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Japanese pronunciation may seem easy for people who are just starting to learn Japanese. The Japanese language only has five vowels, and Japanese consonant sounds are not very difficult to learn. However, there is one thing in Japanese that will cause you a lot of trouble Pitch accent! First of all, what is pitch accent?
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It means that some vowel sounds in Japanese words are pronounced with different pitch with high or low tone. In order to understand the Japanese language better, let's compare Japanese with English. The English language has stress accent, which means that stressed vowels are pronounced louder.
In some cases, different stress positions can change the meaning of a word. In the above example, placing stress on the right syllable and pronouncing the words correctly makes the speaker more natural-sounding and easier to understand. Try pronouncing the word "perfect" both ways in each of the sentences above and feel the difference.
The same phenomenon occurs in Japanese which proves to be a difficult obstacle for those trying to master Japanese speaking. Pitch accent helps to distinguish some words that may seem identical when written with kana Japanese alphabet. When a person speaks in Japanese while respecting pitch accent, they sound much more natural compared to someone who neglects this part of Japanese language.
Japanese Romaji, Furigana, and Pitch Accent – Online Resources
Someone who uses pitch accent incorrectly sounds similar to the way that Gru from the movie Despicable Me sounds to native English speakers. There are several different types of phonetic transcription in Japanese - ways to visually represent the pronunciation of Japanese words:. Now let's get back to pitch accent and why it can be difficult to learn. In my opinion, the challenge with Japanese pitch accent is not that it is extremely hard to reproduce - the challenge is that it is often disregarded in Japanese textbooks and dictionaries.
As a result, it is considered unimportant by students and even their teachers.
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When you start learning Japanese from a textbook, the first chapter will likely suggest imitating native speakers on Japanese audio recordings in order to master pitch accent and speak in a natural-sound way. But then the subject is completely dropped!
This is a huge oversight for those who desire to learn correct Japanese word pronunciation. As opposed to fully tonal languages like Mandarin Chinese , situations where the accent position changes completely the meaning of a word are relatively rare in Japanese.
So when a person speaks Japanese and stresses the wrong vowels, they are understood although often with difficulty. Alternative translation optional. Comments optional. Thanks for the feedback! Move to collection. Create collection.
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