Japanese Intonation. I Don't Know What to Do!

Does anybody know any resources for learning Japanese intonation? because I want to start early on good pronunciation so I don’t have any bad habits later on or a terrible american accent. I’m aware of Dogen and his intonation video series on patrion but I don’t want to have to convince my parents to pay for yet another 日本語 program, I’m also aware of Forvo but I don’t want to have to look up every new word I learn, on there.

Either way, any resources would be helpful.


ps: I’m learning standard Japanese but I’m dabbling in a little bit of Hokkaido dialect


Depending on where you are now, don’t sweat it too much. It is hard not to pick it up as you listen more and more. There are not a lot of words that this will be problematic for you and people who do not speak pitch-accented languages have a very hard time at first picking it up or confuse it with stress-accent.

If you can, “Language Shadowing” has proven to be a good way to learn proper pronunciation. Basically, find a native source (like a conversation on something like Terrace House on Netflix where the conversation is fairly natural) and copy what they say, how they say it. Tofugu did an article on this several years ago.They also made a video.

edit Just remember that metalinguistic information is also carried in tone. For example, an English learner might accidentally learn how to say something sarcastically and not know it.


According to the guy from JFZ it’s not necessary to study japanese intonation.
That is because there are only a few instances where intonation changes the meaning, and you’ll quickly adapt the proper intonation from listening and speaking.

language shadowing with etoeto: kuma is great (you’d have to wait 'til it comes out though) it has tons of materials to practice.

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I think you’ll hear this a lot in this thread, but language shadowing… Carefully listening to Japanese sentences and repeating them helps a lot. At least it helped me a lot. Heck, even wanikani helped me a lot with pronunciation because as I learned new words I tried my best to imitate the pronunciation of each word too.

Another thing I would highly stress, is don’t only pay attention to individual words, but how sentences as a whole are formed. How do Japanese speakers pace their sentences? Can you keep up with the tempo? When are appropriate times to take a break in a sentence? These are all important things to pay attention to.


Well, that’s partly true, you’re still going to be understandable, but your accent won’t sound natural, and when you don’t work on it early on, you might develop a accent that you can’t get rid of.

Just go to Kumamoto, there is no pitch accent there. Or pretend you’re from there. You just have to pretend you’re obsessed with Kumamon, and then your accent will sound completely natural without worrying about pitch.


This is a good free course:


Waseda University offers a 5-week pronunciation course on EdX for free (you can pay and get a verified certificate). I did it last year, and even though I started a week late, I really have no regrets; it was probably the best thing I did for myself last year.

Pronunciation is a very important, but also an often and overly neglected topic in 日本語. Would highly recommend this course for anyone studying the language, especially those who have never had any contact with the topic.


Try to correct your cap locks intonation in English first.

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Might happen, but I don’t think it’s likely.

BTW the pitch accent in the audio examples from WK is very exaggerated.

If you have a Mac, the Japanese-Japanese dictionary tells the pitch accents.

Wait, where?

Are you looking at the dictionary? The number next to words is the syllable of the accent

You have to know how accent works to know what it means though.

Click edit on the first post to see the original title. This is the version after I cleaned it up a bit.

Thanks. Too late for me. Already got brain damage from caps locks exposure but maybe some lives will be saved.

I think it is important to, if not study it, at least shadow it or listen to it a lot. I am always a bit surprised just how badly some people can butcher basic vocabulary.


There’s two books and CDs that can help you. I’m linking to the first one. It’s a great resource if you use it diligently.

@seijibas, @feoya Thanks guys. I’ve just been checking it out and that looks like a really good course. Thanks for sharing!

By the way, the Shadowing books above can be found pretty easily on Youtube. Bit annoying to have to move the slider instead of just click back to repeat a track, but a good place to at least check out if it’s for you before buying.


There is absolutely no reason to focus on pitch or intonation (as opposed to pronunciation, which is quite simple in Japanese if you come from an English background) unless you’re extremely advanced in your studies and for some reason it matters to you in your daily life in Japan. As a non-native speaker, you will most likely always have some form of accent when you speak. Focus on grammar, vocab, understanding and expressing yourself. Your accent should dull itself if you live in Japan, but will always remain. Fluency and native-sounding are two completely different things. There is absolutely no pay off to having a “perfect accent” when learning a language, especially considering the amount of work it takes. Your background is a part of your identity and hiding it makes no sense in a country where you will never pass as Japanese anyway. Celebrate it, while making sure you’re being understood of course.