ふたつ Pronunciation

Dear all,

I’m a beginner and I have encountered my first struggle with the pronunciation.For example with 二つ. It sounds very much like statsu and not futatsu.

I keep listening to the audio pronunciation and it is really different from what I’m expecting and this makes it more difficult to remember the mnemonic the website suggests ( foot). Does anyone know why?

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I hear it loud and clear. Maybe not used to the sound, will probably get better with time with practice and immersion. You’ll be alright.

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Although I think we expect Japanese syllables to be enunciated equally, they often aren’t. You’ll probably be able to hear a similar thing with ひとつ as well. I definitely here an “f” sound rather than an “s”, but not a distinct “fu” sound.

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Yeah, there was a similar thread last year about hitotsu - perhaps some of the resources linked there might help you.

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The sound is a voiceless bilabial fricative, which a bit like what we know as “f” but much more like a sigh. The “f” sound is known as a labio-dental, so lips and teeth and you notice you press you lips to your teeth. The bilabial we’re going for in ‘fu’, us nerds write it /ɸ/, has no teeth. It’s a bit like blowing out a candle. The sound is not used in English so it might be hard to hear. Listen to it on Wikipedia.
Depending on what your mother tongue is, a “t” at the beginning of a word can sometimes sound like “st” so (ɸu)statsu. If you hear it often enough, you will hear the /ɸ/ quiet clearly. Depending on the Japanese accent, it will also be more pronounced than in the example. Furthermore, the initial “s” that you hear is just an artifact of how some people segment sounds in their head, contingent on their L1. It will get better, I promise :slight_smile:

Related.

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Off-topic English pronunciation advice?

Ooooh, do you maybe know of a resource that explains in-depth how to physically produce the sounds of the English language? Asking for a (Japanese) friend :rofl:
(who is quite hopeless on his own but if I happen to accidentally give good advice, it helps a ton! It’s just that I don’t really know how to explain the mouth etc movements for a lot of the sounds :flushed:)

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The “fu” in “futatsu” and “foot” are to my ear pronounced differently. The reason why you might have a problem is because the “fu” sound is clipped. Try listening to a couple of other recordings of “futatsu” and the clipping might become more noticeable :slight_smile: .

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Kind of a long video, but here’s a (fairly) thorough explanation of what’s happening in the word 二つ, as well as the rules for when it happens in other words. I hope this helps!

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I can hear it, but I totally understand! Japanese is one of the fastest languages spoken in the world. It is above Spanish. If I listen to Spanish, I can’t catch much. So fast! Same, if someone was speaking conversationally in Japanese! Woah! So fast. We are beginners. It is okay if we don’t catch all the sounds. Thank goodness for writing! I can at least read it! Eventually you will know that that is what they said based on your knowledge of the words. What I need to do, and maybe even you too, is find a good listening resource for our level of learning. I don’t have anyone to talk to or practice with. I’m doing this solo in my household. It might help with word recognition.

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Pretty much any introduction to phonetics course will start by describing how the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) works: in general it’s just [voiced/voiceless][place of articulation][manner of articulation] (for consonants)

and, once you know what kind of action those words describe, you can pretty quickly look at a chart https://www.ipachart.com/ (this one has sound samples!) and describe how to make the sound you want to make (japanese ふ is usually /ɸɯ/ for example, and then you can go look at the chart to see that ɸ would be a voiceless (no vocal fold vibrations) bilabial (both lips coming either together or close together) fricative (partially obstructing the airflow to create turbulence, not stopping the airflow and releasing it like /p/ would)

For english specifically, it might have more detail than you want but just looking at “[language] phonology” pages on wikipedia will generally have a ton of good information: English phonology - Wikipedia

It can and does get more complicated than that, but it can give you a good starting point for at least trying to describe how and where particular sounds are made!

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:eyes: Doubt.

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https://www.researchgate.net/publication/235971274_A_cross-Language_Perspective_on_Speech_Information_Rate

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Whoa… this is a neat study. The finding that Japanese is the fastest spoken language (of those studied) yet simultaneously conveys the least amount of information per unit of time is kinda wild

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On the other hand this later paper that covers more languages doesn’t find Japanese to be such an outlier:

(SR is syllable rate, and IR is information rate.)

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You’ve gotten a LOT of awesome resources. I might take this a different direction. A lot of Japanese actually sound different than we would expect because when we look as romaji we might read it with an English accent. Instead of focusing on one word’s pronunciation, you might just try listening to more native Japanese in general until you strengthen you ability to hear the Japanese sounds vs what the English ear expects. Basically go have fun and watch some Japanese TV.

The thing about ふ, is that it is part of the tree はひふへほ hiragana tree, so it’s with other sounds english speakers call H. So you lips are actually more like Who-tat-tsu. If that helps…

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Wow, thank you so much!

Will check this out as well, thanks!

I do wonder which level of keigo they looked at in their study? :sweat_smile: I guess I can read full-blown keigo twice as fast as normal text as it is so bloated and redundant :rofl:

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Looks like desu-masu form; they give an example text in an appendix (one of 20):

ENGLISH: Last night I opened the front door to let the cat out. It was such a beautiful evening that I wandered down the garden for a breath of fresh air. Then I heard a click as the door closed behind me. I realised I’d locked myself out. To cap it all, I was arrested while I was trying to force the door open!

FRENCH: Hier soir, j’ai ouvert la porte d’entrée pour laisser sortir le chat. La nuit était si belle que je suis descendu dans la rue prendre le frais. J’avais à peine fait quelque pas que j’ai entendu la porte claquer derrière moi. J’ai réalisé, tout d’un coup, que j’étais fermé dehors. Le comble c’est que je me suis fait arrêter alors que j’essayais de forcer ma propre porte!

JAPANESE:昨夜、私は猫Weに出してやるために玄関を開けてみると、あまりに気持のいい夜だったので、新鮮な空気をす吸おうと、ついふらっと庭へ降りたのです。すると後ろでドアが閉まって、カチッと言う音が聞こえ、自分自身を締め出してしまったことに気が付いたのです。挙げ句の果てに、私は無理矢理ドアをこじ開けようとしているところを逮捕されてしまったのです。

GERMAN: Letzte nacht habe ich die haustür geöffnet um die katze nach draußen zu lassen. Es war ein so schöner abend daß ich in den garten ging, um etwas frische luft zu schöpfen. Plötzlich hörte ich wie tür hinter mir zufiel. Ich hatte mich selbst ausgesperrt und dann wurde ich auch noch verhaftet als ich versuchte die tür aufzubrechen.

(the spurious “We” is in the original…)

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Ok that shouldn’t be too bad then. :woman_shrugging:

Looks funny! Also there is a furigana that somehow managed to escape, I guess:

And then

Hmmm… sadly there’s quite the bunch of mistakes in there - looks like the author believes that capitals and commas are optional :grin:

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Japanese people speak fast but interlaced with a generous supply of あのおおおお… えとね… なんか… そうですねえええ… いやいやいやいや…

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Dear all, thanks for all the amazing rreplies, I’m going through each of them and they are really helpful

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