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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're going to learn the secret to mastering long vowels in Japanese.
You have already learned the short vowels.
あ、い、う、え、お
Long vowels are pronounced for twice as long as short vowels, like...
ああ、いい、うう、ええ、おお、
The meaning of a word can change depending on whether the vowel is long or short.
This is a really important part of Japanese pronunciation!
Okay, let's get started.
The first one is...
ああ
ああ
You say a short vowel あ for one beat, and a long vowel ああ (aa) for two beats.
ああ
Notice how ああ is twice the length of あ.
ああ
For example, the Japanese word for "card" contains a long vowel.
カード   カー・ド 、カード
When writing in katakana, this mark ("ー") indicates that you need to prolong the vowel of the preceding syllable.
In this case, the vowel "a" in カ should be twice as long to get カード.
The next example is the word for "mark".
マーク, マー・ク, マーク
You need to lengthen the vowel "a" in マ, to get マーク.
Okay, let's try this one.
おかあさん mother,  お・か・あ・さ・ん、おかあさん
It's written か・あ. Don't read them separately – read them altogether as かー.
Repeat after me.
おかあさん
おかあさん
The next one is
いい
いい
いい is twice the length of い.
いー
Are you ready for some example words? Here goes!
シート sheet, シー・ト、シート
This mark ("ー") means that you need to prolong the vowel "い" in the preceding syllable, シ (shi).
シート
Next is...
おじいさん grandfather, お・じ・い・さ・ん、おじいさん
You don't say じ・い separately, but read them altogether as じー
おじいさん
Repeat after me.
おじいさん
おじいさん
The next one is...
うう
うう
うう is twice the length of う.
うー
Let's pronounce this sound in a series of actual words.
プール pool, プー・ル 、プール
すうじ number、す・う・じ、すうじ
Repeat after me.
すうじ
すうじ
The next one is...
ええ
ええ
For example, the word for "cake" is...
ケーキ, ケー・キ、ケーキ
And the word for "teacher" is...
せんせい, せ・ん・せ・い、せんせい
せんせい is made up of syllables せ・ん・せ・い. The last two syllables are not pronounced as せ・い, but as せー. So, a pair of え+ い also makes a long vowel "えー".
To recap, there are two combinations to make a long vowel えー, which are two え sounds and え+ い.
So, can you read this?
えいご English, え・い・ご、えいご
The part of えい is pronounced as えー.
Repeat after me.
えいご
えいご
The next one is...
おお
おお
For example, there is a long vowel in the words...
ノート notebook, ノー・ト、ノート
こうえん park, こ・う・え・ん、こうえん
The first two syllables こ・う are not pronounced as こ・う, but as こー with a long vowel "oo". So, a pair of "お" + "う" also makes a long vowel "おー".
To recap, there are 2 combinations to make a long vowel おー, which are 2 "お" sounds and お+ う.
Repeat after me.
こうえん
こうえん
Why is it important to master long vowels? Because the meaning of a word can change depending on whether the vowel is long or short.
Listen for the diffference in these words.
おばさん, おばさん
meaning "aunt"
おばあさん、おばあさん
meaning "grandmother"
When you say おばあさん, extend the vowel "a". If you don't, you'll be saying a different word!
Now listen for the difference in this pair of words.
おじさん、おじさん 
meaning "uncle"
おじいさん、おじいさん
meaning "grandfather"
Again, the meaning changes depending on whether the vowel is long or short. Please be careful!
Long vowels are very important in Japanese. Practice pronouncing long vowels for the proper length of time by clapping to measure time.
Do you know which kana is also related to time measurement when it's written in a small size? You'll learn about it in the next lesson.
Try writing a Japanese long vowel example in the comments.
See you in the next Ultimate Japanese Pronunciation Guide lesson!

22 Comments

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😄 😞 😳 😁 😒 😎 😠 😆 😅 😜 😉 😭 😇 😴 😮 😈 ❤️️ 👍

JapanesePod101.com Verified
April 25th, 2014 at 06:30 PM
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Now that you know the Secret, don't forget to practice at home! 

JapanesePod101.com Verified
October 22nd, 2019 at 05:19 AM
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Hello Mike,


Thank you for your like! We hope you enjoy learning with us! Please let us know if you have any questions.


Cheers,

Levente

Team JapanesePod101.com

Mike
October 20th, 2019 at 09:47 AM
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👍

JapanesePod101.com Verified
May 29th, 2019 at 12:39 AM
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Konnichiwa Alrens,


Thank you for writing us!

Yes Exactly it's a one of long vowel word. 👍


Keep up the good study with us!Feel free to ask us any questions.


Sono

Team JapanesePod101.com


Alrens
March 26th, 2019 at 04:15 PM
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せんせい

Savannah
December 17th, 2016 at 06:07 AM
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@JapanesePod101.com


I agree with Tankenka. Japanese people — or at least some Japanese people — seem to pronounce OO and EE slightly differently from OU and EI. (And I don't just mean when there's a semantic border, like in 思う.) For instance, あのー seems to be pronounced differently than あのう, and the way people say say the "ee" in "ee" words like おねえさん seems different from how they say the "ee" in "ei" words like せんせい. The difference is subtle, but it's definitely there.

JapanesePod101.com Verified
June 14th, 2016 at 12:33 PM
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Tankenka さん、

こんにちは。:smile:

Actually we have some pronunciation rules.

Then ‘oo’ and ‘ou’ have the same sound.

The second ‘o’ and ‘u’ are not pronounced and the first ‘o’s become a long sound.

However, ‘ee’ and ‘ei’ are also same like above.

The first ‘e’ becomes long.

Yuki 由紀

Team JapanesePod101.com

Tankenka
June 4th, 2016 at 07:13 PM
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Perhaps it is just because of my singing background ~ but I notice a very distinct difference between OO おお and OU おう sounds, and EE ええ and EI えい sounds when Japanese speakers say words containing them. Tookyoo とおきょお and Toukyou とうきょう have two very different sounds... although, if I am correct, aren't there very few words that actually contain "oo"(おお)that are native to Japanese? I know that American-Japanese dictionaries use the O with a macron ( Ō / ō ) over top to identify long oo/ou sounds... but it sounds very strange to me to hear Tookyoo とおきょお... just like it would be strange to hear Ousaka おうさか instead of Oosaka おおさか.

JapanesePod101.com Verified
August 17th, 2015 at 06:46 PM
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rick san,

こんにちは。発音のルールは以下の通りです。

ローマ字表記で以下のようになる時、初めの音が長くなり、後の音は発音されません。

aa

ii

uu

ee

ei

oo

ou


例)

おかあさん okaasan has ‘aa’ so the first ‘a’ sound becomes long however, the second ‘a’ is not pronounced.

Consequently the pronunciation is oka-san and not okaasan.

Regarding ‘seifu’, it has ‘ei’ therefore the first ‘e’ sound becomes long and ‘i’ is not pronounced. So if you read that ‘せーふ’, that is correct.:smile:


Yuki 由紀

Team JapanesePod101.com

rick
August 15th, 2015 at 03:26 PM
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お世話になっております。

「えい」の発音について何人かの日本人の知り合いに聞いてみたのですが、意見が分かれているようですね。

「え.い」と発音する人が多いようですが、「"せいふ"が"せーふ"になっているんですが」と言われたこともあります。果たしてどう発音するべきなのでしょうか?

よろしくお願い致します。

JapanesePod101.com Verified
June 6th, 2015 at 02:28 PM
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Caleb-san,

konnichiwa!

We understand completely what you mean. It takes time to get used to natural speed,

in any language. The best way is always to be patient and repeat the drill-like practice.

Just to understand which word was used in a sentence, context of the sentence or conversation

itself will help too.


For any of us and about any language, the elements or characteristics of languages which don't

exist in our mother tongue are always difficult to catch at the beginning, simply because those don't

exist in 'your world' just yet. However, if you emphasise the difference such as 'koko' and 'koukou'

at the beginning, you'll be able to distinguish over the time. :wink:


Natsuko (奈津子),

Team JapanesePod101.com