Does your accent in Japanese bother you?

Just curious after seeing the pitch accent post.

My parents were immigrants and always had accents. It never bothered me growing up that my parents sounded different or when my friends heard them speak.

I live in Japan now, and it doesn’t bother me that I have an American accent when I speak Japanese, as long as I’m understood. A few of my higher level friends do mind, though, and it seems like there’s a community here that have a goal to sound more native.

Just a show of hands. Do you not like your accent in Japanese?

I feel like questions like this often imply, or at least give an impression, that “foreign accent” and “sounds like a native” are the only two options and you are either 100% one or 100% the other, and since you can’t hope to move to “sounds like a native” category if you are a learner, then why bother?

It’s a gradient, and every notch you move toward native does improve your ability to be understood.

Wanting to reduce your accent does not mean that you think you can or should be able to eliminate it.


This is the main thing for me. I don’t have a desire to sound as if I’m Japanese, I just want to speak in a clear and fairly natural manner.

One of the things that keeps happening in threads that talk about accents is people appearing saying: you’ll never sound completely Japanese so why bother? Which is bizarre to me - I think most of us are just aware of the issue and want to improve a bit.

Edit: Also, what @Leebo said.


Fair enough, but I wasn’t questioning motive.

Well, it’s just that I don’t see how being understood wouldn’t at least partially cover understanding pitch accent.

People readily accept that it’s a good idea to use the Japanese sounds even if your native language’s sounds can be understood (with more difficulty).

But because pitch accent includes the word accent, it seems to raise red flags with some people as being just nitpicky or something. We’ve also had people tell us that we shouldn’t bother because our accent is “part of us” and we shouldn’t abandon it.

I guess, at the end of the day, it “bothers” me the same way that making a grammar mistake bothers me. Can someone understand me if I used で when I should have used に? Probably, but that doesn’t make it acceptable to me as a learner. And if I have the goal to remove those kinds of mistakes, I aim for others too.


I have a weird mix when I speak; it’s standard Japanese (Tokyo dialect) but very Americanized. That’s what I learned when I first started out, and from what my teacher said is just fine.

Fortunately/Unfortunately when learning at study abroad I stayed in Niigata and Gifu (as well as Tokyo); both have VERY strong accents from natives. I mostly picked up a Gifu accent when speaking informally much to the surprise of my teachers and most family.

Like you said; as long as I’m understood it’s fine. While it startles people when I suddenly exclaim “そうなんなゃん!” vs. "そうなんの!” They still get it, which is what matters.

As for wanting to speak like a native; helpful and would be nice but it’s not my goal.

As someone who lives in Kansai, I’m sure I’ll be fighting an uphill battle keeping my Kansai and Tokyo pitch accents straight, even though my goal is to study Tokyo’s patterns.

I don’t have as much of a problem when it comes to dialectal vocabulary differences. I know that things like
なんでやねん and ほんまで are dialectal and generally don’t use them unless I’m intentionally trying to make Kansai folks laugh (from the surprise of hearing them used).

I’m not even to the point of worrying about it. If I can be understood, that’ll be great. I figure I’ll never totally get rid of my accent anyway, so there’s no use worrying about it.

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Nope. I’m a native speaker of Hindi and English (American), and so a slight mix of both accents with a stronger lean towards the Hindi accent makes my Japanese sound pretty good.

Occasionally it bothers me. I was actually fairly lucky in that I first started self-studying Japanese when I was really young, about eight years old, so since I learned basic pronunciation early on it isn’t too difficult for me. My American/British accent tends to come out more on words that are more difficult, such as ones that have elongated vowels. That kind of sucks, but I think with more practice it will eventually become less of an issue.

I never actually knew that Japanese had pitch accents until recently (none of the sources I used ever talked about them). So that’s something I’m going to have to focus on more. Currently, however, I think my pronunciation isn’t too far off. That might change once I get the courage to speak to native speakers and have them assess my accent. But right now I’m focusing on other aspects of Japanese, such as listening, which is definitely something I need to improve on. Especially since understanding is more important than speaking with a perfect accent in my opinion.

Not trying to be combative, just curious, what do you mean by it sounds good? Are you saying you like the way it sounds? Or like, how Americans might say that a French accent in English sounds good, because it has a sophisticated feeling to it.

Ah, good points! By “sounds good,” what I meant was it sounds close to native pronunciations. Hindi is phonetically pretty similar to Japanese :stuck_out_tongue:

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Hindi is phonetically pretty similar to Japanese

“language x is phonetically pretty similar to Japanese” was said so many times that I start to get an impression that about every language but English sounds similar to Japanese :smiley:


Personally I’d say I’m more concerned about being understood - but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to have a better accent. It’s something that’s very hard to think about in my current situation in the UK, where I speak Japanese maybe 2 times a week tops. When I have a more consistent model to compare with I’ll probably focus more on it. I feel like imitation is one of your most powerful tools when it comes to improving your accent.

As a non-native English speaker, I’ve always tried my best to sound as “native” as possible when speaking English. At this point I’ve mostly shed my native accent, at least to the point where it’s impossible to tell where I’m from for most people (I often get asked if I’m from Northern Ireland). When it comes to Japanese… Well, I’m probably not going to be using it anywhere near as much as I use English, and so I’ll probably never get enough practice to sound genuinely native Japanese. But honestly, that’s not that important to me. At least not as important as it is with English. As was mentioned earlier in the thread, the important thing is that people can understand me.

Let’s put it this way. A few weeks ago I recorded myself speaking Japanese and


I think my accent right now is “fine”. I’m understandable, and it’s not very often that I have to repeat myself.

But I am working towards having a native accent. As it is one of my goals with learning Japanese.
The accent one has can really leave a big impression on people. For better or worse. The closer I am to having a native accent, and Japanese mannerisms, I feel it’ll help me seem less foreign. Which will also makes it easier to talk and open up to people.

That’s what I think at least.

Listening to oneself on the recording is atrocious, even in one’s native language. But, it can definitely improve. (And, I think it is always beneficial to try.)

I watch anime, so I can do a Japanese accent fairly well, but it’s a little cringy. But, i don’t have an American accent unless I’m trying to slowly pronunciation stuff

A typical American accent in Japanese has less to do with the sounds of the words, since Americans tend to find Japanese pronunciation fairly easy, and more to do with the intonation. Stressing the words as they would be stressed in English, or without regard for a consistent pitch accent scheme.

For instance, most Americans get the low-high-low intonation of たべる correct, because it resembles the way stress works in English to some extent, but often incorrectly use the same intonation pattern on other verbs like あげる or のぼる, which are both low-high-high. Many Americans don’t even realize that Japanese people are saying them differently from たべる

Another common mistake is saying よかった with a low-high-low-low intonation, when high-low-low-low is correct.

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