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Eric: FAQ lesson. Perfect Japanese pronunciation made easy. All right, well, Lori’s story mysteriously ended in a bus full of Samurai but we, Naomi-sensei, must continue. That’s right? This is the FAQ episode, the frequently asked questions, the Q&A episode that we’ve been talking about for a while now.
Naomi: 皆さん、ありがとうございます。(Mina-san, arigatō gozaimasu.) Thank you for all the great questions. Eric and I chose a number of them to answer in this episode. So we are sorry if we didn’t get to your question. ごめんなさいね。(Gomen nasai ne.)
Eric: So our first question is from Captain Struggle Bunny.
Naomi: あ、すごい!キャプテンストラグル・バニー。(A, sugoi! Kyaputen Sutoraguru Banī.)
Eric: Do you know what that means, Naomi-sensei?
Naomi: わかんない。(Wakannai.)
Eric: Actually I don’t really know either but it’s a cool name, I like it. So the Captain says, I always get つ (tsu) and す (su) mixed up when spoken. What is it that Captain Struggle Bunny always mixes up?
Naomi: す (su) and つ (tsu) sounds.
Eric: And the captain also says that it’s also hard to hear the pauses with the words that have the little つ (tsu) in them.
Naomi: Ah stop sound.
Eric: So to quickly go over the differences between the つ (tsu) and す (su), it’s pretty much self explanatory if you write it in Romaji but the つ (tsu) has...
Naomi: T sound.
Eric: Basically like a stopped sort of T sound at the beginning of the つ (tsu), and the す (su),
Naomi: S sound.
Eric: The す (su) has an S sound.
Naomi: So your tongue doesn’t touch your teeth.
Eric: And you don’t stop vocalizing all you are talking. With つ (tsu) there might be a little moment of just breath and no voice but in the end, all of this is pedantic all right because no matter how much we get into the pronunciation tips of this, it doesn’t really matter. So I think the best way to learn the differences between つ (tsu) and す (su) is to...
Naomi: 練習 (renshū), which is practice.
Eric: That’s right. So we are going to bust out a bunch of these words, words that are exactly the same except for the す (su) and つ (tsu) part and see if we could tell a difference. For the first couple of words, we are going to actually tell you what the words are so that you can recognize and then in the second half, we are going to quiz you.
Naomi: First, I am going to give you the S sound す (su) sounds. Then next, I am going to give you つ (tsu) sounds.
(natural speed) すき (suki) (slow) すき (suki)
Eric: To like.
Naomi: (natural speed) つき (tsuki) (slow) つき (tsuki)
Eric: The moon.
Naomi: (natural speed) すみ (sumi) (slow) すみ (sumi)
Eric: Corner.
Naomi: (natural speed) つみ (tsumi) (slow) つみ (tsumi)
Eric: A crime, a sin.
Naomi: (natural speed) うすいさん (Usui-san) (slow) うすいさん (Usui-san)
Eric: Mr or Mrs Usui.
Naomi: (natural speed) うついさん (Utsui-san) (slow) うついさん (Utsui-san)
Eric: Mr or Mrs Utsui.
Naomi: (natural speed) かす (kasu) (slow) かす (kasu)
Eric: To charge.
Naomi: (natural speed) かつ (katsu) (slow) かつ (katsu)
Eric: To win.
Naomi: (natural speed) ミス (misu) (slow) ミス (misu)
Eric: A mistake.
Naomi: (natural speed) みつ (mitsu) (slow) みつ (mitsu)
Eric: Syrup. All right so how is that? Are you ready for the test? Naomi-sensei is going to say a word and you have to guess if it’s a す (su) or a つ (tsu) that she is saying and then you could pause the player, guess and then play and then Naomi-sensei will say what the answer is.
Naomi: (natural speed) つき (tsuki) (slow) つき (tsuki)
Eric: The answer is
Naomi: つき (tsuki)
Eric: The moon.
Naomi: (natural speed) ミス (misu) (slow) ミス (misu)
Eric: The answer is
Naomi: ミス (misu)
Eric: A mistake.
Naomi: (natural speed) スイカ (suika) (slow) スイカ (suika)
Eric: The answer is
Naomi: スイカ (suika), watermelon.
Eric: Naomi-sensei, you threw a curveball at other people hah and by the way, let’s explain a complimentary word, ついか (tsuika).
Naomi: Ah!
Eric: With the つ (tsu).
Naomi: ついか (tsuika), additional.
Eric: So how do you all do, was it hard? Well there is tons of words like that in Japanese where all the characters are the same except for the つ (tsu) and す (su). It just takes listening practice, you know. Watch TV, rent an anime, a good old Japanese 黒澤 (Kurosawa) film, anything yeah. I mean those are all good ways to practice listening to つ (tsu) and す (su), right? But now we are moving on to the pronunciation of the small つ (tsu).
Naomi: 小さい つ。(Chiisai tsu.)
Eric: Which actually is a pause. So you can’t really say it by itself, right?
Naomi: そうですね。(Sō desu ne.) We don’t pronounce つ (tsu) but it’s still there.
Eric: What does it do with the function?
Naomi: For example, かこ (kako)
Eric: You mean the past?
Naomi: Yes, and かっこ (kakko)
Eric: You mean like brackets or parenthesis?
Naomi: Right, かこ (kako) that’s the past, and かっこ (kakko) that’s the bracket.
Eric: Hah. So basically your handclaps right now signified the number of syllables.
Naomi: Right.
Eric: If I am getting this right and when you say it faster, when you say it at a natural speed, how would you say the past?
Naomi: かこ (kako)
Eric: And brackets,
Naomi: かっこ (kakko)
Eric: So you have like a little pause in there in between the A and the O.
Naomi: Yeah.
Eric: Or the KA and KO. What do you do? You just hold it and you just hold it there in your throat.
Naomi: We kind of block our breath.
Eric: All right. So I see what you are saying. After KA, you stop your breath very sharply through what like a split second and then you say KO.
Naomi: はい。(Hai.)
Eric: And that, that stop of breath, you can count that as an extra syllable. You know, make a song or make, like a little rhythmical dance out of your words. The past, if you are saying about the past, you will say かこ (kako), かこ (kako), but if you are going to do talk about parenthesis, then you will say かっこ (kakko), かっこ (kakko).
Naomi: うんうんうんうん。(Un un un un.)
Eric: And you could sort of think about it like that because seriously the small つ (tsu), it’s no sound. It’s not going to help. So let’s….
Naomi: 練習 (renshū), practice.
Eric: All right. So Naomi-sensei is going to say two words. One without small つ (tsu) and the next one with the small つ (tsu).
Naomi: かこ (kako)
Eric: The past.
Naomi: かっこ (kakko)
Eric: Brackets.
Naomi: にし (nishi)
Eric: West.
Naomi: にっし (nisshi)
Eric: Daily log.
Naomi: きて (kite)
Eric: To wear.
Naomi: きって (kitte)
Eric: Stamp.
Naomi: かた (kata)
Eric: Shoulder.
Naomi: かった (katta)
Eric: I won.
Naomi: まさお (Masao)
Eric: The name Masao.
Naomi: まっさお (massao)
Eric: Pale.
Naomi: バター (batā)
Eric: Butter.
Naomi: バッター (battā)
Eric: Batter. You know what Naomi-sensei, I think that the small つ (tsu) is much more difficult to learn than the regular す (su) and つ (tsu) differentiations right because you can’t hear it.
Naomi: そうね。(Sō ne.)
Eric: I think it’s the number one problem but it’s okay because the mentioned sound that we just heard was really helpful in differentiating the number of syllables but these are actual syllables that you can count, right? If you ask any Japanese person how many syllables are in かっこ (kakko), they would say three and in かこ (kako) there is only two. So we will leave you with two example questions, only two because these are pretty – these are doozies, right? So what’s number one, Naomi-sensei?
Naomi: まさお まっさお。(Masao massao.)
Eric: Which means Masao is...
Naomi: Very pale.
Eric: And how do you break that down?
Naomi: (slow) まさお まっさお (Masao massao) (natural speed) まさお まっさお (Masao massao)
Eric: And can you really say that?
Naomi: Yeah.
Eric: So can I say?
Naomi: If Masao is very pale.
Eric: All right. Now what’s number two, another doozie from Naomi-sensei?
Naomi: きってかってきて。(Kitte katte kite.)
Eric: Please go and get some stamps.
Naomi: (slow) きってかってきて (kitte katte kite) (natural speed) きってかってきて (kitte katte kite)
Eric: All right. So once you master these, go on the website and let us know but write in the comments because these are tricky. All right, our next question is from Angie who says, how do I say goodbye in Japanese?
Naomi: そうですね。じゃ。じゃ、また。(Sō desu ne. Ja. Ja, mata.)
Eric: It seems like a basic question but it’s way more complicated because there are so many different ways to say goodbye in Japanese, right?
Naomi: Ah yeah, yeah, yeah depending on the speaker’s relationship with the listener.
Eric: So Naomi-sensei, what would you say to your friends when you are leaving?
Naomi: じゃ。じゃ、また。じゃあね。それじゃ。(Ja. Ja, mata. Jā ne. Soreja.)
Eric: And all of those are fine to say to your friends.
Naomi: I think ね (ne) is slightly feminine.
Eric: So you wouldn’t really hear guys saying it?
Naomi: I think it’s still okay to use it but some guys never use it.
Eric: Are there ways to say goodbye that only guys use?
Naomi: Instead of ね (ne) if they put な (na) that sounds bit masculine.
Eric: じゃあな。(Jā na.)
Naomi: じゃあな。(Jā na.)
Eric: And じゃあ (jā) is the shortened form of では (dewa), right?
Naomi: That’s right. Basically we say, well done to mean goodbye.
Eric: Right because it’s never officially over. It’s kind of like, well then and then you leave and then you see them later. It’s like a continuation of your relationship, right?
Naomi: Right.
Eric: You never really say goodbye.
Naomi: そうね。(Sō ne.)
Eric: Until the end. You know I’ve heard many people saying バイバイ (baibai).
Naomi: あー、バイバイ、ね。(Ā, baibai, ne.) うん (un), some people use it but I personally don’t use it.
Eric: Why? Is there a reason?
Naomi: バイバイ (baibai) sounds too cute to me.
Eric: What do you mean Naomi-sensei, you mean like immature or…
Naomi: Slightly childish. I am not sure if childish is the right word to say but…
Eric: But yeah you are right. Many kids use it but many high school girls use it.
Naomi: College kids use it too.
Eric: Even though they say kids, I think even more so than ね (ne), バイバイ (baibai) is the word used mostly by girls, you know.
Naomi: そうかもしれないですね。(Sō kamo shirenai desu ne.)
Eric: I rarely hear guys saying バイバイ (baibai).
Naomi: Yeah it’s rare to hear バイバイ (baibai) at the workplace.
Eric: Right as well too right because everybody is trying to be professional. I guess you are right. バイバイ (baibai) is very casual and very cute and how about in a formal situation? You are saying goodbye to your boss?
Naomi: それでは。それでは、また。(Soredewa. Soredewa, mata.)
Eric: So it’s kind of like the それじゃ (soreja) that you said earlier to your friends but you are not shortening では (dewa) to じゃあ (jā), keeping it formal.
Naomi: それでは。ではまた。 (Soredewa. Dewa mata.) Or you can say しつれいします (shitsurei shimasu), excuse me.
Eric: Right. That’s the most common one I hear very often, right?
Naomi: Yeah, or さようなら (sayōnara).
Eric: Does that sound a little bit too formal to you or is it usual?
Naomi: To be honest, I very rarely use さようなら (sayōnara).
Eric: Do you remember any time that you’ve used it in recent memory?
Naomi: When I broke up with my ex, さようなら (sayōnara).
Eric: That seems like a forever type of a thing. So I guess some people break up, they say さようなら (sayōnara).
Naomi: ありがとう、じゃあね。さよなら。(Arigatō, jā ne. Sayōnara.)
Eric: You thank them? Wow! Because we are on good terms hah! I see. So it seems very sort of permanent. I learned something new today. Personally as a student, some of my professors use さようなら (sayōnara) to me and to just other students in general.
Naomi: そうですね。(Sō desu ne.) It sounds very formal.
Eric: Yeah and we see them you know every week.
Naomi: So if you use さようなら (sayōnara) to your friends, it means a lot like goodbye for a long time, goodbye forever.
Eric: But Naomi-sensei, you taught Japanese in the United States, right?
Naomi: はい。(Hai.)
Eric: And before you went, did your friends say さようなら (sayōnara) to you?
Naomi: They said またね (mata ne). They knew that I was going to come back. So…
Eric: Ah but the time doesn’t really matter, and one final note about the は (wa) in それでは (soredewa), that は (wa) that では (dewa) is a particle. So it should be written as the
Naomi: は (ha)
Eric: That は (ha) character.
Naomi: はい。(Hai.)
Eric: Not the わ (wa) and if you don’t know who are saying, just take a look at the PDF and it will all be clear. Our next question comes from Sai who asks, do I need to practice Hiragana?
Naomi: Umm, good question.
Eric: Actually yes. Very good question. What do you think, Naomi-sensei?
Naomi: I think it really depends on what your goal is but from the teacher’s point of view, I recommend learning Hiragana because it’s good for your pronunciation.
Eric: Absolutely. You know I agree with you Naomi-sensei that even if you don’t plan on reading books in the future or anything like that, it’s almost impossible to master pronunciation in Japanese without knowing Hiragana because if you are always thinking in Romaji mode, you always sort of try to pronounce it in your native language if it’s English, right?
Naomi: 例えば (tatoeba), for example, らりるれろ (ra ri ru re ro).
Eric: Right, right, right and if you see in English, the Ra, Ri, Ru, Re, Ro.
Naomi: Yeah.
Eric: It doesn’t get you in the Japanese mode. So ah learning in the Hiragana takes you to this other realm of pronunciation you know and then you can associate the pronunciation of らりるれろ (ra ri ru re ro) with the characters that you learned in Hiragana and of course when you get into particles and things like that, the Hiragana comes in very handy compared with things like Romaji and everything else. I recommend it.
Naomi: Speaking of らりるれろ (ra ri ru re ro), I heard らりるれろ (ra ri ru re ro) sounds are hard for English speaking people. Is that right?
Eric: Exactly which brings us our next question from Steve from St. Louis who asks, what’s the difference between
Naomi: られろ (ra re ro)
Eric: And
Naomi: だでど (da de do)
Eric: Pronunciation. All right, and if you right now didn’t get the difference between what Naomi-sensei was saying, she was saying
Naomi: られろ (ra re ro)
Eric: Which is the – from the R column of Hiragana られろ (ra re ro) and
Naomi: だでど (da de do)
Eric: Which really comes from the T column with two little quotation marks on top.
Naomi: Dots.
Eric: Right, in Japanese you say てんてん (ten ten)
Naomi: てんてん (ten ten)
Eric: Two little dots, dot dot. Exactly which turns them into D’s but their pronunciation sounds very close. So I actually have already answered this question in the comments in a previous episode but I am going to do it again because the nature of this question has so much to do with the pronunciation that you could hear and I think it will benefit with this podcast format.
Naomi: エリックさん、お願いします。(Erikku-san, onegai shimasu.) I can’t explain it.
Eric: When you first heard this question Naomi-sensei, did you...?
Naomi: I didn’t get it. They sound completely different to me.
Eric: But actually I had the same troubles back in my newbie days. This is how I overcame it. Basically grasp the difference between these two columns of Hiragana. Now I know there is a ton of linguistics jargon related to pronunciation but I am going to try to do my best to explain it in plain English, okay? Now I think that the difference between られろ (ra re ro) and だでど (da de do) is in the tip of your tongue literally. So when saying the Rs, られろ (ra re ro), you put the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth and for the Ds, だでど (da de do) you broadly flatten your tongue against the roof of your mouth and that’s the gist of it, okay? And now I am going to go into super detail on how that works. Now very slowly say “doe” out loud as in a female deer, “doe”. I want you to notice where your tongue is when you say it. It should be somewhere around the roof of your mouth and near the front. Now say LO your tongue should be further back. Now to say the Japanese ろ (ro), RO positioning your tongue right in between the DOE and the LO positions and just with the tip, try to say a really light DOE without the heavy thump of the D sound like the DO and remove the final U that creeps into the hard English O and this should turn out to sound like ろ (ro). What do you think, Naomi-sensei, what’s my grade?
Naomi: すごい!すごい!すごい!(Sugoi! Sugoi! Sugoi!)
Eric: Does that make sense?
Naomi: はい!すごい、いいと思います。(Hai! Sugoi, ii to omoimasu.)
Eric: All right now, this is probably a lot of information but just go back, rewind this and then play it again and maybe you will see what I mean. So your tongue should generally flick forward as you say it, all right? ろ (ro), ろ (ro). Now let’s move on to the D version of it which is ど (do). Now use the standard DOE tongue position in front of your mouth roof and give it a nice D thump but not as big as if you were saying an English D. Your D thump should be something like a mix between DO and TO. ど (do), ど (do). Is that all right?
Naomi: はい。ど。(Hai. Do.)
Eric: Now once you have this down, you should be able to say ら (ra) and だ (da) without a problem but れ (re) and で (de) are tough though, all right? They are a different beast. Seriously, the tongue does the same thing but it’s probably the vowel sound that throws off the English speakers, all right? If you are not an English speaker, for example if you speak any of the Latin languages like Spanish, Italian, maybe even French, you might not have a problem with れ (re) and で (de), but for English speakers here, this is what you should do. So all you need to do is connect to D thump or the R sound to the soft E from breakfast or egg which turns out to be
Naomi: れ (re), で (de).
Eric: And now for the last two difficult pronunciations RYO and RYU which are
Naomi: りょ (ryo), りゅ (ryu). あぁ、難しいね。(Ā, muzukashii ne.)
Eric: Yeah. It can get kind of difficult for English speakers all right and this is how I view them. You just take your thumps, your Ds and your Rs and you connect them to really short Yo.
Naomi: よ (yo)
Eric: Which is kind of like you know some people say, they already say yo, ey yo, what’s up Yo or Yu which is you know you and making very short よ (yo) and ゆ (yu) and connect them with your thumps. So りょ (ryo), りゅ (ryu) and you know what, practice these in front of a mirror. Look at your mouth while you are saying this and go on japanesepod101.com, the learning center and use the recording tool and record yourself with it and I am sure you are going to get the pronunciation of these words. And we have a couple of words here that you can use to practice. The real Japanese words like
Naomi: だらだら (daradara)
Eric: Which means doing nothing, fooling around or
Naomi: でれでれ (deredere)
Eric: Spoony. What does that mean?
Naomi: なんか (nanka)... When you look at the cute girl, でれでれ (deredere).
Eric: Oh you feel like a little creeping up your leg.
Naomi: Like you smile a lot.
Eric: Oh you get a little…
Naomi: You can’t make a straight face.
Eric: You have a nice little tingly feeling.
Naomi: でれでれ (deredere) and finally どろどろ (dorodoro), muddy.
Eric: Practicing these words and you are really going to get good at the pronunciation of the R column and the Ds だでど (da de do).
Naomi: だらだら (daradara), でれでれ (deredere), どろどろ (dorodoro).
Eric: All right. Now I hope that makes sense. If you have any questions, just go on the comments on this post and let me know. We can go over it. And our next question comes from Javitzi who wants to know why words that end with U like
Naomi: きのう (kinō)
Eric: And with the O sound. That’s a great question Javitzi and I think we touched upon it in the early newbie episodes but let’s go over it again, all right? So we have words like yesterday
Naomi: きのう (kinō), but it’s spelled as き の う (ki no u).
Eric: Right but Naomi-sensei, you just said it with a really long O sound at the end.
Naomi: きのう (kinō)
Eric: All right. And there is tons of words that end with おう (ou), right? Like...
Naomi: くうこう (kūkō)
Eric: Airport.
Naomi: くうこう (kūkou), but OU sound becomes OO.
Eric: But really there is no deeper reason, consequential meaning for this. It’s just easier to say. It’s just easier to extend the O than to say an extra U.
Naomi: そうですね。(Sō desu ne.)
Eric: Right. You see that’s very strange and unnatural, right? そうですね (sou desu ne), right? You wouldn’t say that. You would say
Naomi: そうですね。(Sō desu ne.)
Eric: It flows better and it’s as easy as that. So we are going to practice. We have a couple of words here and it’s not only the Os and the Us.
Naomi: It’s also E and I, えい (ei), えー (ē).
Eric: Right. So the E, the えい (ei) becomes えー (ē), an extended E. So let’s go over some of these words.
Naomi: えいご (Eigo) becomes えーご (ēgo)
Eric: English.
Naomi: えいが (eiga) becomes えーが (ēga)
Eric: Movie.
Naomi: すいえい (suiei) becomes すいえー (suiē)
Eric: Swimming.
Naomi: けいさつ (keisatsu) becomes けーさつ (kēsatsu)
Eric: Police.
Naomi: きのう (kinou) becomes きのー (kinō)
Eric: Yesterday.
Naomi: くうこう (kuukou) becomes くーこー (kūkō)
Eric: Airport.
Naomi: とうきょう (Toukyou) becomes とーきょー (Tōkyō)
Eric: Tokyo.


Eric: All right Naomi-sensei, that wraps it up.
Naomi: 皆さん、本当にありがとうございました。じゃ、また。(Mina-san, hontō ni arigatō gozaimashita. Ja, mata.)