By far, my most common mistake is forgetting when the character 「う」is needed.
Ex: ありがと / ありがとう, こ / こう, etc…
I feel a little dumb, but it’s difficult to remember since it often gets “lost” in pronunciations.
(Plus mnemonics don’t tend to elaborate enough to include the う sound and I’ll recall them making sense in my head, whilst forgetting the う.
Law of averages says I’m not the ONLY one this happens to, but is this common?
Secondly, what would you recommend to help remember this specific circumstance? Just practice?
Any help, as always, is appreciated.
I hate to break it to you, but you’re the only one
I bet you’ll get used to it, but in the meantime, why not try to repeat the readings out loud, while exaggerating the sounds. It definitely makes a difference if you say it long or short. And if you type it wrong, of course you won’t get the right characters.
They’re always pronounced though…if you’re having trouble with long vowels, I found it quite helpful to sound out each kana like @Saida suggested, but also clap along with them as I said them (kinda like playing an instrument along to a metronome).
To solve my problem with this, I answer with a う if I think there shouldn’t be one, and without it if I think there should. Now I only get them wrong 50% of the time.
I don’t know what your first language is, but if vowel length isn’t a phonemic contrast in your first language, you may just have a harder time hearing it and therefore require more practice to get used to it.
There’s a study by Dupoux et al. (1999) that showed that native speakers of French “had problems discriminating items that differed in vowel length” in Japanese (whereas Japanese speakers illusory vowels in consonant clusters, which has nothing to do with your question, but is interesting nonetheless).
Dupoux, E., Kakehi, K., Hirose, Y., Pallier, C., & Mehler, J. (1999). Epenthetic vowels in Japanese: A perceptual illusion? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 25(6), 1568–1578. https://doi.org/10.1037/0096-15184.108.40.2068
The mnemonics generally get reused for the same sounds and I don’t believe they ever use the same mnemonic for sounds that only differ by vowel length, so you can sort of start to associate mnemonics with vowel length as you progress. Some are more explicit than others, like using “Little Kyoto” for kyo and just “Kyoto” for kyou.
I’m glad to be French Canadian because we have long and short vowels. For example, gâteau(cake) has a long first vowel whereas cadeau(gift) has a short one. We don’t have long vowels at the end of words though(ending in a vowel) so they are a bit harder for me to hear in Japanese when the words are spoken alone.
WaniKani tries to use the same mnemonic word for the same reading whenever it appears, and long and short sounds use different mnemomics. For example, と is “toe”, while とう is “Tokyo” (i.e. とうきょう). こ is “子”, while こう is “Koichi” (i.e. こういち).
Say out loud ありがとう or the problematic word. As you say each mora nod your head.
A ri ga to o
You’ll nod your head five times. Do that with every word you encounter with a long vowel sound.
The only one that’s ever tripped me up is 登山, because of お父さん and 倒産 and 富士山. So now I just alternate between getting the と part wrong or the rendaku part wrong.
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