Japanese Pronunciation

I feel like there aren’t too many Japanese Pronunciation materials out there. It is silently growing more popular, but from what I think, is still not studied as much as other facets of Japanese. If you have even been interested in learning more about how to make you accent better and Japanese with the right intonation and pitch (Japanese is a pitch based language) then I would recommend watching Dogen’s Patreon phonetic lessons or right now there is a class being offered on EdX by Waseda University that is completely free for about a month (or 49 dollars if you want life time access and a certificate for passing the course).
Some other good sites for checking pitch accent are:

If you do study Japanese pronunciation, what resources or methods do you like to use?


I found that shadowing taught a great method for learning or at least understanding pronunciation. It went like this:

We were given a script and a clear audio recording of a native Japanese speaker reading a story, like Momotaro.
First, we listened to the audio while reading the script.
Then, while looking at the script, and turning up the audio loud enough to drown out your voice, you almost simultaneously repeat after the speaker, just trying to get your mouth to replicate the sounds you hear, like this:

S: “むかしむかし、あるところに-”
Y: “-むかしむかし、あるところに-”

This keeps you from trying to memorize what they say, get preoccupied with your own mistakes, or predict what they’ll say next, and only focus on the sound, speed, pitch, intonation, etc. You recorded your voice as you did this.
After, the teacher would listen to your recording and look at the script, and mark parts where you forgot sounds, or the pitch was off, or the vowel was too long or short, etc, and hand it back.

I think it’s a great example of learning pronunciation. You essentially exercise your mouth to replicate the sounds, and by passively following along with the script, you’ll naturally make connections to how to speak with correct pronunciation and intonation.

In short, I think one of the best methods to learn pronunciation is to only listen to the sounds and try to parrot native speakers. Don’t worry about whether you understand, because that’s not the point.


When I first started, I learned pronunciation through singing my favorite J-pop songs. It’s a bit unusual, but it was a method that worked really well for me (and I’ve since used it with other languages like German and Finnish). I’m good at mimicking sounds so I don’t know if it’ll work for anyone else, but I hope it does if anyone needs supplementary pronunciation work.


I have been doing shadowing a little bit recently. I find it really hard to just concentrate on how things are being said instead of trying to get the meaning out. Haha it is for sure a process, but I can see how it is really helpful for getting better pronunciation and pitch.
Do you have any sources you like to use especially for shadowing? Right now I am doing that online class on EdX by Waseda and they have some shadowing material that I have been trying to do to get a hang of it.

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That’s a fun method! That’s really cool that you have used it to learn other languages as well. I know I do like singing along to Russian songs, it helps me from losing my Russian and hopefully helps my pronunciation along the way haha. Isn’t Finnish super hard?


It’s my favorite method! That’s so cool that you know Russian, too. Finnish IS super hard, and I haven’t had the time or patience to find the resources I need to study it completely yet, but I’ll get there eventually (hopefully after German…!). It’s the only language I’ve found so far that has really tested my pronunciation skills! :joy:

Unfortunately I don’t have any material I could recommend right now, but I have an idea! I bet you could look on youtube for videos of Japanese speakers reading stories out loud, or look at those many interview videos where native speakers comment on stuff? Another idea is if you can find any Japanese Audible tracks or things like that since they would read at a clear but native flow. I’m absolutely sure there’s content like that out there you can substitute as shadowing practice.

Besides shadowing, I really like this little beginner course from JapanesePod101! I think you can access it for free, but I’m not 100% sure. It gives you really good information on placement of the tongue and lips when speaking. For instance, the placement of the tongue is key for getting the Japanese r/l right.

Are you learning from a textbook (like Genki, Minna no Nihongo, Tobira, etc) at all right now? Most of them have dialogues with audio tracks-- they’re a great place to start with shadowing! I also really like the Nihongo Dojo series from JapanesePod101. I’ll actually take sentences from the dialogue tracks and put them in Anki as a shadowing/reading exercise.

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I currently use Tobira, well kind of, I’ve finished the book. Although now that I think about it, I think they have the audio recordings of their essays and dialogues on their site. Even if I am not actively studying the book, I could use it for shadowing practice.

Oh, cool. The Waseda course is back on again. I was too late to check it out last year. Thank you!


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