay very far from women’s nuances, sentence endings, and their use of certain words if done in like manner could portray an overzealous Japanese SL male learner as an okama or gay. If you don't want to be considered an okama, you must pay attention to the way Men use the words for you and I. And be careful of sentence ending particles. That’s harsh and if you don't know what okama is, look it up in the Sanseido Wa-Ei and if you don't have one go to my lens wherein is a link to the Sanseido publishing company. It is so important to have a dictionary as an aid for studying Japanese it goes without saying. So get one 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. Let me give you one example: In Japanese, there are 5 vowels, and 5 vowel sounds. Learning languages couldn’t be 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. Or Hiragana as あ,い,う,えand お.

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