About the voice actor and pitch

I was just wondering - recently, I started studying the tones in Japanese (pitch accent).

I noticed in an absolute majority of words, the male voice actor in WaniKani has the higher pitch on the first/second syllable and then goes lower (like is typical for other languages, especially in Europe). Which statistically should be wrong, since most Japanese words have the neutral pitch (which tends to go higher by the end of the word/last syllable).

Is he a native speaker? Is it normal for men to ignore the pitch accent? Or maybe Im just tone deaf and cant hear it properly?

However, the female voice actress does seem to respect the pitch accent in a way that in most words, she would go with the tone up by the end of the word.

Another thing I noticed, which is connected to the male voice actor - in words which end with “えい”, he tends to read this as a prolonged “え” (it sounds like Korean or Latin “ae”). Is it an accent/dialect? When I spoke with my Japanese friend, she didn’t understand me, when I explained to her she told me that she always reads it as “えい” (sounds like English “ay”) and that prolonged “え” is wrong. Example word: 失礼 (shitsurei) or 先生 (sensei). Again, the female voice actress reads this syllable always the same way as my Japanese friend.

// I just checked on Google Translate (I know the robotic voice is sometimes wrong, but I thought hey, lets see…) and its the same as the male actor - so maybe instead my friend is wrong? Lol. She is from Nagano but living in Chiba, so maybe its her accent? Should I start reading it always the same way as the guy? Whats the “proper” (neutral) accent?

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I don’t know about the pitch accent, but えい and おう are definitely often read as long え and お. 先生, for instance is often pronounced sensee. You can also see this in how words are written in katakana, where these sounds are just written エー and オー


Hmm, strange - sensei was exactly the word she told me was correctly pronounced as “sensay”.

As for katakana I think this is the case at least, I did some googling and seem to find 先生 being written as センセイ as well, so I dunno.

Here’s a more credible source than myself though: an excerpt from Tae Kim’s Complete Guide to Japanese, check under the subheader The Long Vowel Sound

Hopefully someone else can fill in why she didn’t think センセー was correct though!

EDIT: Quoted the wrong paragraph, which was actually saying that there are exceptions to this rule! Check out the table under the header I mentioned instead! :slight_smile:

I think I understand what you mean by the male voice actor. I often don’t hear him correctly the first time, but when I look up the pitch accent and see it visually, it becomes very obvious to my ears. Brains are funny, I guess.

Here’s an extension that displays the pitch pattern over the words: [Userscript] WaniKani Pitch Info

I just remembered: a pretty obvious long え reading of 先生 is from the intro part of the Puni Puni Japan grammar videos, when they say 先生、日本語を教えてください!

The male voice actor sounds very Tokyo-ish. I think he’s native, and I don’t think the pronunciations are bad.

Also, I often find pronouncing it both ways (correctly and incorrectly) will help me hear and learn the pitch better. For example I’ll listen to the speaker, then I’ll say aloud “GAkusei” and then “gaKUSEI”, and then listen to the speaker again.

I think hearing what it’s not supposed to sound like makes all the individual sounds of the correct version more apparent. I find this to be very true with words like 外、母、父、北、 etc.

えい is definitely pronounced like a long え but I also noticed that even natives when saying a word slowly they make it sound like ay, and it also depends on the region I think.

I very rarely have problems with pronunciation since my native language is Portuguese and a lot of the Japanese sounds are completely native to me. However, today I totally found awkward the pronunciation of the word 拾う (ひろう) on WK. It’s pronounced as ひろ + う and not as ひろお. Any ideas? lol

EDIT: I’m just an idiot. I think I know why this happens… It’s because the sound う doesn’t belong to the Kanji so it isn’t pronounced together with it, unlike 先生. Am I right? I don’t know. I’m confused. :scream: (笑)

Dogen has great video material on Patreon on pitch accent. He says that two kanji four mora words like gakusei (or sensei for that matter) rise after the first mora and stay on that level. He has a video on You Tube where he introduces some really useful resources for Japanese pitch accent like the inbuilt Japanese-Japanese dictionary on Mac computers.

Hi! First of all, I think it’s great you are incorporating pitch accent into your studies! I am currently subscribed to Dogen on Patreon (Dogen is creating Japanese pronunciation and pitch accent lessons | Patreon) and I absolutely love his instructional series on Japanese pitch accent. One site that he recommends is Forvo (https://forvo.com/) and under the Japanese language there is specifically a user named “strawberrybrown”. She is a female native who seems like it’s her mission to pronounce every word she can with good pitch accent. It’s been a great resource for me so I hope that might help out for you to compare against!


I don’t actually know, but my instinct tells me that because the う is creating a verb rather than extending the vowel.

The comments on the second answer to this stackoverflow question suggest the same thing with better terminology (morpheme boundary). I’m too lazy to do more research though :smiley:

edit If I had to guess i’d say that goes hand in hand with it not being part of the kanji.

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I had the feeling that I had already heard of these cases, but I couldn’t remember any extra examples. 思う is a good one! Yes, 拾う is the verb “to pick up”.

A morpheme in this case seems to be what we call an affix and a suffix.

Now the question is: does this happen with all of the verbs that work like 拾う and 思う or are these verbs just 1 of the several exceptions? :thinking:

Edit: Using the website that our friend @Azucar shared, it seems that 拾う (ひろう) is pronounced in both pronunciations. However, the ひろ + う version seems to have 2 upvotes while the ひろ+お has 1 downvote.

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Off the top of my head, 追う and 問う. That’s just how those verbs work; saying them with a long お is just wrong.


Yep, both are pronounced with the separate う sound. Seems like this thing with these verbs is actually an “exception” to the おう sound becoming おお :slight_smile:

Though oddly enough, おお and おう seem to be different. What I mean is 通る is とおる and not とうる but I’m not sure what the distinction is. Is there a break in おお as if it’s two separate sounds, as opposed to one long one?

There is a difference, not in pronunciation but in origin.
In modern japanese, the long お sound is mostly written おう, but you can find おお in old words which kana orthography was not changed. I remember watching a video about that, but it’s in french so I probably won’t help most people here ^^’

Edit: I forgot to add, this can also happen with long え sound becoming ええ as in おねえさん

The male voice is from a native with a Tokyo accent.


The interesting thing about 拾う is that it’s not the only ひろう you can hear on the site. There’s also 披露 and 疲労, which are obviously not verbs. So go and give those a listen too.