Post Reply [Japan] Guide to Japanese Pronunciation
Posted 5/3/09 , edited 5/3/09


The vowel sounds in Japanese are as follows:

A as in "father"
E as in "seven eleven"
I as in "Easter treat"
O as in "open, Pope"
U as in "fruity moogle"

You'll notice that the vowels are pronounced the similarly to Spanish, Italian, and Latin (and several other European languages)

Pronunciation of these vowels is very consistant. There are no silent vowels (although sometimes the Japanese choose not to voice a vowel). Each vowel sound is pronounced distinctly.

For example, the word

kaeru - would be pronounced "KAH eh roo". In English, you might want to pronounce it "KAY roo" or "KAY ruh".
The vowels 'i' and 'u' are weak vowels. That means that many times they are not pronounced. The most important example is:

desu (the u is silent - pronounced DESS)

However, don't just go around dropping u's and i's. People will have no idea what you're saying.
Consonant sounds are generally pronounced the same way as in English, but there are a few differences:

R - Prounounced like a combination of 'L' and 'D', with a bit of 'R' mixed in. It's pretty close to how the R is pronounced in Spanish. (It isn't "trilled", however) In Spanish, an R sounds a lot like a 'D'. Consider this: Say "lu." Notice how you drag the tip of your tongue along the roof of your mouth. To say a Japanese R, just briefly touch the tip to that spot at the moment you say the consonant, and use a little more "punch" in your voice.

F - You can pronounce it like an F, but often it sounds more like an 'H'.

There is no accent in Japanese, meaning there is no emphasis on a particular part of a word. English and Spanish have accents, Japanese does not.

Japanese does have pitch inflections, and this is their substitute for accents. For example, in English, we put stress on a certain part of a word to make it sound right and this is marked by an apostrophe-like symbol in the dictionary. In Japanese, they do not put stress on their words but raise the pitch of their voices instead. In Chinese, there are patterns to move between five different pitches to distinguish a word's meaning. In Japanese, there are only two pitches, but the only real way to grasp where to raise the pitch of your voice is from listening to Japanese speech and repeating it.
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