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Thread: New Game: pronunciation guides!

  1. #1
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    Default New Game: pronunciation guides!

    For a lighthearted moment of fun, I'd like to ask users to supply a list of comparison words to explain the correct pronunciation of Japanese vowel sounds. Have a look at the off-topic thread drift section of this thread if you need a bit more explanation.

    For the purposes of the game, try and use words that contain the sound you think is an appropriate example of the desired sound of the Japanese vowel; eg. a,i,u,e,o - o as in rock.

    The fun part is when you realise just how many variations there are in the way that English is pronounced. This wide variation can produce some really odd interpretations...
    David Noble
    Shorinji Kempo (1983 - 1988)
    I'll think of a proper sig when I get a minute...

    For now, I'm just waiting for the smack of the Bo against a hard wooden floor....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tripitaka of AA
    ...a,i,u,e,o - o as in rock.

    The fun part is when you realise just how many variations there are in the way that English is pronounced. This wide variation can produce some really odd interpretations...
    Well, to me -- with my Pacific Northwest "Standard Spoken American English" -- your example above seems "odd." To me the "o" in "rock" is pronounced like the Japanese "a" and the Japanese "o" is pronounced like in the English "horse."

    Let's see:

    A = Father
    I = Spaghetti
    U = Put
    E = Let
    O = Horse

    More or less. (Probably less).
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

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    You've clearly not been to Yorkshire then ;-)
    Jim Boone

    Flick Lives!

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    On a related issue, we could list our favorite (least favorite?) hack jobs of Japanese.

    Mine would be from the movie You Only Live Twice, when James Bond (Sean Connery) -- having earlier said that he "took a second in Oriental Languages at Cambridge" -- says to his host regarding choice of beverage, "Oh, I like 'sack-ee' (should have been 'sah-keh').
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

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    Quote Originally Posted by yoj
    You've clearly not been to Yorkshire then ;-)
    Nope. I heard a woman from Yorkshire on TV once, though.

    Couldn't understand a word she said! (And I work with a dozen Russians, a Vietnamese, a Chinese, two Mexicans, and a New Yorker. I understand them just fine!)
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

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    Another problem you're going to get is that of our 15 vowel sounds (that's right, 15), few of them actually match the 5 Japanese vowels.
    And forget the constanant blends!

    My dad was visiting for 2 weeks. He kept mis-pronuncing proper nouns (Ikebukuro as "Ikiburra", Asakusa as "Axus", my brother-in-law Satoru as "Saturo") It was quite embarassing.

    Still, you should hear my father-in-law's attempts at English...

    Some people should be banned from ever trying to speak a foreign language... or even their first.

    Have fun

    Andrew
    Andrew Smallacombe

    Aikido Kenshinkai

    JKA Tokorozawa

    Now trotting over a bridge near you!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew S
    Another problem you're going to get is that of our 15 vowel sounds (that's right, 15), few of them actually match the 5 Japanese vowels.

    Andrew
    Wait a minute. You mention 15 English vowel sounds, as against 5 Japanese. There are 5 English written vowels, and a complexity of vowel sounds.

    Are you sure that there are only 5 Japanese vowel sounds?

    Best regards,
    Peter Goldsbury,
    Forum Administrator,
    Hiroshima, Japan

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Owens
    On a related issue, we could list our favorite (least favorite?) hack jobs of Japanese.

    Mine would be from the movie You Only Live Twice, when James Bond (Sean Connery) -- having earlier said that he "took a second in Oriental Languages at Cambridge" -- says to his host regarding choice of beverage, "Oh, I like 'sack-ee' (should have been 'sah-keh').
    British Airways stewardeses/pursers, who announce arrivals in 'Ursaaaaka' , 'Toe-kyoe' (or Tow-kyow?), or, in the past (flights stopped, probably for this reason), 'F*ck-you-owka' (like 'F*ck you over', but with a different ending).
    Last edited by P Goldsbury; 6th October 2005 at 14:19.
    Peter Goldsbury,
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    Hiroshima, Japan

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    Default Japanese r's

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Owens
    On a related issue, we could list our favorite (least favorite?) hack jobs of Japanese.

    Mine would be from the movie You Only Live Twice, when James Bond (Sean Connery) -- having earlier said that he "took a second in Oriental Languages at Cambridge" -- says to his host regarding choice of beverage, "Oh, I like 'sack-ee' (should have been 'sah-keh').
    I studied Japanese for my junior/senior years in high school (1993 grad), I'm currently enrolled in 2nd year Japanese in college, and I still find it interesting that nonspeakers have a hard time with Japanese r's. You know, the whole "say 'Eddy' quickly" thing.

    Example: It is the summer of 1999. My father is escorting me on a whirlwind trip around Japan. We are in Kamakura, and have just made the acquaintance of two utterly delightful very-obviously tour-trip-type american old ladies. We are chatting away, and, upon hearing that my dad and I both have some degree of competence in Japanese, they inquired about lodging for the night, and out come the words which I knew would come sooner or later:

    "Excuse me, but could you please tell us the way to the 'rye-o-kan'?"

    Oh well, at least they got the long [I]o[/] halfway decent.

    Urgh.

    Ps. I think Jack Seward has a whole chapter about this very phenomenon in one of his books. Japanese in Action, maybe? [goes off to check bookshelf]

    Pps. Wasn't Donn Draeger a technical advisor on that movie? He should have 'accidentally' whacked Sean upside the head with a bokken for linguistic mistakes like that ("oh, sorry Sean, didn't mean to hit you *that* hard")
    Chris Hodsdon

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    Default Kind of a reversal of the topic

    Kind of a reversal of the topic. I’m an engineer and one day was doing a redesign of a circuit-board from a Japanese built machine. They took the liberty of doing the drawings in English. Now, have you ever heard of the stereotypical Japanese replacing the “l” with the “r” sound? Well, on the print, everywhere an “l” sound would have been an “r” was in its place. So, “Flip-Flop” was “Frip-Frop.” Someone was sounding out the English translations.
    All My Best,

    Todd Wayman

    "…since karate is a martial art, you must practice with the utmost seriousness from the very beginning."

    - G. Funakoshi, Karate-Do Nyumon, 1943

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    Are you sure that there are only 5 Japanese vowel sounds?
    To the best of my knowlege, yes. The word bo-on 母音 translates as vowel, and, as I understand it, only 5 are employed by modern Japanese speakers. I was told that ゐ,ゑ and even を are now indistinguishable from い,えand お. Look in your Kojien and you'll see them as older written forms. Apparently the original pronunciations were different, but the modern speakers will talk of "en", not "yen".
    If you have any different information, I'd be most happy to hear it.

    Yours,

    Andrew
    Andrew Smallacombe

    Aikido Kenshinkai

    JKA Tokorozawa

    Now trotting over a bridge near you!

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    During my research to find the best English word to portray the Japanese vowel "a", I was reduced to the usual state of incredulity when Yoriko corrected my pronunciation of kata. Apparently I had been saying kata which means shoulder, when it should have been kata, except the difference in sound needed several rewinds and play agains for me to hear any difference at all.

    It seems cat, sat, bat are not right for a after all...kata seems to sound more like "cutter" than "chatter". But I still don't get it sounding like "father"...

    Yoriko still has a bit of trouble with "up, running, jumping, mud" as the Japanese language doesn't use the "u" like that. So her attempts sometimes come out as "ap, ranning, jamping, mad". Nice to know that the balance exists in our mutual slaughter of each other's languages.
    David Noble
    Shorinji Kempo (1983 - 1988)
    I'll think of a proper sig when I get a minute...

    For now, I'm just waiting for the smack of the Bo against a hard wooden floor....

  13. #13
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    There are five vowels in standard Japanese (Tokyo) as well as in Kansai Japanese (Kyoto-Osaka-Nara-Kobe). There are a couple of dialects that have only three (e and i merged, u and o merged), and I think there are some Kyushu dialects that have seven (short and long i sounds, a schwa, or something). I don't remember the exact details.

    There are also two *tones* in standard Japanese, the high and low tones. The same two tones also exist in Kansai Japanese, but their distribution is different. My Japanese teachers have all been from Osaka and Hiroshima by pure coincidence, so I've learned Kansai or Western style pronounciations of a number of Japanese words, to the endless amusement of people from Tokyo. I still can't correctly distinguish between rain and candy (aME and Ame), or between sake and salmon (SAke and saKE). As with vowels, other dialects have no tones, some have three or four. I really wish that E-J/J-E dictionaries showed tone, but they don't. My electronic dictionary shows accent for English though!

    Anyway, there are at least 15 vowels in English, although once again some dialects have more. The English spelling system actually dates from a time when the vowels written were far closer to those in German. The “silent e” on the end of words used to usually indicate an umlaut of the preceding vowel as well as being itself a schwa sound as in German. We've since changed our pronounciation a couple of times, but our writing hasn't.

    The Japanese undertook a spelling reform after WWII which purged their writing of a number of weird spellings. The word kau “to buy” used to be spelled kafu. There are many other examples of similar weirdness. These all dated from Classical Japanese as spoken when Nara was the home of the emperor. Before that, when they were writing the Kojiki, Japanese actually had *eight* vowels. The manyogana used in the Kojiki consistently distinguish a couple of syllables which today have the same final vowel, but which apparently back then were different. Nobody knows what they were, but some mistakes—like spelling kami as kamu—point to sounds like German's u-umlaut and o-umlaut.
    James A. Crippen

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tripitaka of AA
    ...It seems cat, sat, bat are not right for a after all...kata seems to sound more like "cutter" than "chatter". But I still don't get it sounding like "father"...

    Yoriko still has a bit of trouble with "up, running, jumping, mud" as the Japanese language doesn't use the "u" like that. ...
    Well, where I come from, the u in up, running, jumping, and mud is the same as the u in cutter; so if Yoriko has trouble with that sound, then it wouldn't be the same as the sound in kata.

    The a in father (the way I say it, anyway) is the same as the a in paw, maul, jigsaw, large, etc. -- very close to the Japanese a. (Also similar to the o in cot, spot, and dot.)

    Different than the a in man, pan, than, fan, chatter, etc. Also different than the a in rain, Spain, plain, Jane, etc.

    We have a distinct advantage in our day and age in learning foreign languages compared to out forebears. We have only to get an audio recording of a native speaker and we can hear proper pronunciation without having to visit the native land.

    If my "A = Father, I = Spaghetti, U = Put, E = Let, O = Horse" examples didn't work for you, here's how Makino Seiichi, Hatasa Yukiko, and Hatasa Kazumi explain it in Nakama 1: Japanese Communication, Culture, Context; a standard text.

    Ah! Ann is good at ice skating. あ is similar to [ah] but shorter.

    い I have big ears い is similar to the vowel sound in ear but is shorter.

    Ooh! This is heavy. う [u] is similar to the vowel sound in [ooh] but is shorter and the lips are not as rounded.

    え I need exercise え is similar to the first vowel sound in exercise, but the mouth is more closed

    お The ball will land on the green. お is similar to the [o] in on as the British pronounce it, but the lips are slightly more rounded.
    That last one didn't make sense to me, because I say the o in on the same way I say the a in father; but if they think the o in on is the same as the o in own I won't disillusion them.

    (I'm starting to get a headache.)
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

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    Quote Originally Posted by J. A. Crippen
    ...I really wish that E-J/J-E dictionaries showed tone, but they don't.
    Martin's Pocket Dictionary (Tuttle Language Library), among others, does. The problem with it is that it is romaji only, so I also carry Webster's New World Compact Japanese Dictionary (Prentice Hall).

    Here's what the entries for sake and salmon from Martin's look like (sort of -- they're drawn in MS Paint since I don't have a scanner):
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

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