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Konnichiwa minnasan, and here is the first lesson. Since this is the first lesson, I feel it is best that we begin with learning the proper pronounciation, as without that no-one will understand you (no that is not a good thing ^_^). In Japanese vowels are more like those of Spanish than English, so if you know Spanish it can help you here. This chart will help illustrate the equivalent English pronounciations for the rest of us ^_~:

Japanese Vowel
English Equivalent
Example
a
as in father akai (ah-kah-ee) red
i
as in Pete imi (ee-mee) meaning
u
as in food uma (oo-mah) horse
e
as in make ebi (eh-bee) shrimp
o
as in tote mamoru (mah-moh-roo) protect ^_^

Vowels

Japanese vowels can be either long or short, and the length can mean a difference in meaning. Compare for instance obaasan (grandmother) with obasan (aunt), where a failure to lengthen the a would result in a diffrent word. In writing, the symbol u is used to lenghten both the o and the u such as in the word kuukou (airport) where both the o and the u are lengthened by the use of the u. While a lot of systems use a macron(a bar over the letter) to illustarate that you should lengthen the vowel, we'll just double it (or as in the case of the o where ou will indicate that it should be lengthened).

  • When two vowels follow each other they are rponounced as the sum of ther parts i.e. ai (love) is pronounced like "eye" in English, except that the vowel sounds are kept short.
  • The vowels i and u often aren't pronounced, or are reduced to a whisper. This usually occures when they are preceded by voiceless consonants (p, t, k, ch, f, h, s, and sh). For example: desu sounds like "des" and suki (like) is "ski".

Consonants

The Japanese consonants generally sound like their english counterparts, except for a few exceptions (now where would teachers be without those, eh?^_^).

  • The Japanese r is pronounced with the tip of your tounge touching the ridge behind the upper teeth, it resmbles the Spanish r, except without the trill.
  • There is no real "l" sound in Japanese, and since there is no way to write it in the Japanese alphabets, when foreign words are romanized the l is converted into an r. This does not however mean that any Japanese word containing an r can be pronounced with an l. So Haruka, can not be pronounced as Haluka (yes some people have made such a mistake before ^_^ ).
  • The f in Japanese is pronounced like the English "h," but with more air flowing (pretend you are about to whistle)
  • The g is allways pronounced as in go, and never as in age.
  • The s is allways hissed as in so, and never voiced as in his.
  • In some words the consonants are doubled (kk, ss, tt, dd, pp) in words such as irasshai (welcome), chotto (a little), and happyaku (800). the consonants are doubled. You should pronounce them like the double consonants that occur in English over a word boundary in "rat tail", "good day"or "ripe plum". As with vowels, failure to double a consonant will change the meaning of a word, such as kitte kudasai (please cut it) and kite kudasai (please come here). In writing hiragana a small character "tsu"is placed before a consonant to illustrate that it should be doubled.

Well this concludes our lesson for this week (don't worry, the rest won't be as boring, but we needed to get this out of the way first). I hope you will remember something from it ^_^. Please tell me what you want to see next week: the number system, grammar, or writing, or something else entirelly. (just post it on the board ^_^).

 
 
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