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Improving pronunciation

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Mar 4, 2017
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Hello everyone ^-^

So I checked and there are a couple of old threads that kind of relate to this topic but none really gave me the answers I am looking for so I hope its ok that I am creating a new one! My question is, how can I improve my pronunciation so I sound more native? Besides the obvious of 'speaking more' which, unless I am talking to myself, is difficult as I don't have a language partner do you have any suggestions? Are there any apps or programs or videos, or..anything lol? My overall pronunciation isn't too terrible, it just doesn't sound very native. Specifically I struggle to pronounce words such as karada, hataraku and words that have a ra sound directly after an a ending sound (ka, sa, ta, etc). I listen to a lot of Japanese music and watch a lot of anime and Japanese movies and TV shows but this doesn't seem to help all that much. I was considering trying italki as a method to get speaking practice but I have heard mixed reviews so wasn't sure if it was worth the money?

Anyway, sorry for the giant post and thank you as always <3
 
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Regarding the ら row, it might help to note that the sound is actually very similar to what a softer "D" sounds like a lot of places in English. It's not quite the same, but that might be a helpful starting point.
 
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Sorry for the late reply, but thanks guys! I'm trying out listening to Pimsleur (spelling?) and watching more Japanese TV :)
 

nice gaijin

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study some phonology, learn the difference between a voiced velar plosive, an alveolar tap, and a bilabial trill. Be sure to look at the differences between stress and pitch accent languages. Learn the difference between a syllable and a mora while you're at it, Japanese word games will become more interesting.

The way you speak English affects your accent unless you actively work to reduce it. Studying phonology has greatly reduced my accent in not only Japanese, but every language that I attempt to speak. It also helps me learn written languages, as I can more clearly identify the phonemes in a word which helps map phonetic characters to that language's phonetic vocabulary (and not that of my mother tongue).
 
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One of the main pronunciation problems I find in Japanese is the tendency to use the schwa sound /ə/ for unstressed vowels, which is common in English pronunciation, but which isn't used in Japanese. So in those examples you cite, for ha-ta-ra-ku, the "a" sound is the same in each syllable, a very definitely pronounced, consistent open-mouthed "a" sound in every syllable. In English, the "ta" syllable would be unstressed, so would be pronounced /tə/, but this is not done in Japanese.

The "u" sound is also quite specific, similar (but different) to a shortened version of the English "oo". "i" is another one that is different in Japanese, with the lips stretched wide, almost like saying a shortened version of the letter E in English.

(Disclaimer: these are just my observations as a student of Japanese. They aren't intended to be a 100% accurate, scientific description of phonology or phonetics. The linguistics experts on this board will no doubt find my terminology and descriptions amateurish. Many apologies in advance for that)
 

nice gaijin

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The changes in vowels in English operate differently than Japanese, as is tied both to the differences between stress accent in English and pitch accent in Japanese. Another example of this is the devoicing of word-final high vowels in Japanese such as /i/ and /u/.

In English, which often stresses the initial or final-adjacent syllable, it's more likely that the first and third /a/ would be pronounced clearly, with the second one slipping into a more relaxed vowel. In Japanese, the /r/ is a tap (not an approximant like in English). And the final high rear unrounded vowel /u/ is realized as an unvoiced [ɯ̊]...

With American accent: [hatəɹaku:]
Japanese pronunciation: [hataɾakɯ̊]

Learn IPA and this will make more sense: IPA character picker 20
 
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Thank you for this, I will have a look at some of the things mentioned! There really is so much to consider when learning a new language lol :eek:
 
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Sorry for double posting - I didn't know how to edit my post above T_T

Anyway I just wanted to post my little 'observations' from the last week - I have been spending more time using Anki (about an hour each day) and making sure to repeat any audio, multiple times if needed. I have found that by the time I get to the second deck, I am able to pronounce things easier and quicker! Also, the harder I think about pronouncing something, the worse it sounds! If I just say it without really thinking I find I can say the words just fine most of the time. So yeah, I just thought that might be of interest to anyone having similar issues ^-^
 
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How long you can edit your post depends on your site rank. Without contributing to the site I think the max is 60 minutes when you are a Senpai. Also on the pronunciation just remember that it's pronounced the same phonetically no matter where in the word it is or what comes before or after it with only a few exceptions. Practice correctly and it will eventually be second nature.
 
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