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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Hiroko here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher where I’ll answer some of *your* most common Japanese questions.
The question for this lesson is…
Why do DESU and MASU sound like DESS and MASS?
You’ll often hear the word ‘desu’ as in ‘Hiroko desu.’ or ‘masu’ as in ‘yoroshiku onegai shimasu’. They’re both spelled as two syllables but the actual pronunciation sounds like “dess” or "-mass," without the “う” sound.
So what’s going on with this?
The last ‘う’ sounds are often left off in spoken Japanese.
This happens when the "う" sound follows voiceless consonants such as ku, su, tsu, or fu at the end of a phrase or between voiceless consonants. For example, masu, desu, or suki. When you say these words, you actually pronounce the vowel ‘う," but the vocal chords don’t vibrate enough, and you just can’t hear it very well.
This rule also applies to masu form of verbs, such as ‘tabemasu’ meaning “to eat,” ‘mimasu’ meaning “to watch”.
Another example word with the voiceless “う” in the middle is ‘sukiyaki,’ which is a name of famous Japanese food. This ‘う’ comes between voiceless consonants, ‘s’ and ‘k’ and becomes ‘Skiyaki.’
So, what do you say when you say “Good morning.” politely? ...Don’t say ‘Ohayo gozaimasU’. Just ‘Ohayo gozaimass’
One more example:
What do you say when you say “I like Japanese anime.”? ...You’d say "Nihon no anime ga ski dess.” because the ‘su’ sounds as in ‘suki’ and ‘desu’ become “ski” and “dess.”
I hope this makes sense to you and you can use this tip to make your pronunciation even more natural!
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!