Pitch Accent Advice?

How important is pitch accent, and how best can I learn it? I heart about it from Dogen, and there’s an online database out there - are there any extraordinary good resources? I’m thinking pitch accent is more important than in 英語 and less than in 中国語, right?

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There’s a WaniKani addon around here somewhere. I’ve… completely forgotten which one is the current favourite.

They’re not entirely analogous in that English has a stress accent instead.

I’d say so, yeah.

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This will be in addition to any other advice you get but I think that listening almost every day is important. While my Japanese grammar sucks and thus I can’t form proper sentences when speaking I have heard that my pronunciation is good from some Japanese people I trust not to lie to me. I almost always have my earphones in listening to podcasts from various people.

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How important it is is pretty subjective. I personally think English stress is more noticeable when butchered, but as a result it’s all the harder to butcher. Japanese pitch is easy to butcher because you can still communicate and it feels more subtle than English. It will just be harder on the person listening and you will be saying words wrong. No there’s not any extraordinary resources sadly and it’s more or less something you need to conquer on your own I think. The NHK accent dictionary, shinmeikai, and yomichan dictionaries are all pretty handy. Also dogens course. 99% of pitch accent is very straightforward though, so studying it is not hard by any means ime.

Id forget about best learning it because there’s such a small sample of learners who have successfully learned it in the first place. Just start chipping away. First I suggest you use kotu.io to improve your ability to hear it starting with minimal pairs and working your way up in difficulty as you get to the point where you can 100% the quizzes no problem. Maybe also watch some dogen introductory videos to understand what pitch is in the first place along side that practice and report back once you think you have a good grasp.

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My 2 cents, pitch is very important, but that doesn’t mean you have to devote a strand of dedicated time to learning it. Just deciding in your brain right now to care, to pay attention to it and attempt to emulate it when shadowing. That is probably enough for most people and will give you enough of a feel to be good enough. Because once you do that, as you go, your brain is dedicating some space for that extra information about each word. And like all aspects of the word (kanji, reading, meaning, pitch, etc), yes you’ll make mistakes or forget, but overtime you’ll refine each one and do better. The important thing is for your brain to start capturing the experience with it and not completely ignore it.

For me, there are then only a few words like はし where I have to make up a mnemonic to remember the pitch and otherwise my friend tells me my pitch that I choose automatically by feel is fine.

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It’s super important in Mandarin at least as well :sweat_smile: . There is a couple of beginner words which you can easily mispronounce by using the wrong tone.

That said, pitch in Japanese is a little hmm simplified. Probably the best way to learn it is by shadowing, listening to a lot of Japanese content and recording oneself to compare if your pitch is close enough to a native one.

That’s going to be different than your accent which would determine the quality/color of your pronunciation, how you pronounce “u”, “o” and “r” sounds, etc.

If you want to know if it’s relevant in general, I recommend listening to a couple of natives and then the AI-based recordings from Duolingo (examples of terrible pitch accent). In many cases you will be understood by a native, but sometimes they might be scratching their heads over what you’re trying to say and wth is happening with the flow of your speech :smiley: . I actually have a guy in my Japanese class whose pitch is all over the place and that coupled with his overall pronunciation makes it really challenging.

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I think a good way to reframe the question would be: how important is learning Japanese phonology? of which pitch accent is a part, but there is a larger whole that needs to be considered when considering whether or not to learn pitch accent.

My personal opinion is once you reach an intermediate level of ability & if your desire is to speak with people, Japanese phonology should be a regular part of your study routine. You can survive without it, but if you’re a dedicated learner you’re only hurting yourself in the long run.

As an aside, English and Chinese don’t have pitch-accent. English uses stress for its prosody and Chinese uses tones.

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