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Lesson Transcript

Hi!
Welcome to Introduction to Japanese.
My name is Alisha and I'm joined by...
Hi everyone. I'm Risa!
In *this* lesson, you'll learn the basics of Japanese pronunciation.
"Pronunciation" refers to the *manner* in which a word is spoken. So don't focus on *reading* what's onscreen, instead focus on *listening* and repeating.
The Basics of Timing
Japanese is what is called a "mora-timed" language. What this simply means is that every character in Japanese – which you can think of as a syllable, occupies the same length of time.
すみません
Notice how each character is pronounced for an equal amount of time?
すみません
No character takes up more *or* less time than the other characters. Every character is valued equally and is pronounced evenly throughout.
すみません
English, on the other hand, is a "stress-timed" language. Syllables that are stressed, are valued greater than syllables that are unstressed.
opportunity
The stressed syllable "tu" in "opportunity" is deemed more important, so it's pronounced *longer* than all other syllables. Listen to it again.
opportunity
This gives English a "machine-gun" like rhythm, where the pace is sometimes fast, and at other times, slow. One last time...
opportunity
Compare this once again with Japanese, which is steady, and even throughout.
すみません
Because equal value is given to each character, there is no word-stress in Japanese. When pronouncing Japanese words, try to imagine a constant stream of syllables flowing out from your mouth.
Pronouncing Japanese Characters
There are five characters in Japanese that signify a vowel sound...
あ、い、う、え、お
Apart from these five characters, all other characters – except for one that we will cover shortly – is made up of a consonant sound and one of these vowel sounds.
か、き、く、け、こ
さ、し、す、せ、そ
た、ち、つ、て、と
... and so on.
Only this character here, is kind of special. It's a consonant sound, without a vowel sound.
So to recap, a Japanese character could be a vowel...
or more commonly made up of one consonant and one vowel
or it could just be this consonant sound on its own.
Now you know the possible sounds that make up a Japanese *character*, but let's look at ALL the sounds in Japanese collectively.
The Sounds of Japanese
In the previous lesson, you realized that you already know 10% of all words in Japanese – which is a miracle!
But are you also aware that you already know roughly 80% of ALL sounds in Japanese too? That means that if you were to simply imitate a Japanese speaker, your pronunciation would be correct roughly 80% of the time!
For example, listen and repeat after Risa.
わさび
Chances are, your pronunciation was pretty spot on. The "W", "S", and "B" sounds are practically identical to English.
The sounds may be the same, but don't forget that Japanese isn't a stress-timed language like English. So instead of stressing the second syllable, like "waSAbi", make it even throughout. Try again.
わさび
Nearly all sounds in Japanese are identical to English, like the "W" ,"S", and "B" sounds in this example. Since you already know how to pronounce *most* of these sounds, we only need to pay attention to the handful of sounds that are *completely* new to you. *They're* the ones we need look out for.
The Unique Sounds of Japanese
In the previous lesson, we taught you how to say "thank you" in Japanese. Do you remember what it was?
(3 second pause)
It's...
ありがとう
This word is often romanized like *this*
Focus on the second character, it's often written as an "R" and an "I," but don't be fooled!
This character isn't pronounced using an English "R" sound at all!
It's like a mixture between an "R" and an "L" sound.
There's no such sound in English, but most people would transcribe this using the letter "R", because that's the closest equivalent there is in English. Pronouncing it like an *English* "R", however, would be a huge mistake.
To pronounce this sound, lightly tap the gum ridge behind your upper teeth with the tip of your tongue. It should be a quick, striking motion, similar to the sensation you get when pronouncing the "T" in words like "butter", "cutter" and so on. Don't roll your tongue like an English R. Most of the air should go around the sides of your tongue, the same way it would when pronouncing an "L" sound. This is why many people describe this sound as in-between an "R" and an "L" sound.
Listen and repeat after Risa.
(pause 3 seconds)
(pause 3 seconds)
ありがとう
(pause 3 seconds)
ありがとう
(pause 3 seconds)
Well done! Let's wrap up this lesson by recapping what we've learned.
In this lesson, you learned that Japanese is a "mora-timed" language, where syllables are pronounced for an equal amount of time.
Japanese characters can represent a single vowel sound, a consonant and a vowel, or a single consonant sound. Collectively, nearly all the sounds in Japanese are identical to the sounds in English. And there are only a handful of new sounds that you need to learn.
We've covered only the *basics* of Japanese pronunciation. If you're interested in learning more, check out the entire course we created named "The Ultimate Guide to Japanese Pronunciation". In that course, we cover and break down *every* single sound in the Japanese language, showing you mouth and tongue positioning, and giving you tips to help you *perfect* your Japanese Pronunciation.
In the next lesson, we'll introduce you to the basics of Japanese Grammar, where you'll learn about Japanese word order and how to build basic phrases in Japanese.
See you in the next lesson. Bye!
Bye~!

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JapanesePod101.com Verified
March 11th, 2016 at 06:30 PM
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Did you like this video? Please leave us a comment!

JapanesePod101.com Verified
October 9th, 2021 at 04:22 PM
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Hi Wes Upchurch,


Thank you for posting!

Yes, as you say, Japanese pronunciation is quite simple.

However, I understand your concern about other sides in learning Japanese.

It must be really foreign for you, but please don't worry.

We have lots of contents especially for absolute beginner learner.

You can approach from various angles of learning Japanese😉


Hope you enjoy learning Japanese with us:)


Sincerely,

Miho

Team JapanesePod101.com

JapanesePod101.com Verified
October 8th, 2021 at 01:33 PM
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Rassoullさん


やさしいコメントありがとうございます😄


Please let us know if you have any questions :)


Sincerely

りょうま(Ryoma)

Team JapanesePod101.com

Wes Upchurch
October 5th, 2021 at 05:19 PM
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In some ways, it seems that Japanese is actually more simple than English, at least where pronunciation is concerned. But right now, learning the language is still feels like an overwhelming endeavor. Unlike Spanish, which was relatively easy to learn because I hear it spoken somewhat regularly in the United States, Japanese still feels quite foreign. Despite the assertion that 10% of the language is the same, I still doubt that that the language will come as naturally.

Rassoull
October 5th, 2021 at 02:08 PM
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いいですね。ありがとうございました。

JapanesePod101.com Verified
September 29th, 2021 at 03:18 PM
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Nevaehさん


やさしいコメントありがとうございます😄

いいえ〜!


Please let us know if you have any questions :)


Sincerely

りょうま(Ryoma)

Team JapanesePod101.com

Nevaeh
September 27th, 2021 at 03:36 AM
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Arigatō for this amazing lesson!

JapanesePod101.com Verified
September 26th, 2021 at 03:50 PM
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Hi Adrian,


Thank you for your comment!

We are sorry for the trouble.

Yes, the course name for the pronunciation is "Ultimate Japanese Pronunciation Guide,"

a bit different from the one introduced in this video lesson😅

https://www.japanesepod101.com/lesson-library/ultimate-japanese-pronunciation-guide/


Hope these lessons are helpful for you:)


Sincerely,

Miho

Team JapanesePod101.com

Adrian
September 24th, 2021 at 04:14 PM
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I can't find the course titled "The Ultimate Guide to Japanese Pronunciation" mentioned in this lesson (lesson 2). May I know where can I find it or has the name been changed?

JapanesePod101.com Verified
September 4th, 2021 at 05:37 PM
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Hi Tony,

Thank you for posting!

We are so sorry for the late reply.


Hi Abel,

Thank you for your comment!

We are sorry for being late to reply you.

We had the phrase ありがとう at 4:50 in the previous lesson😊


Hope you enjoy learning Japanese with us:)


Sincerely,

Miho

Team JapanesePod101.com

JapanesePod101.com Verified
September 2nd, 2021 at 03:35 PM
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Joshuaさん, DANIさん, Fatimahさん & Randelさん


Thank you so much for your kind comments😄

Please let us know if you have any questions :)


Sincerely

Ryoma

Team JapanesePod101.com