Japanese Novel and Light Novel Book Club discussion

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General Discussion > Could you help me about pronunciation of Japanese letters in English?

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message 1: by Fanta (new)

Fanta Miste | 473 comments Hello everyone.

I'm thinking about the way an English speaker who doesn't know Japanese at all can read a Japanese letter out with no explanation. I think it's impossible to pronounce them correctly but possible to make a sound like correct one.

There is romaji that is translated from Japanese to Latin words. For example, 姫(ひめ) means a princess and its romaji is "hime". But I guess you would pronounce it as a sound like "time". Even if it is written as "hi me", I guess you would pronounce it as if you mean "Hello myself". In Japanese, actually hime sounds like "he meh".

So, I made a table that shows ひ (hi) in romaji sounds like [he], め (me) sounds like [meh], and so does all Japanese letters. I tested the table by Text to Speech web services and I think it performed well.

Then, I'd like to ask you to check the table. Here is it (the sound loading at first may be long). I would appreciate it if you would check it as follows:

1. The table is a group of three rows. The third row is sound guides. You look at it and imagine the sound.
2. You click on the first row, then you get the sound in Japanese.
3. Please tell me the letter here if the sound is completely different from one you imagined. (and suggestion if possible.)

They are 101 sounds in total. I know it's too many, and I would be happy if everyone would help me. I'd like to listen to many opinions.

Thank you!


message 2: by Caleb (new)

Caleb | 18 comments Hello, I'm a student of the language.
I'm not sure what you were asking. What were you wanting to know from everyone?


message 3: by Fanta (new)

Fanta Miste | 473 comments I'd like to know whether my pronunciation guides sound like actual Japanese sounds or not at all. For example, whether [meh] sounds like the actual sound of め in Japanese or not.

My English may be strange, so please ask me about any vague or unclear parts!


message 4: by Caleb (new)

Caleb | 18 comments I see.
い would be "ee or "ē"
You combination ones are off on a few.
きゃ would be "kya" instead of "keeya"
Romaji for ち is "chi" and つ is "tsu"
Haven't looked through all of them, I'll comment again if I see more.
You can find pronunciation charts to reference that you can compare with


message 5: by Caleb (new)

Caleb | 18 comments I see.
い would be "ee or "ē"
You combination ones are off on a few.
きゃ would be "kya" instead of "keeya"
Romaji for ち is "chi" and つ is "tsu"
Haven't looked through all of them, I'll comment again if I see more.
You can find pronunciation charts to reference that you can compare with


message 6: by Fanta (new)

Fanta Miste | 473 comments Thank you for your feedback!
きゃ is a sound called 拗音 [yo-on], which I heard is difficult to image how it sounds for an English speaker because English doesn't have something like 拗音. But I'm relieved to know kya makes sense.


message 7: by Caleb (new)

Caleb | 18 comments No problem.
I listen to plenty of things in Japanese and the standard romaji pronunciation that I learned was perfect, I didn't have any problems with it.


message 8: by Caleb (new)

Caleb | 18 comments The problem English speakers have is they don't understand how subtle the sounds are in Japanese, we exaggerate so much and we have five or more individual sounds in what we consider one. So things don't get pronounced properly when trying to use Japanese because they have too many extra sounds they use without realizing it.
う would just be "u".

Something that may help people understand Japanese pronunciation, is explaining how Japanese pronunciation is more focused on fixed mouth positions and making sounds with your voice and tongue, and keeping each sound pure and unaffected by the sounds that come before and after, unlike English where pronunciation is more focused on constant mouth movement to morph the sounds and make them blend together.
An example for how Japanese pronunciation would change with an English speaker is わかる, the proper pronunciation is wakaru, the way an English speaker would say it involves morphing the sounds and stressing the middle syllable. "Wuhkahroo"
To properly pronounce it an English speaker has to learn that a syllable always gets pronounced the way it sounds every time, it doesn't get morphed like in English words.

This is just my take on it from my experiences, it is what makes sense to me as the major differences between the two languages.


message 9: by Caleb (new)

Caleb | 18 comments ふ is "fu"
English speakers need to understand it isn't made like our f sound, try to make to "hu" sound (u here means you're just blowing air, not saying "who") and then bring your top teeth closer to your lower lip until it almost sounds just like our English f.

A difference between English and Japanese is that the spoken focus in a Japanese syllable is in the consonant, but the mouth position is focused on allowing the proper vowel sound to come out as a byproduct. In English as a kid you learn things like "k" makes a "kuh" sound, so the natural way we use that letter at the end of a word like deck means your mouth is formed where in order to say it the final sound is based on "u". In Japanese it's like they have 5 different k letters that are formed by forming your mouth where different vowels seep out at the end.
Another example of this is the s letters, し and す (shi and su) are pronounced most closely to "sh" and "s", but shi isn't made like the English "sh, you have to have your mouth positioned as if you were going to say "she" so the subtle vowel seepage comes out correctly. And su, the English stand-alone s would be formed more like shi is, but you have to do it like you're going to say su for it to sound the way it's supposed to.

づ is "dzu".
Explaining this, つ is tsu and the "ts" works the same as in the word "its". Now for dzu, it's the same as saying tsu but you're vocalizing, like how vocalizing ka naturally makes it ga, the vocal form of tsu if being done correctly will naturally come out as dzu.


message 10: by Fanta (new)

Fanta Miste | 473 comments Caleb wrote: "う would just be "u". "

I'm worried about when English speakers see just "u", they would make a sound like "you", which sounds like ゆ not う for Japanese. So I wrote う is wu (or woo I tried). By any chance, are not u, wu, and woo much different for English speakers?


message 11: by Selena (new)

Selena (sailorstar165) | 1506 comments Mod
If we saw u, we'd think u like "you."

"Wu" and "woo" would be the same for us, I think.

For う, you might want to say "oo" like in "goo"


message 12: by Caleb (new)

Caleb | 18 comments A short explanation of each vowel and then consistently using it has been the best method I've seen. With romaji they explain that "u" always sounds like the u from dude. Explaining each vowel once and consistently spelling it the romaji way keeps there from being confusion like that, in my opinion at least, because then all you have to explain are the few exceptions that at different.


message 13: by Fanta (new)

Fanta Miste | 473 comments Selena wrote: "If we saw u, we'd think u like "you."
"Wu" and "woo" would be the same for us, I think."


That shocked me seriously... (but I got why I have difficulty understanding English speech.)


Caleb wrote: "A short explanation of each vowel and then consistently using it has been the best method I've seen."

I see. Using a well known word is the best.


message 14: by Aaron (last edited Dec 10, 2015 07:42AM) (new)

Aaron Nagy | 76 comments English has really no set pronunciation rules it's all a mess because of all the other languages we have taken from over the years. The thing to get across is that when English speakers see a word they don't see it as a bunch of individual characters we see it as a complete word like a Hieroglyph or Kanji to keep the JP comparison alive. We then memorize each one of those words pronunciations, and yes this is exactly as silly as it sounds.


message 15: by Caleb (new)

Caleb | 18 comments Very true, because we have an alphabet instead of a syllabary, our characters change sounds and have no set structure. To us, once you understand that a character in Japanese is a set sound it makes it very easy to understand, so dedicating some time to understanding how to properly pronounce each sound is very valuable. One I struggled with was ほ from naruhodo. Because it's formed on the consonant side the same as fu it sounded like fo to me, I had to spend a lot of time listening to it spoken and understanding why it sounds so different from what we would think of as ho.


message 16: by Fanta (new)

Fanta Miste | 473 comments Aaron wrote: "when English speakers see a word they don't see it as a bunch of individual characters we see it as a complete word like a Hieroglyph or Kanji to keep the JP comparison alive. "

That is a very new and important view for me. A sound by a word not by a character and syllable.


Caleb wrote: "One I struggled with was ほ from naruhodo. Because it's formed on the consonant side the same as fu it sounded like fo to me,"

Didn't you have difficulty in other は行 (the group of h sounds)? ha, hi, he, and fa, fi, fe.


message 17: by Caleb (new)

Caleb | 18 comments No it was specifically that one, ho in English is a much more open mouthed sound than the others, it made it difficult to make sense of the sound they were making being connected to the h sound at all because of it


message 18: by Caleb (new)

Caleb | 18 comments No it was specifically that one, ho in English is a much more open mouthed sound than the others, it made it difficult to make sense of the sound they were making being connected to the h sound at all because of it


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