How to Pronounce Japanese Words - An Audio File and Guide to Japanese Pronunciation

One of the biggest factors in fluency is how to pronounce Japanese words correctly. Literally it is one of the biggest overlooked areas of improving ones Japanese. Many focus so heavily on Japanese grammar, correct particle usage, compound verbs and slang use way to much in the beginning phase of learning Japanese

Folks, this is one of the first lessons in our list of study pages for a darn good reason. Clean and tight pronunciation is the hallmark of a good speaker. You can memorize the hell out of the language but if no one can understand what you are saying then none of this matters.

Seriously, spend a lot of time getting your pronunciation and intonation into line right away. What this entails is busting down your habitual accent and way of pronouncing words. Or more accurately it means NOT "transferring" your accent into Japanese.

How to pronounce Japanese wordsHow to Pronounce Japanese Words. Get it Right - Right From the Start

So what does this mean??? It means literally just shit-can short vowel sounds if you are an American or Canadian speaker.

Short vowels meaning "Aa" as in apple, "Ee" as in elephant, "Ii" as in igloo, "Oo" as in octopus and lastly "Uu" as in umbrella need to be mercilessly ripped out of your pronunciation of every single Japanese word that comes out of  your mouth. Period.

It also means rolling up your sleeves and getting to work on getting the "Rr" sound in Japanese down cold. But don't you worry your pretty little heads a bit about it.

The folks at Japanese Pod 101.Com got you covered with piles upon piles of FREE audio podcasts.

And Alisha and Risa from Japanese Pod 101 again got  your back with this must see, short, clean, tight, and super useful video on how to pronounce Japanese like a native right below.


How to Pronounce Japanese Words:
Audio Guide From Japanese Pod 101

So let's jump straight into how to pronounce Japanese words by cutting straight to the bone with the core, 10 second scanable takeaway of what you will learn in this video lesson.

  • Unlike English each mora beat or syllable of Japanese has the same timing, thus stressing parts of words is not the same as in English.
  • The core of core "vowel" sounds from which the ENTIRE language is constructed must be nailed down clean and tight. Here we are talking: A,E,I,O,U.
  • Then, you nail down combinations from the core: thus, KA, KE, KI, KO and KU. At this point it should be painfully clear to students that if you don't have the core vowels tight EVERYTHING built after that is messed up.
  • A big take-away and motivation booster is that 80% of the sounds in Japanese are already present in English. This should give you some relief knowing that now you only have to chase down the last 20%.

How to Pronounce Japanese Words
and a Final Piece of Advice

Regarding how to get the sounds of Japanese right, this also includes words borrowed into Japanese from English. Note they have become Japanese and thus must be pronounced within the extremely tight confines of the language. What the heck does this mean? 

It means if you say "coffee"  you have to say it as "Kohee" if you are speaking in Japanese. There is no such thing as a rationalization of thinking "It's an English (or more accurately a dutch word actually) so I can get away with pronouncing it the English/American way. No way Jose we say.

Return to Japanese Main Page From How to Pronounce Japanese Words

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