Pronunciation Woes

I’ve been learning some vocabulary through WK, but hit a wall as soon as I have more than a few reviews. Just trying to correct my pronunciation each time takes many times longer than actually typing the answer, but at the same time I don’t want to skip it and sound like I’m completely clueless every time I try to say something. Side note: the worst part is the rhotic, with second being pitch accent, and third being knowing which nasal “n” is.

I know this is a lot, but can anyone offer help / suggestions?

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First of all, WaniKani is definitely not a resource for learning how to produce spoken Japanese! Take your time and listen well to the audio clips, but really you will learn faster (and more efficiently) if you consume more audio content. Why not check out some of the many series on youtube? Japanesepod is pretty popular, I believe.

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Ps paging @Leebo for issues related to wanikani vocab pitch accents.

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  1. The rhotic is formed by reaching your tongue backwards, so that the underside of the tip is touching the roof, and flicking it back forwards into a resting position. Combine this with voicing the sound (activating your vocal chords when you flick your tongue down) and you should start to hear it.

  2. I don’t know that much about pitch accent, I just try to mimic other speakers and hope they’re doing it right. I tend to get my listening material from natives, though, so I suppose it doesn’t become much of an issue to me.

  3. The nasal is formed in the same manner as the English /n/ sound, except for the fact that instead of the tip of the tongue reaching the top of the mouth, it’s the middle; imagine forming your tongue to be shaped like a bell curve. A lot of people say that the sound will occasionally be morphed into /ŋ/ (the English “ng” sound), but I’ve never heard it spoken, so I just ignore it, personally.

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Another decent (albiet not free) option for pitch accent is Dogen’s videos (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSX0NhNdBA-ZnEFkYFzdw4A). The first few (and a few other random ones) are free on Youtube, but most of his phonetics stuff is on Patreon (although not for a large amount)

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I listened to Nihongo con Teppei’s episode about Patreon, and now I can’t stop hearing it pronounced パとレオン.

I agree that listening to a lot of native content is the best way to get pitch right. Try shadowing, maybe?

One problem with learning pitch out of context is that (I heard) that pitch changes when you put a particle behind the word, or when you conjugate the verb, and even sentences have a pitch pattern that affects pitch of the individual words.

I personally never actively worked on pitch, but asked a friend hiw I was doing (she is a Japanese woman from Tokyo, and has been teaching Japanese to foreigners for quite slme years), and she said it’s fine.

Also my teacher says not to worry about it, but he is practically a Kansai native (married to one) and apparently pitch doesn’t really matter there, or at least often doesn’t line up with ‘standard JP’ pitch patterns.

Also, recently asked a Japanese married couple where the pitch lies in the words 武道 meaning martial arts and 葡萄 meaning grapes, and they came up with opposite answers.

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This is definitely true. What WK provides is the pitching for standalone word, while in real speech it may alter to fit the surroundings. The same way we contract sounds to speak comfortably. Plus there is an inevitable variation of the tone within the whole sentence and you have to accomodate for general tone rise or fall, which alters the pitching even further.

I have studied pitching in the classroom, and it was darn hard: while your head somehow gets the idea where to lead the voice, the voice just does not obey and the result is crap. It stays crap for quite a long time, this period was surely the most challenging part of studying Japanese for me.

What we did to study pitching was:

  1. Learn rules (there are a few basic ones)
  2. Practice typical words-examples for each rule
  3. Take text, listen to it being read in a slow accented manner, mark the pitches and overall intonation.
  4. Try to reproduce, fail, repeat x50 times. For us our teacher did us a favor and stopped us when we did wrong. If you do it on your own, you’ll have to record yourself probably and compare yours and original record.
  5. Take another text and do the same over again.

Ow, and before learning pitching: please make sure you have got right all the sounds and the rythm, like pronouncing prolongated and shortened sounds at correct relative pace.

Reread the passage above, sounds terrifyingly serious :joy: :joy: :joy:

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You might be interested in this

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As previous users have mentioned, WaniKani should not be used to perfect your pitch accent.

I use the shadowing method which has worked wonders for my accent. These are the books that I use:

Kanji is used in all of the texts (with furigana), so perhaps it may be a good idea to increase your WaniKani level before going through the book.

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I assume you’re talking about ん? I tend to think of this as following “rule of lazy” i.e. it usually seems to come out as whatever takes the least effort given the sounds around it…see Wikipedia for a list.

Best phonetics advice I’ve ever had is to practice recording yourself repeating words and phrases, listening for what you’re doing wrong.
Second best was to learn at least the basics of reading the IPA.

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Speaking of Dogen, here’s a sample of his phonetics lessons, this time dealing with both らりるれろ and ん, a very difficult combination.

Bonus:

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Sorry to harp on about Dogen, but he does have some good stuff on the topic. Another worthwhile video is his Free Japanese Phonetics Resources one which is also available on Youtube. It links to a few resources that you can use to look up the various pitch accents for words, as well have spoken examples.

EDIT: Also just saw this in the youtube comments for the above video that I hadn’t noticed before. A setup in Audacity for recording yourself for pitch accent practice: https://imgur.com/a/40IES

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For this I’d recommend this website. It’s particularly useful for verbs, as it shows pitch accent diagrams for and has audio for several conjugations.

There’s also this page (same site) where you can type anything, but it’s less precise since it’s auto-generated. It’s still somewhat useful though.

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Just going to hop in and join the horde that’s already shown up to recommend Dogen. He explains all the basic and common rules pretty concisely and in a way that’s easily understood (in my opinion). The lessons are also (generally) scaffolded so that you get more mileage out of the beginning lessons, and later lessons build on prior knowledge and concepts to develop your pitch-accent patterns.

The biggest thing, though, is to just practice listening and speaking (if you can) with natives. Listening can be as simple as watching anime, Japanese TV, listening to audiobooks, podcasts, etc. The important part is that you actively listen for pitch accent for specific words, phrases, and in different contexts. Exposure is the best tool.

Speaking is a bit harder, I think, since speaking with non-natives (generally) won’t be much help, if any, with improving your pitch-accent or pronunciation and not everyone has equally easy access to speaking with natives.

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thank you so much for that recommendation!! what a fantastic resource :0
also, nice sect name :eyes:

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が as a particle can sound like that in the Tokyo accent, but I think it’s generally considered a bit fancy?

And we get threads about that semi-regularly because people will ask if the pronunciation of the WaniKani recordings is wrong.

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Honestly I can’t second this enough. This course was amazing and I’m thinking of working through it again.

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Wow! Thanks for all the suggestions, everyone!

There is no point in worrying about such a thing… specially at your point.