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Lesson Transcript

Peter: Learn Japanese Pronunciation. Welcome back to JapanesePod101.com! In this lesson, we’ll show you how easy it is to start speaking Japanese.
Naomi: That’s because we’ll be focusing on pronunciation!
Peter: Believe it or not, pronunciation is one of the easiest aspects of the Japanese language.
Naomi: Hmm.
Peter: We’ll show you just how easy it is, and give you tips on how to perfect your pronunciation.
Naomi: In this lesson, first we’ll talk about the sound and then we’ll talk about the stress.
Peter: Okay, first we want to take a look at how Japanese sounds work. Japanese doesn’t have that many sounds compared to other languages, right?
Naomi: Right. It has only 14 consonants and 5 vowels.
Peter: So Japanese syllables are a combination of a consonant and a vowel. The only exceptions are:
Naomi: 5 vowels and ‘n’ sound
Peter: Which can stand alone.
Naomi: Right.
Peter: I think a very good example is – there’s a consonant “k”, and we can combine it with one of the vowels. Can you just go through the five vowels quick?
Naomi: a, i, u, e, o
Peter: So by taking the consonant, and combining it with these five vowels, we get five syllables.
Naomi: Hm-mmm.
Peter: They are…?
Naomi: ka, ki, ku, ke, ko
Peter: So if you picture a big chart – on the top, you have the vowels, on the left side you have the consonants – by combining these, that’s how you’re going to get the Japanese syllables. Most of them.
Naomi: Yeah, most of them.
Peter: That’s the key point. Okay. Let’s hear a Japanese word.
Naomi: Okay. Ko-ko-ro.
Peter: Kokoro means “heart”. This word has three syllables, all of which have one consonant and one vowel.
Naomi: Right.
Peter: The first syllable:
Naomi: “ko”
Peter: …has the consonant “k” and the vowel:
Naomi: “o”
Peter: The second syllable?
Naomi: “ko”
Peter: Same. “k” and “o”. Third one?
Naomi: “ro”
Peter: Consonant:
Naomi: “r”
Peter: And…
Naomi: “o”
Peter: So, this is just a teaching tactic. The Japanese don’t use this tactic to learn Japanese.
Naomi: Right.
Peter: The rules are kind of set up, but again, what we’re talking about here is not the alphabet, but rather, phonetics, which is very different. So this is an approach to learning Japanese phonetics, or pronunciation of Japanese words and syllables. Let’s try another word.
Naomi: Genki.
Peter: Genki means “energetic”. This one has a consonant-vowel combination, followed by a stand-alone consonant, and then another combination syllable.
Naomi: Right.
Peter: In plain English, the first syllable:
Naomi: “ge”
Peter: …has a “g” and an “e” , like a “g” consonant and an “e” vowel.
Naomi: The next sound is “n”
Peter: Which is one of the exceptions, stand-alone “n”. Finally we have?
Naomi: “ki”
Peter: Combination of the “k” sound, the consonant “k”, followed by “i” to get:
Naomi: “ki”
Peter: So all together we have?
Naomi: Genki.
Peter: And let’s do one last example.
Naomi: “Aka”
Peter: “Aka” means red. This word has a stand-alone vowel, followed by a combination syllable. So those are just some examples of the consonant and vowel combinations you’ll find in Japanese words. The first sound:
Naomi: “a”
Peter: …is a stand-alone vowel.
Naomi: The next sound: “ka”.
Peter: It uses the “a”, but we also use the “k” sound to get:
Naomi: “ka”
Peter: So:
Naomi: “Aka”. And please also notice that each syllable has the same length, like….こ・こ・ろ ・げ・ん・き あ・か. Now let’s move on to the next topic: “stress.”
Peter: And not the kind of stuff you feel at work. We’re talking about stress as part of pronunciation.
Naomi: English language uses stress a lot, right?
Peter: Yes. English has a lot of stress in it. Try saying the word “Japan” aloud, “Ja-pan”. Notice how the “pan” part of the word stands out? That’s because this syllable is stressed. Try saying the word “England”, “Eng-land” Can you hear where the stress is? It’s on the first syllable, “eng”. Now, if you are a native English speaker, you probably aren’t even aware of this. It just comes out naturally. So how about stress in Japanese, Naomi-sensei?
Naomi: Japanese doesn’t have stress!
Peter: There’s no stress on the syllables, and as Naomi-sensei mentioned before, each syllable is held for the same length of time, and given equal stress. Stressing syllables like we do in English when speaking Japanese will sound unnatural, so be careful!
Naomi: Okay, let’s compare the pronunciation of a word that is used in both English and Japanese.
Peter: This should be fun. Okay, first, the English pronunciation: teriyaki. (ter-uh-YAH-kee) See how we stress the YAH syllable?
Naomi: Uh!
Peter: Now, can we hear the original Japanese pronunciation?
Naomi: てりやき。
Peter: Each syllable gets the same amount of stress. Keep it even!
Naomi: To get good at this, practice copying native speakers!
Peter: That’s right – and this is one of the reasons we use a break-down approach inside our lessons. By breaking down the word by syllable, this will help you hear each syllable. And pay attention that each syllable has the same length. So our tactic for learning fast is we give you the word, natural native speed, we give you the English, then we break it down by syllable so you can catch everything, and then we give it to you one more time natural native speed. This really helps you learn fast, catch the words, and put them into your memory.
Naomi: See you again.