Australian English mnemonic word alternatives!

If you’re Aussie and you get tripped up converting WaniKani’s North American-tailored mnemonics through a different accent, this might be of interest! It may also help with pronunciation…

Certain Australian English vowels correspond really nicely with certain Japanese vowels. This correspondence is so peculiar to the Aussie accent that I’m not sure it holds as well for New Zealand English or most dialects of British English (except maybe northerly r-less dialects like Yorkshire?). It almost definitely won’t hold for any North American Englishes.

Anyway. In Australian English (and other English dialects that pronounce “air” and “ore” somewhat like we do without sounding the “r” as an “r”)…

  • door sounds very close to どう, not like dough(nut)
  • sore/saw or even sword sounds close to そう, not like sou(l)
  • raw (aside from the r) sounds like ろう, not at all like ro(bot)
  • shore sounds very much like しょう, not the anglicisation of Shogun

And so on! のう = gnaw (a talent for gnawing things?); こう = core (construct from your core?); ちょう = chore (birds like doing chores - with all respect to Mrs Chou); ごう = gore (numbers written in gore?); とう = tore (tore the sword?); よう = your; ぼう = bore (forgot because bored?); ほう = uh… hor-se? (horses have their own laws)

This correspondence helps a lot with vocabulary as well. For instance, I don’t remember “row-dough” for 労働 but I definitely remember “raw-door”! 陽気 sounds like “Yorkie” - quite handy that Yorkie was an actual 1980s radio announcer with a chipper demeanour. And the Australian English homophone for 王子 sounds exactly like something a prince of a certain type would indulge in.

Also, did you ever notice this?

  • care sounds almost exactly like けい and not cake (you warn people to make them care)
  • hare/hair sounds almost exactly like へい and not hey (soldiers with weird hair?)
  • てい doesn’t really sounds like (po)ta(to) but it does sound like tear (as in rip)
  • せい doesn’t sound like sa(bre)… but it does sound like how we say Sarah, doesn’t it?
  • べい doesn’t sound like Bay as much as it sounds like bear - which makes the USA the land of bears!

So 平成 is not “hay-sa(bre)” but “hair-Sa(rah)”!

Lastly, the Australian short “u” sound (like in “cut”) is almost the same sound as the Japanese “ah” but shorter. So さん sounds enough like “sun” (calculating with the sun!), だん sounds enough like “done” (the men are done - although Dan is a man’s name), がん sounds enough like “gun” (people are stubborn about guns - also ぐん sounds like “goon” to me), たん sounds enough like “ton” (short but weighs a ton) but not “tan”, etc.

I hope this has been an interesting read but I really hope it’s genuinely useful to someone! :smiley:


What I really want to know is, how do you pronounce the words “soul”, “robot”, and “cake”? :laughing:


This one really helped me a lot, I was saying “hay-sa(bre)” to Japanese people, they tended to understand me but I now realise I was wrong, ありがとう

Have you been taking the mnemonics literally for pronunciation?

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Good question. Linguistics incoming!

The Australian English “owe” /ou/ [ɐ̟ʉ] sound starts centrally and low in the mouth instead of at the back, almost at the same place as the u in “cup”, then it glides up to our characteristic central “u” sound. The exception to this (at least in some places) is when that sound appears in front of l like it does in soul, when it is more like the o in “cot” gliding to the back “u” in “put”. Cake starts at the same place as “owe” and glides up to an “ee” sound a bit… so they’re all diphthongs (vowels that slide around a bit).

Japanese doesn’t do diphthongs - each vowel is its own mora. Luckily, “hair” and “bore” in General Australian English are both pure long vowels - they don’t glide. So “care” is much less confusing than “cake”, at least when it comes to a pronunciation reference! :slight_smile:


In this instance I think it’s just because of hearing it in the Australian media all the time. I’ve used this word before it came up in WK (actually, I still think it’s above my level) TBH, I rarely use WK’s mnemonics as I create my own.


“'at’s not a noife, THIS is a noife!”


yeah nah onya mate


Is it tough to be an ozzie on these forums? I feel like you’d break so many rules just trying to be cordial with someone. :joy:

It’s not tough mate … what’s tough in Australia is surviving with all the animals that can kill us.


I’m interested in being cordial to Australians… Which rules should I break? :stuck_out_tongue:


First, break Rule 3 (Don’t say some of the bad words). Then break Rule 3 again. Continue breaking Rule 3 until otherwise directed.

Example: “Saruko’s a mad Rule 3. Rule 3ing legend!”


Rule 3 - anything but that! I can’t Rule 3ing break Rule 3; my poor grandma’ll be turning over in her Rule 3ing grave.


Brit here, specifically a speaker of Estuary English with a heavy Cockney influence. You’re right, this wouldn’t work quite as well for me as it would an Australian, but it’s not far off in some places. For instance, I think some of my vowels are a bit more open than yours (e.g. “care” is something like [kʰɛ:] for me). However, I do like the emphasis you put on using words with nice pure non-gliding vowels for us non-rhotic speakers :slight_smile:


I didn’t know there was a term for this. :laughing:

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Oh, there’s a term for just about everything when it comes to phonetics! :sweat_smile:


Throw some mo’ shrimp on tha’ barbie! (yes, yes I know it’s supposed to be prawns)

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You little ripper. I mean, 立派. :stuck_out_tongue:

Oh, Americans always seem to give -ay sound mnemonics for the Japanese え vowel. I’ve never had the foggiest idea why - even with an American accent, it’s the wrong sound.

There’s a term for everything.

It’s also “Chuck another” but, don’t you come the raw prawn with me, mate.


I don’t think it’s that far off. “Play” almost rhymes with えい with an American English accent.

It’s much harder to get things to rhyme with Japanese when you actually pronounce your r’s properly. :stuck_out_tongue:

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