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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?
{pause}
"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.
わたしはすしがすきです。
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.
[pause]
きれい beautiful
き・れ・い、きれい
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!
ら、り、る、れ、ろ
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!

109 Comments

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😄 😞 😳 😁 😒 😎 😠 😆 😅 😜 😉 😭 😇 😴 😮 😈 ❤️️ 👍

JapanesePod101.com Verified
January 31st, 2014 at 06:30 PM
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Is there any Japanese word that you really think is difficult to pronounce?

JapanesePod101.com Verified
September 11th, 2021 at 04:56 PM
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Hi Chris Cromwell,


Thank you for your comment!

Yes, I understand very well that there are too many to remember when learning a language.

We don't have to remember everything we learn at once, but we will definitely improve if we plod away😊

You can learn pitch accent by listening. So please try to listen Japanese as much as you can.


Hope you enjoy learning Japanese with us:)


Sincerely,

Miho

Team JapanesePod101.com

Chris Cromwell
September 1st, 2021 at 10:18 AM
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Pitch Accent??! Wow! Yabai! Sugoi! 😮😮😮 New discovery I did not know! But, how to best retain so many lessons in my mind? I'm 50 years old, and quickly overwhelmed! new words or phrases are often forgotten after a day. Sugoi! 😮

JapanesePod101.com Verified
June 2nd, 2021 at 09:27 PM
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nekolover06さん


Thank you so much for your comment😄

Please keep up the great work and you'll master them in no time😉

Please let us know if you have any questions :)


Sincerely

Ryoma

Team JapanesePod101.com

nekolover06
May 30th, 2021 at 05:56 PM
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r-group sounds

JapanesePod101.com Verified
May 19th, 2021 at 06:21 PM
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Hi Raion,


Thank you for your comment!

I'm so sorry for this late reply.


It's great that you have no problem with 4 of 5, this lesson's themes😊

Actually the pitch accent is not that focused, but it's really important.

You will never know the pitch accent of word just reading it, you have to listen to it.

So please try to listen Japanese as much as you can!

Also we have a lesson about pitch accent.

https://www.japanesepod101.com/lesson/ultimate-japanese-pronunciation-guide-10-perfecting-pitch-accent-in-japanese/?lp=171


Hope you enjoy learning Japanese with us:)


Sincerely,

Miho

Team JapanesePod101.com

Raion
March 31st, 2021 at 07:16 AM
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I also speak Spanish and Italian. However, I have no trouble with the "r" nor the "u" sounds in Japanese, and remembering the long vowels and pauses is not trouble. However, the tone-differences are what I struggle with. I'm sure it will come in time, but it's still frustrating, as I pride myself on proper pronunciation, regardless of what language I'm speaking at the moment

JapanesePod101.com Verified
March 3rd, 2021 at 01:50 PM
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Lindaさん


Thank you so much for your comment😄

They are very similar actually! Though for the Japanese r, you don't roll your tongue as much as you do in Spanish😉

Please let us know if you have any questions :)


Sincerely

Ryoma

Team JapanesePod101.com

Linda
February 27th, 2021 at 09:25 AM
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I speak Spanish as well as English. What is the difference between the Spanish and Japanese "r" pronunciation? (Not to be confused with the Spanish double r. "rr")

JapanesePod101.com Verified
February 24th, 2021 at 01:43 PM
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Emilioさん


Thank you so much for your comment😄

Right😅 Please keep up the great work and you'll get used to it soon👍

Please let us know if you have any questions :)


Sincerely

Ryoma

Team JapanesePod101.com

Emilio
February 20th, 2021 at 10:45 AM
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Anything with an "R" is going to be the hardest to get used too.