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Lesson Transcript

Hi everyone! I’m Michelle Yamamoto.
Welcome back to The Ultimate Japanese Pronunciation Guide at JapanesePod101.com.
In this lesson, you'll learn the top 5 Japanese pronunciation mistakes to avoid.
Number 1: Shortening long vowels
Saying Japanese long vowels correctly is an issue of timing. You can use claps to measure time from syllable to syllable. For example...
The Japanese word for "grandmother" exemplifies the long vowel in Japanese. Listen closely for it.
おばあさん. The "a" in "ba" is held for two claps. おばあさん.
Japanese learners often shorten the long vowel in "baa" and say おばさん, meaning "aunt" not "grandmother." In this case, not only is the pronunciation incorrect, but by shortening the vowel, you change the meaning of the word.
Hear the difference again.
おばあさん, grandmother、お・ば・あ・さ・ん、おばあさん
おばさん, aunt、お・ば・さ・ん、おばさん
This is an important but not critical topic for early learners. You'll learn more in Lesson 8.
Number 2: Pronouncing Loan Words with an English accent
Do you know this Japanese word in English? コンピューター
It means computer.
What about ハンバーガー?
It's hamburger.
These words were imported into Japanese. So while their pronunciation is close to the original English word, you need to learn how to pronounce them correctly in Japanese, or you won't be understood! You don't say "hamburger ください". "Hamburger, please." Instead, you'll say ハンバーガーください。Again, ハンバーガーください
Number 3: Overstressing syllables when speaking Japanese
"How do you say this sentence?
"I like sushi."
Pay attention to the stresses."
If you read the Japanese sentence stressing syllables as you would in English, it would sound like this: waTAshi wa, SUshi ga suKI DEsu. Meaning "I like sushi."
Speaking in this way sounds very unnatural in Japanese.
"Remember, Japanese doesn't have stress. Let's read the sentence again without stress.
Did you notice the difference?
In this series, you'll have many chances to repeat examples after me. Please listen carefully, and pronounce Japanese words without stress.
Number 4: Pronouncing the r-group sounds incorrectly
Try to read this Japanese word out loud.
きれい beautiful
Did you pronounce れ correctly?
English native speakers often pronounce it like the r-sound in English, and say, きぅれい.
You should lightly tap the roof of your mouth with the tongue, but don't roll it! It's closer to an "l" in English.
Listen carefully!
We'll tackle this in lesson 5.
Number 5: Removing a necessary pause
Remember the issue with Japanese long vowels? It's a timing issue. So you should use claps to measure time! To achieve the necessary pause in Japanese, the speaker pauses for one clap in between the syllables. This is best illustrated with an example.
How about these words.
きって, stamp, き・っ・て、きって
Did you notice that there is a pause in the middle?
The pause needs to take one clap. きって (with 3 claps)
Let's hear another word.
かっこ, parentheses、か・っ・こ、かっこ
Again, the pause need to take one clap. きって (with 3 claps), かっこ (with 3 claps)
But, Japanese learners often omit the pause.
In both of these cases, not only is the pronunciation incorrect, but the meaning of the words changes.
きて, without the pause, means "please come" and かこ, without the pause, means "past".
You'll learn more about this sound in Lesson #9.
Here's a bonus one! It's: ignoring pitch accent.
Japanese has many words with the same spelling but different meanings. But there is a way to differentiate these words: pitch accent, the intonation used when pronouncing the word.
For example...
If you say 箸, it means "chopsticks".
But, if you say 橋, it means "bridge."
Let's hear the difference again.
hashi, chopsticks
hashi, bridge
In Japanese, each syllable is basically pronounced with a high or low pitch.
And each Japanese word has its own pitch accent pattern.
This is important to understand. We'll teach you the secrets of Japanese pitch accent in Lesson 10.
You're on the path to perfect Japanese pronunciation! In the next lesson, you'll master the 5 Japanese vowels.
What's your biggest challenge with Japanese pronunciation? Is it one of these Top 5 mistakes? Tell us about it in the comments.
Stick with us and you'll overcome it, fast! See you in the next Ultimate Japanese Pronunciation Guide lesson!


Please to leave a comment.
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Friday at 6:30 pm
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Is there any Japanese word that you really think is difficult to pronounce?

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August 1st, 2019 at 5:57 am
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Hi JC,

Thank you very much for the comment!

I'm glad to hear that you like our lessons.

If you ever have questions, please ask us in the comment!


Miki H

Team JapanesePod101.com

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July 29th, 2019 at 9:10 pm
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Hello! I don't really see the difference between long vowels and the pitch accent.. can't these just be called stressing? like for example, can't you add some extra vowels to differentiate between "chopsticks" and "bridge":

「はあし」and「はしい」- wouldn't these sound like with pitch accent? Thank you!

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July 17th, 2019 at 6:45 am
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Hi Emmanuel,

Thank you very much for the comment. I'm glad to hear you enjoy our lessons!

As for R/L differentiation, we use R letter when writing らりるれろ (ra-ri-ru-re-ro), but it's actually pronounced as la-li-lu-le-lo. When you pronounce らりるれろ, the tip of your tongue touches the roof of the mouth. In another word, when you see "ra-ri-ru-re-ri" you should pronounce it as "la-li-lu-le-lo."

I hope this makes sense...


Miki H

Team JapanesePod101.com

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July 17th, 2019 at 2:08 am
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so far, I am very happy with japanesepod, so no doubts. I gotta say is very important to be looking at native Japanese speakers as teacher. good job.

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July 5th, 2019 at 4:48 pm
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Good morning

I'm loving this series of lessons. By far the most difficult part for me is mispronouncing the "R" sound in Japanese. I always use my tongue to flick the roof of my mouth but I'm never sure whether I've gotten the in between "L/R" sound right

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December 27th, 2018 at 10:54 am
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Thank you for your comments, everyone!

>Kon'nichiwa, Vincent-san

We are glad to hear that! Please check a small correction for the sentence you wrote below.

Watashi wa JapanesePod101 ga suki desu.


Glad to hear that! Please keep studying with us👍

Keep studying with JapanesePod101.com



Team JapanesePod101.com

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December 18th, 2018 at 11:58 pm
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Great video and a great series of Lessons Helps a lot and make a lot of sense for new beginners Thank you very much


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December 6th, 2018 at 9:49 am
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Watash wa japanese101 ka suki desu. It's so helpful

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November 28th, 2018 at 6:11 am
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Hi Dot,

Thank you for posting.

In lesson 10 of this series you'll learn more about Perfecting Pitch Accent in Japanese:


Keep up studying well and soon you’ll get great results!


Cristiane (クリスチアネ)

Team JapanesePod101.com

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November 12th, 2018 at 2:13 pm
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I do think I might run into some problems with the pitch, because I never really change my pitch when speaking English.