A method that makes it easier to learn pitch at the same time as the meaning (assign a color to each pitch) - worth doing? feedback?

See my “solution” below this long post - so don’t bother reading this long post as I am using a more efficient method which is in the solution below

I would like to learn pitch accent along the way as I think that is better than learning it later; so why not learn it as you go. I’m grateful to be starting now - in the era of when pitch is talked about by YouTubers, etc. - and not apparently like the past where teachers just said you can ignore pitch and make everything flat.

The ‘color’ method I describe below I believe is the easiest way I found to build pitch into your meaning mnemonic/story.
I even think maybe WaniKani should make a 2.0 updated version that include ‘color’ mnemonics for the pitch. Either this isn’t a thing because people don’t care about learning pitch / feel it doesn’t really matter / feel it is not worth the effort; or they say they will just learn it later. But with the “color” method I describe below, it makes learning pitch at the same time as learning the meaning not much more difficult.

Because I haven’t heard anyone doing this, and am still in the beginning levels, I want to ask in this thread if it is wise, weird, etc, or just get feedback on it.

(sorry for the long post! >< I just like to clearly explain this method so I can get accurate feedback, am curious if others are doing something similar, or just to help others if it is a good idea:)

Question/Feedback on this method?

Please feel free to let me know if my strategy is wise or weird or any other feedback. I haven’t heard of people adding pitch into their mnemonic/story so is what I’m doing wise? weird? And if it is a wise strategy, then this post can help other beginners like me learn pitch while learning the meaning of words at the same time.

I haven’t got to learning full sentences so I’m not sure how effective this will be but I think it is good to learn the pitch of each word - in case I say one word by itself, it will sound more native.

Also, another question I have, as I’m not certain, is for words with multiple pitch accents, if it is only worth memorizing the most common pitch, e.g. for 元 , just remember that it is Heiban. To learn that it can also be said with Atamadaka or Odaka might only be useful in the rare case that someone says this word in a pitch other than Heiban. e.g. if the sample audio on WaniKani and other samples on Forvo all sound like Heiban, then is it even worth learning the alternative Atamadaka pitch or whatever other pitch a word has? I’m not certain if this is worth it, so I guess I’ll just memorize the multiple possible pitches that can be used with mnemonics.

How I learn the meaning and pitch of a word at the same time

I memorize the pitch accent for each word by assigning a color for each pitch. The color I build into the mnemonic/story will be built into the mnemonic/story for the meaning of the word - or if I can’t fit it into the story of the meaning, then I just make a separate story that is as closely related to the story I created for the meaning.

To do this, I installed the Chrome pitch script so that I see it appear on WaniKani (which is really helpful).

How I remember the pitch took me 2 failed strategies before I came across a strategy that worked:
-Failed strategy #1: memorizing the letter, e.g. “H” for Heiban, “A” for Atamadaka, etc.
-Failed strategy #2: memorizing the direction, e.g. “up” for Heiban; “down” for Atamadaka, etc.
-Successful strategy: memorizing a color that I have associated with each pitch

I found it is easier to remember the pitch by assigning a color for each pitch. This is easier because it is easier to build the color into the story you have already created for the meaning of the word.

For example: for the word: 双 (ふた) “pair”, the WaniKani pitch script shows it is Atamadaka. As I show below, I assign ‘red’ for Atamadaka pitch. So the story I build into this word is the word pair is red (Atamadaka) because a pair is in love. My “meaning” story was that a pair likes to watch futa(ball) together. So the mnemonic could be, the pair watches futa(ball) together because they are in love (red for Atamadaka). This is an example of how I am going through WaniKani to learn the meaning and pitch at the same time for each word.

I add the mnemonic/story for the meaning and pitch in a Google spreadsheet. But I suppose, you could just add a “note” in WaniKani.

Below are the colors I assign for each of the 4 pitch accents:

-Green: for Heiban. I feel green is the best color to represent Heiban because it goes up, kind of like green means go.
And to remember that a word is ‘green’ (i.e. Heiban), I build green into the mnemonics story by saying something like money, nature, environmental, grass, alien, envy - something that is green - to help me remember that the word has a green pitch (i.e. Heiban).

-Red: for Atamadaka. I feel red is the best color to represent Atamadaka because it goes down, kind of like slowing to a stop.
And to remember that a word is ‘red’ (i.e. Atamadaka), I build red into the mnemonics story by saying something like blood, love, hot, traditional (just because I associate red with “traditional”), conservative (just because I associate red with “conservative”) - something that is red - to help me remember that the word has a red pitch (i.e. Atamadaka).

-Blue: for Odaka. I feel blue is the best color to represent Odaka because I think blue is a peaceful/relaxed color; Odaka pitch goes up then down on the last mora (kind of like how the letter “O” goes all around from start to end - which is kind of a peaceful/relaxed concept - like the zen circle).
And to remember that a word is ‘blue’ (i.e. Odaka), I build blue into the mnemonics story by saying something like peace (because I associate blue with peace), relaxed (because I associate blue with relaxed), water, sky - something that is blue - to help me remember that the word has a blue pitch (i.e. Odaka).

-Yellow: for Nakadaka. I chose yellow for Nakadaka just because it yellow is one of the primary colors so want to include it - and it is kind of a lively color - like how Nakadaka is up and then down like a lively action.
And to remember that a word is ‘yellow’ (i.e. Nakadaka), I build yellow into the mnemonics story by saying something like gold, sunlight, light, bright, urine - something that is yellow - to help me remember that the word has a yellow pitch (i.e. Nakadaka).

So green for Heiban and red for Atamadaka seem like easier color choices - like green means go up (like a green go traffic light), and red means go down to a stop (like a red stop traffic light). I had to be a bit more creative to assign blue and yellow to the other pitches - and am used to assigning those colors to those pitches in my head now. Of course, whatever colors - and things that match those colors will vary based on what you associate with each color, e.g. I associate green with money but you might not.

For words that have an irregular pitch, I will also sometimes (rarely as isn’t often) note the following pitch variations:

-Light green (instead of green): for example, 北西 (ほくせい) is Heiban, but I when I listen to the sample of it on WaniKani (and double-check Forvo), I hear it sounds like the せい goes slightly higher than the ほく which is a bit different from the typical-sounding Heiban words like 太字 or 歌う or 曲げる. So I assign in my spreadsheet, next to 北西 is ‘light green’ to tell myself that it is Odaka but the せい is slightly higher sounding than the ほく. Again, this is rare that I assign ‘light green’ - but I find it doesn’t complicate things too much and is for those words that have a sound that is slightly different from the regular Heiban.

-Light blue (instead of blue): for example, 力 (ちから) is Odaka, but when I listen to the sample of it on WaniKani (and double-check sound samples on Forvo.com), I hear the last kana “ら” is pretty high - not as low as a typical 3 mora Odaka like 花見 (はなみ) where the last kana “み” is lower. So I assign in my spreadsheet, next to 力 that the pitch is ‘light blue’ to tell myself that it is Odaka but the last kana is slightly higher than normal. I don’t really need to put ‘light blue’ and could just put ‘blue’ - but it is rare and only for one or two words so far - and doesn’t complicate things much.

For words that can have more than one pitch:

For some words, the Chrome script in WaniKani shows there can be more than one type of pitch. I’m not certain if it is worth it to remember the alternative pitches of a word - or to just memorize the common pitch that I hear in the voice samples on WaniKani and Forvo. I suppose it is useful in the rare case that someone says a word with one of the alternative pitches…but if everyone says a word with one most common pitch, then memorizing the alternative pitches isn’t worth it. I’ll still memorize them I suppose with a mnemonic.

So, when I listen to the sample (and double-check samples on Forvo.com), often one pitch is most common.
For example: 小皿 (こざら) “small plate” - shows can be Heiban or Atamadaka. When I listen to the samples in WaniKani and Forvo, they sound like Heiban, so I make up a mnemonic story for the pitch, something like: green small plates are most common at Christmas, but red could also be served. This helps me remember to say it green (Heiban), however, it could also be said red (Atamadaka).

If I come across a word that has more than one pitch - and the samples don’t favor one pitch over the other, I make up a pitch mnemonic/story that says each pitch can be used 50/50 or equal.
I’ve only found one word so far that had this 50/50 split: 皿 (さら) “plate”, WaniKani shows it can be Heiban or Atamadaka. I listen to the sample, and the female voice sample is Heiban whereas the male voice sample is Atamadaka - so I make up for my pitch mnemonic/story that for plate, it can 50/50 be green or red used for Christmas.

Some words, can be other variations, but there is usually one pitch that is used by all the voice samples. E.g. 方言 (ほうげん) “dialect” shows can be Heiban or Nakadaka pitch. For green or yellow, I say “Jamaica” as the Jamaican flag has green and yellow (and black but I ignore that). So I say the main dialect is Jamaican - this tells me it is green or yellow.

If a word, as Odaka or Nakada (blue or yellow), I build Ikea into the pitch mnemonic has the Ikea logo is blue and yellow.

As mentioned above for plate, if a word can be Heiban (green) or Atamadaka (red),I would build Christmas into the mnemonic - or go/stop.

Some words have 3 pitch options, e.g. 元 (もと) “origin” can be Heiban, Atamadaka, or Odaka (green, red, or blue). I found that the flag of Mars is green, red or blue so I build that into the mnemonic somehow, e.g. the origin of life is from Mars. But as usual, one pitch is more common - in WaniKani and Forvo - so for 元, it sounds like most use Heiban, so my pitch mnemonic for 元 is something like ‘the origin of life is environmental (green) and comes from Mars (green, red, blue).’ So this mnemonic tells me that Heiben is the common/preferred pitch for 元, but it can be Heiban, Atamadaka, or Odaka.

As mentioned earlier, I’m not certain, for words with multiple pitch accents, if it is only worth memorizing the most common pitch, e.g. for 元 , just remember that it is Heiban. To learn that it can also be said with Atamadaka or Odaka might only be useful in the rare case that someone says this word in a pitch other than Heiban. I’m not certain if this is worth it, so I’ll just memorize the multiple possible pitches that can be used with mnemonics.

Also, just a side note, for words that have a sound that isn’t voiced, e.g. in 北西 it is more like hok*sei (they don’t voice the ‘u’ sound in ku), I also note in the spreadsheet pitch column that it is ‘out of breath’. I don’t know why I say ‘out of breath’ just for the story I suppose - it just helps me remember that a particular sound in the word isn’t pronounced. Another example of a word where I note is ‘out of breath’ is 四角 - the ‘i’ sound in shi isn’t really voiced.
This thread I’m making is mostly to mention how I use colors to memorize the pitch for each word - but I thought would just mention that I also note ‘out of breath’ for words that have a sound that isn’t voiced. Maybe ‘jump’ would be better, or some other way to describe it but I just note ‘out of breath’.

I guess memorizing the pitch of each word will be beneficial when I learn sentences, but am not certain

In this MattvsJapan video, Why you can't hear Japanese pitch accent - YouTube
they mention the pitch of full sentences - and over time, you just can become aware of the pitch direction of each - kind of like a song or music for each. They also mention the pitch for verbs will change as verbs conjugate. I haven’t got to full sentences yet, so not sure how learning the pitch of each word will benefit me when that time comes. But as said in the MattvsJapan video, maybe learning the pitch of each individual word won’t be that helpful for sentences - as there will be a flow for each sentence like a song.

I’m also going to go through the download they provide where he lists the most commonly-used words for each of the four pitch accents…which is helpful but I thought, instead, I might as well note the pitch for each word as I go as it’s just adding another small memorization point in my mind for each word.


So, sorry for the long post >< but I just like to explain clearly this method I’ve been using so far to memorize the pitch and the meaning at the same time. And hopefully, I can hear if others are/have done something similar to learn pitch for each word as they go - or if what I’m doing is wise or weird - and that this will be beneficial when I start learning full sentences; and also for verbs as they conjugate, I’m not sure what will come of this - but I feel it can’t hurt. If I want to say one word in Japanese, it will sound more “native-like” if I know the pitch of that single word. I feel like it really isn’t much more brain power/effort to learn the pitch of each individual word as I go by building in the assigned color to the mnemonic/story.

Also, is it worth it to memorize the alternative pitches - or just the pitch that is most common in the sample audio; e.g. if the sample audio on WaniKani and other samples on Forvo all sound like Heiban, then is it even worth learning the alternative Atamadaka pitch or whatever other pitch a word has.


Thing is pitch is not important for reading. And wanikani is primarily for learning kanji. It also tests on kanji reading and meaning. Testing on pitch would be one more thing but not somthing everyone is interested.

Also yes pitch is important, but its kind of like learning a proper English accent to avoid the ‘Hindu’ ‘South African’ ‘Japanese’ accent foreigners who learn english tend to speak. Useful but not important to communicate. Eventually getting a more natural native english accent can be useful for second language learners, but most english speakers will understand an accent.

So same in Japanese I would think. Learning a proper ‘american’ eglish accent is useful but not at the start. Its better to focus on being understandable and being able to understand. Tv and news also helps with pitch.

So maybe another field would be useful for those who want it or an option maybe, but I dont think it needs to be forced. Since as I said a native accent is nice but Im fine speaking in foreign accent while Im developing. Which I would anyways as I rarely get to speaking practice.


personally i think this would be a great idea for an anki deck. I’m actually doing an HSK anki deck rn with color-coded tones and it’s working swell.

the thing is, as @Dongaro appears to be alluding to, japanese pitch accent does not actually encode a ton of semantic information (I forgot the terminology — ‘low semantic weight’?), unlike other tonal languages such as varieties of Chinese as well as much of mainland SE asian languages (vietnamese, lao, thai), in which tone does carry a large amount of information.

imo adding another layer of complexity into wk will just lead to more people dropping the program, with comparatively little tangible benefits to those who do decide to stick.

edit: incidentally im pretty sure you could just grab the pitch accent data from some pitch accent dictionary somewhere — i believe wiktionary has that, not sure if youve mentioned something along those lines already though.


Thank you, is a good point that memorizing the pitch at the beginning is not necessary and the added complexity could dissuade beginners.

I just heard some advanced speakers who said they wished they learned pitch earlier as to go back and learn can be a pain. I suppose I’ll keep doing this along the way just as I don’t find it too much more effort.

I’ve gotta say, I think this is a really interesting idea. I can see how piling a color into my mnemonics wouldn’t be too hard.

My experience has been that learning some basic pitch accent is really helpful. I’d ignored it entirely for around 8 years of casually using the language, but in the last 2, I’ve (again, casually) started to pay attention to it with specific words that I use around work. Qualitatively, it seems to have reduced confusion about what I’m trying to say.

I recently started Dogen’s course, but I’m a little worried about how to pile this onto my study, as Zeiosis mentions. But I may use this with my Anki decks, and I’d be delighted if there was a plug-in for WK.


It does sound like a good idea! Another useful thing to reinforce pitch is just listening to the pronunciation over and over again, for example during your reviews. (You can activate auto-play in the settings)

Is this a vocabulary word on WaniKani? I can’t seem to find it anywhere… I’d only focus on vocab (双子 etc) when learning pitch.

Honestly, I also wouldn’t waste too much time on the light blue / light colors for cases where you perceived the pitch slightly differently. If there is a difference, this will probably correct itself through enough audio input. Having four colors seems complex enough to me.
But even less time and effort I would spend on the non-voiced „out of breath“ stuff. The voicedness can change a lot depending on the speaker, and is also something very easy to notice with exposure. I wouldn’t spend time on putting this information on a spreadsheet / into a mnemonic, because I’m pretty sure it’ll come naturally to you.

Definitely an interesting sounding idea, but it does sound very time-consuming. You won’t be using mnemonics forever, and I think at one point just switching to lots of listening combined with shadowing is much more efficient. But even just being aware of pitch accent early on and paying attention to how words are pronounced is probably really valuable.


Thanks Myria

Yes, when searching for 双 in WaniKani, it shows a kanji result (the pink) and a vocab result (purple one).
The vocab URL is WaniKani / Vocabulary / 双

and yes, I did learn that pitch only applies to vocab/words (not individual kanji).

Good points about the ‘light blue’ ‘light green’ variations and the ‘out of breath’. That does seem like overkill in a spreadsheet. But I think I might still include if I am not remembering those pronunciation nuances.

Yes true, I think is why in that MattvsJapan video, they have a downloadable thing that just includes 10 commonly-used words for each of the 4 pitches. As learning those can help give you a general familiarity of pitch for all words - instead of a method like I am doing of noting pitch for every word.

But alas, I think I will still continue adding the colors for each vocab/word, along with a short inclusion of the color into my meaning story/mnemonic, as it isn’t too much effort or time. And during the reviews, I think in my head about the meaning of the word and then also the pitch - how to say it. Before, during the reviews, I just thought of the meaning. But now, I think of meaning and pitch as it isn’t too much extra effort/time.

Thank you for the insight and feedback!


Honestly, I’d use the colours as a way to remind myself when looking at words I’m reviewing. What you’re planning seems like a good system for remembering individual patterns, though it might not help that much at the sentence level.

I think the main thing to note is that unless you consistently play audio back, just trying to keep pitch patterns in your head might not be that useful. I know I’ve picked up a pitch pattern when I hear something, think it feels wrong, check it, and find out I’m right. It’s not so much a matter of knowing that I’m aware of where the down-step should be.

That said, from what I have seen so far, ‘sentence-level pitch accent’ isn’t really a thing. It’s just that pitch accent patterns change somewhat when new combinations appear in phrases and sentences. These changes appear more at the phrase or clause level than for an entire sentence.

By the way, if you want something that provides a decent point of reference for overall pitch patterns across a sentence or phrase, take a look at this:

You can enter stuff into this engine (‘Suzuki-kun’) from the University of Tokyo and get it to generate a diagram and audio that show you how pitch should change.


Just listened to 北西 on Wanikani and it sounds like a totally typical heiban. I don’t think anything special is happening here. If you wanna tell me who you’re listening to on Forvo I can double check.

I think mnemonics for pitch accents are great, and I’ve used quite a few when I first learn the pitch for a word. That said, I think the colors system might grow cumbersome, and I think you’ll drop it after a bit. Once you’ve learned the pitch pattern for somewhere between 300-500 words (my guess) you’ll prolly notice (both consciously and subconsciously) patterns for the pitch of words. It would probably be easier to realize that, for example, verbs that end in む tend to be accented on the syllable before む with very few exceptions than to come up with a color mnemonic for each item.

Make sure you can adequately identify the pitch in words you hear too!

Edit: I just listened to the 力・ちから recording on WaniKani and it sounds pretty normal too! If anything I’d say it’s the opposite and slightly lower at the end compared to a typical おだか word. This is possibly because the word is being said in isolation, usually in a sentence odaka words tend to stay higher than depicted in the example recording.
As Jonapedia mentioned, sentence level pitch isn’t much of a thing, except for specific rules of pitch changing because of verb conjugation, or the presence of specific words (including some particles) that change the pitch of neighboring words.
If you’re concerned about sentence level pitch (i.e. verb conjugation pitch rules I guess) you’ll need to know the word level pitch first to learn the sentence level rules.
It does become pretty natural eventually. To use the same example as before, you’ll get used to verbs that end in む having their accent moved forward whenever the vowel becomes あ like in negative form. That is 飲む is accented on の and 飲まない is accented on ま. 読む is accented on よ and 読まない is accented on ま. 勇む is accented on さ and 勇まない is accented on ま.


Yeah, 北西 is heiban. It is not in a different (as yet undiscovered?) other category.


I really don’t think it matters that much. It’s like saying, I want to talk with a US southern accent so I’m going to write down all the accents on every word so I can do so. But in reality if you’re immersed in a community you’ll pick it up. And if you don’t who cares? Perhaps I feel that way because I have never paid attention to it but very rarely do I get people looking at me quizzically like they don’t understand me. And if they do it’s almost always because I used the wrong word not because of pitch accent. When used in context, the meaning is usually clear. Even if I technically I may have said “it’s raining candy.” Nobody has uproariously laughed at me when I’ve made such mistakes. They haven’t even remarked on it. Almost always they understood and the conversation continued.

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To counter I’d argue I’ve been mistake purely because of pitch accent at least a couple of times. That said, at the end of the day if your only goal is to get your point across, and not get your Japanese as natural and easy to listen to as possible, then pitch accent pretty much doesn’t matter.
I know pitch accent varies by region, but not for most common words in most major regions (with a couple of major exceptions as far as I’ve seen, feel free to correct me anyone).
I think speaking with poor pitch accent could be more comparable to messing up a basic rule of English phonetics.
Take for example “ed” to make words past tense. It’s pronounced “t” after unvoiced consonants, “d” after voiced consonants, and “ed” after dental consonants. This rule is something native English speakers pick up naturally without ever having to be taught, but foreign learners greatly benefit from learning the rule early on in there studies. Indeed, they would probably pick it up eventually on there own, but it causes unnecessary confusion until they get the rule figured out. I think hearing “ed” correctly is quite easy for most people compared to hearing pitch for people who don’t speak languages that contain pitch. Case and point, the thread author listened to a heiban word many times from various sources and was still convinced it wasn’t heiban.

Learning to hear and imitate pitch seems to me to be something that regularly requires a little practice just dedicated to it. I’m unconvinced most people will pick up naturally over time. I know people who have been speaking Japanese well over 20 years, speak quite fluidly, but have awful pitch. That said, as I mentioned at the beginning, in most cases these friends of mine can be easily understood because of context. Understanding pitch and performing it correctly are unnecessary to be comprehended in the majority of cases.

I would add that you could also likely be understood if you pronounced all your consonants like American English consonants, even the “r” sound. At the end of the day, why do so many people want to learn to pronounce Japanese correctly except for pitch? Idk, just a trend I’ve noticed, prolly doesn’t apply to you

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Thank you! Is interesting to hear about the pitch being more for phrases or clauses rather than an entire sentence. And is great to hear of the OJAD site showing patterns for whole sentences, not just words. I forgot about that site and that it isn’t just for single words.

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Really great answer, thank you kokopelli!

For my beginner ears, I found 北西 to sound different than most other 3 mora Heiban words. I learned (not to long ago) that a ‘typical’ Heiban pitch for a 3 mora word is low > high > and than the last mora goes down a bit (not as low as the first mora but does drop down about halfway). This was confusing at first because I thought 3 or more mora Heiban words were simply low and then the rest were the same higher pitch. So a word like 北西 is different than the ‘typical’ 3 mora Heiban word to my beginner ears in that it sounds like _- hok* sei, with the “sei” being higher than “hok*”. This is a total noob thing for sure and I am just realizing now that it is perhaps that words that have a unvoiced part, like the “u” in ku makes the word sound more like a 2 mora Heiban, i.e. _- hok* sei.

After checking another 3+ mora Heiban word, 液体 (えきたい) “liquid”, this one sounds like ek*tai with the “tai” sound being higher. So I noted “light green” for this just as it is different than a ‘typical’ 3+ Heiban word that goes low > high > and then drop about a halfstep on the last sound. But I learned this might just be because there is a very quick, almost unvoiced “i” sound in き.

So I have realized I can drop the “light green” note for these words, because I sense a bit of a pattern - in that words with an unvoiced part like the “u” sound in 北西 or the “i” sound in 液体, then these 3+ mora Heiban words sound like a 2 mora Heiban that goes _-
This explanation likely sounds confusing/weird to advanced speakers. Is just a way for my beginner mind to remember the pronounciation of these words…before I learn what normal patterns are.

In regards to ちから, you’re so right. I re-checked and the male voice sample on WaniKani does sound like a ‘typical’ 3 mora Heiban, as does the one Forvo example. The reason why I thought it was different is that the female voice sample on WaniKani sounded like she says the last mora much higher in pitch than a ‘typical’ 3 mora Heiban word. Instead of the last mora ら dropping down a half-step (like is common in a typical 3+ mora Heiban word), it sounds like she keeps it high - on the same high tone as か. So her voice sample sounded to my ears like _-- which is why I thought it was, in my mind, “light green”.
But alas, another thing I have learned from this thread is that some samples (perhaps the female WaniKani voice actress), will make some 3 mora Heiban words sound a bit higher on the last mora than another voice sample.

So I think I will be dropping the “light green” and “light blue” - unless I find all the voice samples say a word that sounds totally different from what I hear other typical pitches sound like.

This goes along with what you said about the color system becoming pointless in the future. Like how “light green” and “light blue” for me has become pointless for the above examples!

That is really interesting how you mention a pattern of pitch based on verb conjugation or the presence of specific words. That is a ‘pattern’ that I have not come across but certainly would make my ‘color’ method pointless, at least for verbs.

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Great point, that is a main reason why I made this post - because I rarely have heard of people memorizing the pitch as they go. I’ve only just heard some YouTubers, of course Dogen (on YouTube and his WaniKani pitch article), and then also hearing the YouTuber MattvsJapan, mention the importance of pitch. How much they sell the idea that pitch is super important might or might not be related to a new angle to sell a course, I’m not sure.

haha, I lol’d at the thought of native Japanese laughing uproariously at using the wrong pitch. Was pretty funny. And the fact that you said they haven’t even remarked when it is different is interesting. It is what I suspect that pitch is really just like 10% to what the meaning and understanding is 90%.

I will still include one of the four colors for the given pitch into my meaning mnemomic/story, at least for the time being (until it becomes cumbersome and I recognize patterns as kokopelli said), just because it hardly requires much more memorizing brain power. If it was taking a lot of time or effort, I would not do this at all - but only because of the color method that I find pretty simple, I will keep doing it at least in the short-term.

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Another very interesting response! Thank you! Some saying that pitch is purely like learning how to speak with a Southern American accent vs New York accent, isn’t entirely correct right?
I suppose pitch is only critical to learn when it comes to words that are different solely based on their pitch, e.g. the often-used example for beginners of: はし 橋はし(bridge) vs 端はし(edge) vs 箸はし(chopsticks).

So maybe WaniKani could only have a pitch mnemonic for those words that do have to absolutely be spoken with the correct pitch. I just checked and they do not mention anything about the pitch differences for bridge, edge, chopsticks.

When I first read about the importance to say certain words like bridge, edge, chopsticks, with the correct pitch, that combined with hearing about Dogen, etc saying pitch does make you sound better (and saying that many advanced speakers who learned in the era of ‘Japanese is flat’ have poor pitch), I suppose that led me to want to learn the pitch of every word, a la the color method I mentioned above.
Maybe if WaniKani mentioned the importance of pitch for these words that must be said with the correct pitch (bridge/edge/chopsticks) - then there would be even less of a need to learn pitch for every word like I have been doing.

And another really interesting point kokopelli, as mentioned, the reason why I am doing this (learning pitch as I go for each word), isn’t just for making sure to get those “critical pitch” words right, e.g. はし bridge/edge/chopsticks, but because of hearing Dogen and others say the same - that there are many who learn Japanese but their pitch doesn’t sound too good - and then I read or hear some of these advanced speakers comment how they wish they learned pitch at the beginning. In fact, I’ve read that many have said professors, teachers, etc never mentioned pitch at all in the past. Someone even said John Daub (Only in Japan YouTuber) still pronounces many words with poor pitch (he would have learned in the era when teachers/professors said Japanese is flat and don’t worry about pitch).

So, I suppose yes, learning a language is hard enough, and for Japanese, it isn’t critical to learn the exact pitch for all words (compared to Chinese for example), which is why most will just not bother with pitch and say they will get it over time. That is totally cool and I would do the same…if I didn’t think of this color method.

After I hear many say that they wish they learned pitch earlier; or say they were surprised that their professor back in the day said don’t worry about pitch and can just keep everything pretty flat; or hear from Dogen and other fluent Japanese speakers (who learned in the era when pitch wasn’t considered important) say how they know many fluent advanced speakers with poor pitch…
…all this made me think it would be good to learn pitch of words as I go … but only if the method is easy. The color method is pretty easy (and makes sure I cover those words like bridge/chopsticks/edge that WaniKani doesn’t highlight). And I suppose it will help when I get to the stage of learning phrases.

I’ve learned a lot in this thread from all, so am glad I posted it! But I really must get back to my reviews ><

I have made note in my calendar to come back to update this post with my future self (a year from now or so), to say whether it was beneficial, or how beneficial it was to do this color method. And like you said kokopelli, at what point, did it become cumbersome to build pitch into the mnemomic/story for each word.

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I’m not sure if you’re referring to the fact that the ku is devoiced, but 北西 is still 4 mora.

Even then, I would say it’s not truly critical, since different areas of Japan have different pitch accent patterns. That’s not to say it’s not worth learning.


Oh that’s right, I actually was Googling “mora” when I was replying because I was still getting confused on mora vs syllable ><. Thanks for correcting that! I suppose I meant in terms of 3 sounds/English-type syllables, e.g. ho-ku-sei. But, yes, thanks for correcting me in that 北西 is a 4-mora word.

and thank you for reminding me about the different areas of Japan! When I check Forvo, I like how they include a map of where each voice actor is - and am realizing how important that is for that reason. I didn’t think but I suppose the WaniKani male and female voice actors use a standard pitch for the greater Tokyo area? That is the one I would be interested in learning for my method (as that would “sound good” to the majority of Japanese speakers). I think that would be too complex for me - so when it comes to pitch, I’ll just go by the Greater Tokyo version - and assume that the WaniKani male and female actor pitch is Greater Tokyo pitch.

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They are both speakers of standard Japanese, yes.

Yeah, I was just pointing it out because I happen to live in Kansai, and so I am constantly exposed to accents and pronunciations that are not standard Japanese. So I’ve kind of given up hope of exclusively using standard Japanese pronunciation, since it’s inevitable that things will creep into my own speech. But I’m still able to mostly make myself understood.


oh, very interesting. I forgot, it is called “standard Japanese”, not “Greater Tokyo Japanese” haha. Thank you. And ok, that is really interesting to hear about how different Kansai is. I’ve briefly heard that it is different but not sure how different. I have not been to Japan yet but actually see myself preferring regions other than Tokyo, like Kansai, and other areas that aren’t so much like Tokyo (I want to get far away from Western influence at the moment! lol).
Really interesting about the difference. It is something I should consider as it sounds like the difference in the pitch of the Kansai region is pretty big with standard Japanese.