How do you say that?

Good morning everyone,

Yesterday was pretty nice, wasn't it? Today will be too. In fact, with the exception of tomorrow it's going to be gorgeous all week. Highs will be around 20C and skies will be mostly blue. As for tomorrow, well, don't plan any hanami parties-there's a 90% chance of rain all day! Ha ha!

There are some tough words to pronounce in English-some of the toughest are the simple ones like walk (work is easy) and ball because there is no corresponding sound in Japanese.

We all say Japanese is pretty easy-and for the most part it is-because there are only 5 vowel sounds. However, there are a few things that still mess me up after all these years. Intonation for one. For the first few years I was here, all of my teachers told me not to use intonation when speaking Japanese...they lied. Ha ha! Try saying 'kaki' meaning oyster or 'kaki' meaning persimmons. They're very different sounding.

Since it’s a phonetic language, Japanese tends to be pretty straightforward when it comes to pronouncing its sounds. But some words do change in tone and inflection, and this can sometimes trip Japanese learners up. One of the first exceptions to the “say it how it’s written” rule that foreigners learn is “suki“, meaning “like”. While the word often sounds like “soo kee”, especially when sung, it’s much more common to dispense with the “u” and pronounce it like “ski” in spoken Japanese. Sometimes, even words which seem straightforward when written down have the ability to twist your tongue in knots when you actually try to use them in conversation!

It's good to know that I'm not alone. Here are the most difficult Japanese words for foreigners to pronounce.

Tsuittaa (Twitter)
Tsutaerarenakatta (couldn’t tell)
Shinnryaku (invasion)
Benri (convenient)
Shutsuryoku (output power)
Tennin (shop assistant)
Ryokou (travel)
Atatakakunakatta (wasn’t warm)
Chuushajou (car park/parking lot)
Occhokochoi (clumsy)

It seems also that a person’s native language can have an effect on how difficult they might find some words in Japanese. Spanish speakers, for example, often say that they find Japanese “r” sounds really easy. Some Japanese language learners have a better ear for proper pronunciation than others do, while some people tend to hold on to the pronunciation quirks of their native tongue, even when speaking other languages. It’s totally possible to be great at Japanese and still pronounce certain words a bit differently due to maintaining your own accent—it doesn’t mean you’re not still great at expressing yourself in Japanese!

So, don't worry about having a Japanese accent when you speak English. It's perfectly natural.

How about you? What English words give you trouble?

Have a great day!


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