How did you learn to improve your accent

I’m currently enrolled in a Japanese class in my university. While attending a question session, the teacher called on me to help with another student’s question on pronunciation. In turn, she ended up correcting me a lot (we were talking about long versus short vowels like kata vs katta). I’m a little embarrassed that she had to stop me so much, especially when I’ve been studying by myself for so long.

So, a question to all the other learners: How did you improve your accent? When did you first realize that your accent was not the best?

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I haven’t been in a situation to really do any out loud speaking to people who’d know if my accent is wrong, but as far as things I do to try and get it right:

  • I listen to the audio recordings on wanikani and try to, out loud, match the pitch patterns when I read them out loud.
  • When I’m doing lessons on LingoDeer, I use the listen/speak lessons. I talk on top of the recorded voice and try to match the speed and pitch as much as possible until I’m doing as best as I can.

Also, since this is your first post…

\textcolor{pink}{\huge \textsf{WELCOME! ^-^}}

welcome gif - crabigator

Take the time to check out the FAQ and GUIDE if you haven’t already.

There’s also a lot of good stuff on the forum to help you, like:

The Ultimate Guide for WK
The Ultimate Additional Japanese Resources List!
The New And Improved List Of API and Third Party Apps

I hope your Japanese learning journey goes well and that you enjoy your time with us on the forums.

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Lolol, love this gif!

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Thank you for the tips! I used to see a family friend for help with pronunciation, but since COVID, I haven’t been able to see her. These sites will definitely be of use!

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Listen. Listen A LOT. I haven’t spoken that actively, but a many different private teachers have said I don’t have any of the typical pronunciation problems people usually have here. Of course it’s far from perfect, and you have to open your mouth to improve, but listening is still the key in my opinion, since that’s how you subconsciously learn how to say the words. Shadowing is also effective, if you want to really make it a focus.

Of course if you have problems with certain sounds, it can help to think about your tongue, lip etc. placement. Dogen has a pretty nice course on pronunciation, but it was aimed mostly at Americans so I skipped it.

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Just to clarify, かた vs かった is not short vs long vowel, this is actually single vs double consonant. Short vs long vowel would be とうこう vs とこ.

It definitely takes some getting used to making different sounds when learning a new language. It might help to study about Japanese phonetics and pitch accent. Even just being aware that some sounds are different from what you’re used to can help you pay more attention when listening. For example, the ら-row sounds in Japanese use a consonant sound that isn’t used in English, so it can be tricky to pronounce that correctly without some practice.

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I’d second that… and the shadowing part.

Also some people recommended to record yourself while shadowing and listen to the recording afterwards. so you can find out which parts you may like to work on. It’s basically similar technique like filming yourself when practicing for giving talks or preparing for important interview.

I personally like to work with material where I have audio and text. So I can do shadowing or simply read out loud the text/ story/ dialog… but only audio should be fine as well.

Also the irodori textbooks have lot’s of shadowing exercises in case you want start with curated chunks.

Yeah, this is an important distinction as the geminated consonant does not affect vowel length.

While English does not have phonemic gemination like Japanese (and a host of other languages) and its orthography is generally unreliable as we all know, gemination does occur phonetically across morpheme boundaries here and there, e.g. subbroker [ˌsʌbˈbɹoʊkɚ] vs. subbing [ˈsʌbɪŋ].

Imitation. It’s best to copy native/fluent speakers aloud though, because you always sound better in your head. My favourite exercise is imitating lines I like from anime, though I can also do that with sentences from textbooks. A ton of listening also helps, because it tends to give you an idea of how native speakers stress (or do not stress) their sentences. I’m not gonna claim my accent is good, but I met a half-Japanese girl in France (a friend pranked me into a conversation because he was excited to know I could speak Japanese) and she said something along the lines of 「すごい!アクセントは結構です」, so I guess I say things with a decent accent.

The shadowing thing various other people mentioned is helpful as well. It lets you experience what it’s like to vary your tone like a native speaker in real time, and forces you to learn to pronounce Japanese syllables more quickly. (Source: I tried it for French too, and it worked.)

I’d like to share an approach I am really excited about. I have a copy of Read Real Japanese, containing eight short articles and a CD with a native speaker reading them. I ripped the CD onto my laptop.

I created a free account at Maestra, where I can upload an audio file and it will transcribe it into Japanese text. But what is better, in their website you can “play” the file, and it reads the text out loud while at the same time using the color of the text to show where it is reading.

So if you watch and listen to an article repeatedly, you can really memorize the sound of the native speaker, and also memorize unfamiliar vocabulary, with their kanji.

It comes with 30 minutes of free transcription, and you can buy more. One additional hour is $10.00.

I’m really excited about this. I plan to watch and listen during stationary bike exercise.

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