Can't hear pitch accent

I can’t hear pitch accent whatsoever, I understand it goes up and/or down and have seen the binary styled images, but when listening I can’t hear it. I feel like I don’t even know WHAT I’m listening for, so I definitely can’t produce it.

I’ve seen Dogens videos but am still stuck at level 0. Anyone know any good resources or cheat sheets to get more familiar with it?


May I ask some follow up questions before giving advise? How long have you’ve been listening to Japanese speech or gotten exposed to listening to it?

If you’re just starting out this is perfectly normal I think. You really have to get used to the differences in sounds made. It’s not going to happen magically. You simply have to put in the hours of listening practice and engaging various audio media to get the experience to parse what you hear into actual Japanese sounds (kana), words and understand what kanji are probably used as well. this is a big undertaking that takes time!

(well, this is the basic advice, but there are others if you have been working on this for some time now)


I used the Migaku pitch trainer for a month (demo here), and it helped me a lot. At first I too had no idea what I was even listening for, and while I still can’t describe what pitch actually is, I think I can now hear it most of the time if I really concentrate.
One of the first question types in Migaku let you hear the word, then the multiple choice answers have the same word in all four pitch patterns and you can click to play and compare. This helps hear the differences, and it’s a good start, but it took me most of the month to feel relatively confident in my answers. The demo is free, so I’d say it’s worth a try, at least.


not insanely long, its been kinda on and off, when it comes to listening and speaking I’m essentially an absolute beginner. I do try to listen to some seiyuu radio’s and I’ve been watching more recently but inconsistently. Excluding that, a lot of my Japanese exposure has been through music, which obviously isn’t so helpful for this sorta thing.
I think my problem is that I’m so focused on trying to decipher the message that im not taking in how they pronounce things as much. Thanks for the reply.

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Thanks! I’ll definitely give it a go. The thought of not only learning words for memorising pitch, on top of kanji, is quite daunting haha. But this sounds useful.


I think your reply helped a lot to narrow things down a bit! :slight_smile:

As you say, in music it’s both hard to understand what is being said, but it also blurs how things are usually pronounced. While the general rhythm of language might be adhered do, it can also be tweaked to suit the music. It’s not a good teacher when it comes to learning how proper pronunciation should be or learning how to comprehend normal conversation, not the least since lyrics = poetry suited to music that tend to be more nonsensical than even poetry. XD

So, for learning actual listening comprehension I would start with stuff that isn’t normal speech: anime, TV, movies: as they’re acted manuscripts. Not just random chat. But then with time you might try drama CDs which is again manuscripted content bound together by a story that helps guide you in your interpretation on what is going on in what you hear, but there are no visuals as a helping hand in the interpretation. Still, there are professional voice actors using clarity of speech and just speaking slightly slower than normal to help you on the way.

Much harder: pod casts with normal speech, random topics and nothing to keep it together, lots of comedy and joking (jokes are one of the hardest aspect to grasp in any language!), causal language/jargon/slang/dialect.

Hardest: normal unplanned speech about complex topics, politics, philosophy, life you name it, where rules of speech are broken due to normal speech and still rely on specific terminology that’ll keep you on the wrong step and lost, and or political speech craft, intentional formal speech craft that again, makes it hard to know where things are going and language rules you might be less familiar with.

Just curious, how much musical training have you done? I’ve done a lot of training in both piano and my voice and have gotten to the point of having semi-perfect pitch, and hearing pitch accent is pretty natural to me.

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Not sure if this helps anyone else, but the thing that helped me the most with hearing pitch accent was humming along with the word. Play a recording, hum in a way that mimics the speaker, and then repeat until my humming goes up and down in the same spots as the speaker’s voice.

I don’t follow all of his stuff, but it was actually a Matt vs. Japan video that suggested it:

Focus on seemingly similar words first, on word level. Forvo might be a good place.

After that, short sentences with native audio.

I think head-high can be recognized almost immediately, while middle-high comes after a while.

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