To pronounce Japanese words, you break the word into syllables starting with a vowel or one or two consonants, and ending in a vowel. With the exception of "n," no consonants end a syllable. Japanese has only five vowel sounds. The range of vowel sounds that you find in English does not exist, so once you master these five sounds, you will have no trouble pronouncing Japanese.
The five vowels are as follows:
a pronounced like "ah" as in father OR botherOther points to keep in mind:
e pronounced like "eh" as in fret OR bet
i pronounced like "ee" as in she OR feet
o pronounced like "oh" as in solo OR sew
u pronounced like "oo" as in Zulu OR zoo
- The o and u vowels are sometimes long -- written ou (rather than oo) and uu. Just make the sound longer than the single vowel, or say the vowel twice.
- If two vowels are together, pronounce each vowel separately.
- Where there is a consonant, pronounce it exactly as in English.
- Accenting, or placing emphasis on one syllable of a word over another, is the exception rather than the rule.
- Japanese has no "l" (pronounced like "r"), and no "v" (pronounced like "b").
Practice the following sounds:
|Japanese word||English meaning||Pronunciation|
|sake||alcohol||sah-keh (not sah-kee, as in English)|
|Kobe||Kobe (City)||Kou-beh (not Ko-bee) (The o is a long sound)|