Good video about Japanese pitch accent and why it's important

This video presents examples of how people sound when they ignore pitch accent.

I think pitch and prosody is something that some language learners learn naturally while others need to make a conscious effort.

Interesting video - the girl was emphasising how not to pronounce Japanese with an American accent, and to avoid stressing words the way we do in English. That being said, to my ear, I could also tell that she was not a resident of Japan when she spoke Japanese herself.

To avoid terrible pronunciation, it’s important to model your pronunciation after native speakers, rather than non-native teachers or instructors in audio courses. For example, the beginner Japanese Michel Thomas and Teach Yourself audio instruction is helpful, but one MUST listen for and imitate the native speakers’ pronunciation, since the non-native speakers have atrocious pronunciation. They actually teach their students this terrible pronunciation! The problem is one has to listen to all the bad pronunciation from the in-studio students on the recording, before sometimes an all-too-quick word or sentence is given by the native speaker. Their mistakes are meant to encourage us to have a go, but I wish they would give the native speech first each time!

I also recommend to avoid Dr Blair’s Mandarin In No Time audio course, as they really end up teaching Americans to speak Japanese with an American accent. For example, he says for おはよう ohayō (good morning), think of the state of Ohio - and then they proceed to pronounce ‘ohayō’ with the dreadful vowels of Ohio.

Another trick is not to pronounce the Japanese ら、り、る、れ、ろ with an ‘r’ sound as we see it in the Romanised Hiragana script ra, ri, ru, re, ro. I’ve heard several Americans do this. Personally, I think they would sound better if they actually did use an ‘L’ sound as opposed to the dreadful ‘R’ in the beginning, until they can get a handle on the correct sound.

Always learn your pronunciation from native audio: I heard one girl on YouTube say after completing part of an introductory course that Japanese pronunciation was “easy” and “you won’t have to refer to the audio after a while - just learn it from the text!” (No wonder her pronunciation was terrible).

I’m not a hater of Americans, just an outside curious observer. (I probably slur my speech like other aussies do, etc). I’ve noticed that a lot of Americans I’ve heard appear to be unconsciously unwilling to change their vowels to match Japanese - even though they already use similar sounds all the time in English. Why is that? For example, they might hear the ‘o’ in Japanese pronounced like the o in “cot” (not exactly the same, but you know what I mean) yet keep on saying “toe/toh”, say.

Don’t want to tread on toes; just being curious.

Actually, the information she presents about pitch at the beginning of the video is inaccurate. She says to keep it flat (as opposed to Ame vs. aME which she says are not flat), but the reality is that every Japanese “syllable” is realized as high or low and there is no such thing as flat (unless by flat means there is no high/low shift between two syllables). I’m not sure why this video is so popular because there isn’t actually much of anything to learn from it.

What did it teach you?

I could only watch the first minute of this video. I have no idea what she has to say and am not interested. Anyone that starts off by criticizing or making fun of non-native accents is not someone I want to listen to. I like the following comment below the video.

(Not me by the way)

“I’m Canadian and I’ve watched anime for half my life. I took an intro Japanese course without having any prior schooling of Japanese and my prof was astonished at how well I enunciated.”

This person is right. Listen to things that you like. Get a lot of the language in you, enjoy the language and you will do fine. Don’t worry about your accent.

In hindsight, perhaps I should have substituted the word ‘pronunciation’ wherever I used the word ‘accent’ in my former post. There is nothing wrong with having an American accent.

@alexandrec - I learned nothing from this video, actually, except to reinforce my opinion that it’s very important to give priority to native audio, and not just learn from texts/books. Steve said it way better than I could (as usual) - get a lot of the language in you, and the rest will take care of itself.

The Canadian referred to above listened to anime half his life - so his enunciation was fantastic. Had he alternatively studied mainly from books without audio, it would have been a different story.

Accent isn’t the same thing as pronunciation. I will never be able to get rid of my aussie accent in any language and it’s not my goal. I’m told however that I have beautiful intonation - but this is because I was fortunately exposed to native Japanese throughout high school in the 70s (as opposed to non-native language teachers which my girls have now).

I was just trying to say that I think Americans (the video focussed on Americans) are already capable of saying Japanese vowels- so they should pay attention to native speakers and not ‘Americanised’ Japanese. In contrast, I can’t roll an ‘R’ in Spanish etc to save my life, and it’s discouraging. However, I will be quietly optimistic from Steve’s advice that one day I will be able to do so after a lot of exposure (if I come to study Italian or Spanish say).