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Spoken Word Comprehension And "Language Knowledge"

xminus1

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Hello there:

My latest example of not recognizing a "known word" can be heard in the attached audio clip.

My problem word is 入口. I believe there is 鼻濁音 going on here because of the ぐ sound, and perhaps some devoicing of the い sound in ち and elision with the と, (because of the unvoiced consonants on either side of the vowel in ち). But that's just my guess.

All I know is that 入口 in this spoken context does not sound to my ears like a literal い-り-ぐ-ち. But I realize this is the natural way native speakers would speak the sentence.

Understanding the natural way in which native speakers actually speak is a big problem for language learners like me.

Recently I came across a video that identified some common troubles second-language learners have when trying to understand their target language. Three such problems are:

i. the inability to accurately perceive phonemes​
ii. the inability to intuit sound shifts in connected speech​
iii. the inability to resolve ambiguity with context​

These problems can prevent learners from recognizing spoken words that they actually already "know". There is obviously a big difference between possessing "passive" knowledge and having the ability to apply that knowledge in the recognition/perception of speech.

I think I was burdened with all three of these inabilities when I failed to recognize 入口!
 

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Buntaro

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Understanding the natural way in which native speakers actually speak is a big problem for language learners like me.
This is why I go out of my way to make sure my students are exposed to pronunciations like "wha cha doin?" to mean "what are you doing?" Once the students are exposed to these types of pronunciations, they are closer to their goal of actually being able to speak and understand English.

The same goes for learning Japanese "Ikun desu ka?" to closely resemble "Ikimasu ka?" in meaning.
 

bentenmusume

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I think I was burdened with all three of these inabilities when I failed to recognized 入口!
Out of curiosity, what does it sound like to you? And can you "hear" it as 入口 now that you know what it says?

I listened to it, and I literally can't make myself hear it as anything but 入口, so I'm curious.

Buntaro said:
The same goes for learning Japanese "Ikun desu ka?" to closely resemble "Ikimasu ka?" in meaning.
To be nitpicky, your English and Japanese examples aren't really comparable.

"What'cha doin'?" is a casual/colloquial pronunciation of "What are/What're you doing?" with sounds elided/omitted.

行くんですか? is a completely different structure (the explanatory/contextual ~んです/~のです) with a different nuance from 行きますか? (It's also covered in all textbooks that I'm familiar with.)

Examples more similar to "What are you doing?" vs. "What'cha doin'?" would be 行かなければいかない⇒行かなきゃいけない⇒行かなきゃ!, 食べられる⇒食べれる and the like, which are the same construction but often shortened in colloquial speech.
 

TGI-ECT

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This is interesting, but I first must state that a .zip file isn't going to be a file I'd be comfortable with trying to open, meaning I won't; so I haven't heard your sound thingy there.

But I am trying to recall any dialect I have heard around Japan where you would not hear 'i - ri - gu -chi' [ い - り - ぐ - ち] and I sincerely do not recall ever hearing any native speaker not pronouncing it just like that.

I suppose it is possible I have heard, or even myself have elongated a vowel sound there; but dropping any vowel sound just doesn't strike me as at all familiar to my ears over three decades and extra years.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

And if I may, there is one style that is super common in English that drives me nuts: ingineer for engineer. In fact, 'injun' is impolite, as many know. But it is amazingly acceptable these days to pronounce engineer as injuneer. I suppose a tad less often will we hear injun for engine (and I'd bet that is due to parents being strict with young ones about not using the noun 'injun').

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

But this いりぐちquestion has me stumped.
 

Davide92

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Hello Xminus1,

I'm just a learner like you and to me the 'g' in 'iriguchi' sounds a bit like the final -ng in English words (sittiNG, riNG...). This is probably not very accurate but it does help me make sense of the sound.

Also, in your clip I can't hear the final 'i' in 'iriguchi', either. I'm pretty sure I've heard this before. I looked for an example and found this recording by Kaoring-san on Forvo:

 

xminus1

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Hi, all! Thanks for your replies.

Out of curiosity, what does it sound like to you? And can you "hear" it as 入口 now that you know what it says?

I listened to it, and I literally can't make myself hear it as anything but 入口, so I'm curious.
Hi, bentenmusume-san! Good questions, and thanks for your interest :). I have listened to this sentence many times since yesterday, and, no, I still can't force my brain to recognize the word as being いりぐち + と. All I can hear is いりみつと...but more like "eereemeetsto".

The audio clip is from my Minna No Nihongo CDs. The Minna people have a good variety of different native speakers to read their scripts. The lady in this 入口 clip always likes to use a lot of 鼻濁音. I have had trouble understanding her many times in the past. Other voice actors don't usually give me such difficulty.

I'm just a learner like you and to me the 'g' in 'iriguchi' sounds a bit like the final -ng in English words (sittiNG, riNG...). This is probably not very accurate but it does help me make sense of the sound.

Also, in your clip I can't hear the final 'i' in 'iriguchi', either. I'm pretty sure I've heard this before. I looked for an example and found this recording by Kaoring-san on Forvo:
Hi, Davide92...the NG nasalization is exactly what I was thinking was going on here, yes you're right. As I say above I have come to expect a lot of nasalization with this particular Minna voice actor, but I can't explain why I am hearing something like "eereemeetsto". I will keep trying to train my ear better. And thank you for introducting me to Forvo. I had no idea this service existed! I think I'll be visiting there a lot.

This is interesting, but I first must state that a .zip file isn't going to be a file I'd be comfortable with trying to open, meaning I won't; so I haven't heard your sound thingy there.
Hi, TGI-ECT...yes I agree everyone should be cautious with files. I gave a disclaimer some time ago when I uploaded my first audio clip. So far no one has had any problems that I have heard about. I am not able to upload mp3 files to the website, but I found that zip files work so that's what I do. I just zip up an mp3.

But I am trying to recall any dialect I have heard around Japan where you would not hear 'i - ri - gu -chi' [ い - り - ぐ - ち] and I sincerely do not recall ever hearing any native speaker not pronouncing it just like that.
bentenmusume-san hears いりぐち distinctly, so this is a non-native beginner problem. This isn't the first time I've been posting here about not recognizing familiar words when spoken by native speakers, so it was interesting for me to watch that video I mentioned that identified "inability to accurately perceive phonemes" and "inability to intuit sound shifts in connected speech" as common obstacles to second-language learners.


 

TGI-ECT

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Okay, so I went for it and listened to that maybe 10 times and the reason why the repeat is weird --- the very first time I also thought I heard an ever so slight 'm'ish sound added with the 'ri' and so I turned up the volume and repeated, but none after that gave me the same impression of any 'm' sound tacked onto the 'ri' to put it as best I can.

So I'm going to do some other work and in about an hour when my brain should have cleared that away, I hope, I'll listen again.

But that was weird and I frankly don't quite know what to think. True, though, it was an ever so slight addition and only the first time. Maybe the lady had just come back from lunch and something was caught between some teeth and it messed that up just a tiny bit.

Yep, kind of weird.

EDIT: That just triggered a memory from way back. I remember I once had a tooth knocked out and that caused some interesting trouble over the radio. It was way too long ago and I can't remember what sound was changed, but I sure do remember getting harassed for ages over that. Go in the mess hall and for weeks folks would do copies of what they had heard. Gosh the memories when you're old.
 
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joadbres

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I agree that the start of the ぐ sound is noticeably nasally with this speaker.

However, the ending of the ち sound sounds normal to me -- that is to say, consistent with other native speakers.

Just my ¥2.
 

bentenmusume

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Hi, bentenmusume-san! Good questions, and thanks for your interest :). I have listened to this sentence many times since yesterday, and, no, I still can't force my brain to recognize the word as being いりぐち + と. All I can hear is いりみつと...but more like "eereemeetsto".
This is interesting to me. I went back and listened to it again, and there is no way I can force myself to hear a み or a つ in there. いりみつと would sound completely different from that. (It'd be interesting if a native speaker was kind enough to record a version of them saying that for reference purposes.)

bentenmusume-san hears いりぐち distinctly, so this is a non-native beginner problem.
Just for clarity, I'm not a native Japanese speaker either, though I have been living in Japan for what is rapidly approaching half my life. I would also agree with joadbresさん that the ちと part of it sounds like a completely normal devoiced ち. (Though even the nasalization of the ぐ I wouldn't say is wildly outside the range of what I've heard from a variety of native speakers.)
 

xminus1

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Bentenmusume-san's most recent post inspired me to re-try the audio clip -- but this time, I slowed the voice speed down so much that the lady was almost speaking backwards.

At such a slow delivery, I can now perceive what everyone else has -- that the sounds are (clearly): ee-ree-gnuu-ch-to. It was a revelation!

Sad to say, when I play the clip at normal speed again, my (accurate) perception is gone. But at least I could hear it properly when slowed down.

It's fascinating that the brain can make one think that one hears something that just isn't there. I guess the only solution is more exposure to such natural spoken phrases.
 

bentenmusume

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Quite interesting, and congratulations! And yes, really, exposure is the only way to get past it, I'd imagine.

For reference, listen to this:

This is a trailer for the movie ハチミツとクローバー, in which a male native-speaking narrator pronounces the title of the film.
This is what みつと would sound like.

Perhaps listening to this will help you distinguish it from what you're hearing with いりぐちと.
 

joadbres

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At such a slow delivery, I can now perceive what everyone else has -- that the sounds are (clearly): ee-ree-gnuu-ch-to. It was a revelation!

Sad to say, when I play the clip at normal speed again, my (accurate) perception is gone. But at least I could hear it properly when slowed down.

It's fascinating that the brain can make one think that one hears something that just isn't there. I guess the only solution is more exposure to such natural spoken phrases.
Yes, you have to train your brain to hear and distinguish the sounds of a language. It's a very long process. And when it's a second (or third, etc.) language you are learning, you also have to deal with first-language interference, which adds an extra challenge.

When you finally have a fully-trained brain, you will hear ee-ree-gnuu-chi-to, as the 'i' sound is definitely there, but just spoken quickly.
 
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