Wa-pedia Home > Japan Forum & Europe Forum
Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 34

Thread: Bad pronuciation make Japanese confuse foreign terms

  1. #1
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    ź‹ž
    Posts
    2,434

    Post Bad pronuciation make Japanese confuse foreign terms

    Japanese has very few sounds. Only 5 vowels (+ 3 diphthongs and 5 long sounds) and 16 consonants (d, t, h/f, m, n, b, p, r, g, k, ch, j, sh, s, z, y), compare with 13 vowels (+ 8 diphthongs) and 24 consonants in English, or 14 vowels (+ several diphthongs) and 22 consonnants in French. As a result the Japanese kanas always cause trouble to understand imported (English) words, but also give a hard time to Japanese learning English or French.

    Few are the Japanese that haven't confused these words :

    fast & first
    bath & bus
    Satan & Saturn
    ...

    The most common mistake is due to the same pronunciation of "l" and "r", or "b" and "v" :

    rice & lice
    reach & leech
    erection & election
    rate & late
    lover & robber
    verge & barge
    veal & beer
    very % berry
    vote & boat
    vow & bow


    Do you have any funny examples ?

    Visit Japan for free with Wa-pedia
    See what's new on the forum ?
    Eupedia : Europe Guide & Genetics
    Maciamo & Eupedia on Twitter

    "What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?", Winston Churchill.

  2. #2
    Regular Member tasuki's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 22, 2003
    Location
    Location: Tokyo. Country: Quebec, Canada
    Posts
    31
    Sock, suck, sack...
    Back, buck
    Sink and think

    I think basically any two words involving a, o, and u... At least that seems to have been the ones my students (back in the days when I taught English) had the most trouble with...
    - His arrogance is matched only by his firepower.
    - La culture, c'est comme la confiture: moins on en a, plus on l'etend.
    - TANSTAAFL.

  3. #3
    Danshaku Elizabeth's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 22, 2003
    Location
    ƒAƒƒŠƒJ
    Posts
    298
    Originally posted by tasuki
    I think basically any two words involving a, o, and u... At least that seems to have been the ones my students (back in the days when I taught English) had the most trouble with...
    Aren't the katakana spellings even the same for some of these "u" and "a" words? I'm sure there are others, these are the ones that come to mind, though.

    ƒ‰ƒbƒN-- Lack, Rack, Luck, Ruck
    ƒgƒ‰ƒbƒN -- Track and Truck

  4. #4
    Regular Member tasuki's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 22, 2003
    Location
    Location: Tokyo. Country: Quebec, Canada
    Posts
    31
    Well, that's exacly what gives them a hard time... My time here has taught me that Japanese, even if they excel at other things, suck at learning foreign languages. One of the main reason for this is that they rely too much on approximated katakana pronounciations. French vowels and Japanese vowels are almost exactly similar, yet most of the people I've met who have learned French here just don't get it. First of all, their pronounciation invariably has an English tinge to it, and second their pronouciation is katakana-like and they can't seem to shake that off... But then, I've also noticed that a lot of people here actually think that the katakana pronounciation is close enough to get them by if they ever need it (which in some cases it will, but I don't know anybody back home who would know what a "beddo" or a "makudonarudo" is...).

  5. #5
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    ź‹ž
    Posts
    2,434
    Originally posted by tasuki
    French vowels and Japanese vowels are almost exactly similar, yet most of the people I've met who have learned French here just don't get it.
    You are right that basic vowels in French are the same as in Japanese (a,e, i, o, at least). But French has more than twice more of them. For example, the Japanese "u" is used for both the French "u" and "ou", which leads to even more confusion than "drug" and "drag" in Jenglish. Add to this that Japanese don't have the French "e" (like the "i" in "bird" in English) or similar "eu", nor the diphthongs that go with it ("euil", "ieu", etc.). Japanese can almost pronounced the nasal "in" in French if they say "an" (like in "pan" that sounds similar to the French "pain", but with the "n" pronounced), but can't do the "un", "an" and "on". Then they don't make the difference between closed é and open è, which is not a major mistake, but sounds a bit strange (at least it's possible to understand while mistaking "u" and "ou" makes it near unintelligible for me).

    Every time I say a word in French (even if it's the same as in English, like "introduction", for example), Japanese look at me flabbergasted and say "French is so difficult". I've realised that what they had the hardest time to pronounced and understand was the "r". Anyword with it makes it impossible to penetrate a Japanese brain.

  6. #6
    Regular Member tasuki's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 22, 2003
    Location
    Location: Tokyo. Country: Quebec, Canada
    Posts
    31
    Ahahahahah! I agree. But it's funny, I've always had the feeling that French, being such an organised, structured language, would suit the Japanese brain better than English. But you're right, they all have this innate fear of French for some reason... But in the end, of all southeast Asians, Japanese have been found to be the worst at learning a second language and I think it stems mainly from their use of katakana in approximating pronounciation (on top of making them incapable of reading the original words...)

  7. #7
    Where I'm Supposed to Be kirei_na_me's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 31, 2003
    Location
    Virginia
    Age
    42
    Posts
    218
    I couldn't agree with you two more. I am constantly asked "is it l or r?" (and many other scenarios) for words upon words. I definitely have to agree that the Katakana is so misleading.

    Having studied French for awhile, I also thought that it would have been easier for Japanese to learn it, because some of the sentence structure is sometimes similar(right?), but it's hell for them when it comes to pronouncing the r!
    i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)

  8. #8
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    ź‹ž
    Posts
    2,434
    IMHO, Italian would be one of the easiest European language for Japanese to learn. Italian is much more regular in grammar and "pure" in its vocabulary than French. Italian words preserve their logical roots better, so that one can guess the meaning of other words with the prefixes and suffixes more easily than in French or English. In English the meaning of a word like "conversation" cannot be guessed by decomposing it. In Italian "con" means "with", "verso" means "towards" or "to face". With some imagination, we could guess that "facing with" means to talk face to face to someone. This example is maybe a bit tricky, but sometimes it's easy to guess. If you know that the root "-gresso" means "walk/go", joined to a prefix it's easy to picture the meaning : "ingresso" (entrance), "progresso" (progresso = go forward), "regresso" (regress = go back), "congresso" (congress = go together), "digressione" (digression = go/walk off), etc. Most words using the same prefixes and suffixes in a logical way, it's easier for people who don't know any European language to learn Italian than English, which has imported words from Anglo-saxon, Viking, old French and Latin origin at different times and sometimes changing the original meaning.

    Besides, Italian pronunciation is very easy for Japanese too (except the rolled "r", but that's maybe easier than the French "r" for them). 'Ive been teaching English, French and Italian to Japanese and it is certain that Italian is easier for them at any level (beginner to advanced) than French.

  9. #9
    Regular Member tasuki's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 22, 2003
    Location
    Location: Tokyo. Country: Quebec, Canada
    Posts
    31
    Italian, eh? That's not the first time I hear that.

    As for word recognition, it's easy for us to say who have some notions of Greek and Latin roots, maybe also some of etymology, but the Japanese I've taught had no notions whatsoever of these things, so for them to be able to do this, they'd have to learn a whole new set of linguistic skills... What I personally meant by French (or Italian) being easier for Japanese to grasp, was that every grammatical rule, verb form, and grammatical exception is clearly outlined (I don't know about Italian, but Bescherelle for French spells everything out...), so I feel that it would be more appealing to the structured way of learning that Japanese have over learning the mess that's the English language...

  10. #10
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    ź‹ž
    Posts
    2,434
    Latin grammar is maybe well outlined (once the exceptions removed), but remembering the verb conjugation for every person (I, you, he/she, we, you, they) for every tense, word gender, "accord" of the adjectives, and more is surely much more difficult than English grammar. English is easy with auxiliary like "will", "would" or just put "-ed" for most past, then even irregular are the same for all persons (I went, you went, he went... but in Latin languages they are all different and must be remembered individually).

    The word order being the same in English, French and Italian, Japanese aren't advantage for choosing one rather than the other.

    Each language has its difficulties (French has them all ). English has an easy grammar structure, but complex tenses nuances (6 pasts, 6 futures, 3 conditionals, 2 presents...). It has almost no word gender or number, no "accord of adjectives, no declinations (like in German or Russian), but it has a huge vocabulary full of nuances and a difficult and irregular pronunciation.

    Italian is just the opposite, but word gender is easy to guess (if the word ends in "o" its masculine, in "a" it's feminine), contrarily to French, German or Dutch where its virtually impossible. Because its conjugation is more regular than French, the spelling follows the pronunciation (no silent letters like in French) and the pronunciation is easy, it's certainly easier than French.

    As for the Greco-Latin roots, I even teach them to my English students. If I can learn each kanji as a root, Japanese can learn Greek, Latin and Germanic roots, prefixes and suffixes too !

  11. #11
    Junior Member littlebear's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 3, 2003
    Posts
    1

    Re: Bad pronuciation make Japanese confuse foreign terms

    Originally posted by Maciamo
    Do you have any funny examples ? [/B]
    I've heard more than one Japanese person sing:

    "Rub me tender, rub me do" instead of
    "Love me tender, love me do" (Elvis - a favourite karaoke choice in Japan).

    Rub me tender ? - Ouch !

  12. #12
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    ź‹ž
    Posts
    2,434
    Yeah, I was justly thinking about that one. For Japanese these words are the same :
    rubber - lover- robber
    rub - love - rob
    crowd - cloud
    fun - fan
    think - sink
    thought - sought - sort
    thumb - sum - Sam
    wrong - long
    (right - write - rite) -light
    loot - root - route
    oat - auto- (e.g. oatmeal => automeal)
    low - raw
    youth - use
    blow - brow
    bold - board
    boat - bolt
    loan - Rhone
    Last edited by Maciamo; Sep 28, 2003 at 22:46.

  13. #13
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    ź‹ž
    Posts
    2,434
    I have also noticed that the Japanese katakana words for "hood" and "food" is the same ƒt[ƒh (fu-do). Why the hell did they put a long "u" for "hood" too ? Wasn't it bad enough that they had no different character for "f" and "h" !

    Then, similarly, a "quilt" is the same thing as a "kilt" for Japanese, as the katakana is both ƒLƒ‹ƒg.

  14. #14
    Regular Member
    Join Date
    Oct 14, 2003
    Location
    Russian-American
    Posts
    1

    Oosutoraria?

    It's also rather confusing for the poor gaijin trying to figure out what in the world a "ruususokkusu" is. (Loose socks! )

    However, if you say it in a native accent, most native Japanese speakers won't know what you're talking about. Just say the loanwords over and over to yourself.

    kohii, kohii, kohii...

    -Bakadesu
    Kita, mita, katta!

  15. #15
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    ź‹ž
    Posts
    2,434
    A few more words to the list :

    firm and farm
    fur and far
    ball and bowl (because both words are used in Japanese and pronounced "ball")
    vote and boat
    voice and boys
    vow and bow
    valley, volley and ballet
    room and loom
    road and load
    root and loot
    rap and lap
    rake and lake
    ray and lay
    rate and late
    heat and sheet
    he and she
    hit and ****
    ...

    Listening to Japanese speaking English really challenges your imagnation.

  16. #16
    Cute and Furry Ewok85's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 14, 2003
    Location
    Saitama/Tokyo
    Age
    33
    Posts
    103
    how about the loan words that have been changed once in japanese, things like jetcoaster and ensuto - stall your car, en(gine) sto(p)

  17. #17
    Where I'm Supposed to Be kirei_na_me's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 31, 2003
    Location
    Virginia
    Age
    42
    Posts
    218
    Good ones, Maciamo.

    My husband and I still have moments where he can repeat a word over and over and over again and I'm saying "huh?" over and over and over for about 15 minutes until I finally figure out what it is he's trying to say. Usually having to use sign language and usually because of rampant r and l's... I can understand everything he says almost all the time, but just sometimes, there are those moments.

    I mean, we have our own version of English, which I'm sure those of you that live with a Japanese person and are not fluent in Japanese, have. Just about anywhere we go, I have to translate from English to English, so that "regular" people can understand him. He also makes me do all of his phone calls, which I'm really getting sick of...

  18. #18
    Regular Member Keeni84's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 25, 2003
    Location
    American (mult/AfricanAmerican)
    Age
    34
    Posts
    7
    Aww, Kirei!

    Hey what did you guys mean by you can't say loan-words with a native accent? Like, as an english speaker, you can't say "department" but "depaato" ??

    Hey Maciamo--is Italian similar to Japanese in terms of pronounciation or just grammar or both???

    Thanks!!!
    ”nŽ­‚ŕˆęŒ|BBB

  19. #19
    Regular Member
    Join Date
    Apr 25, 2003
    Location
    Florida
    Age
    33
    Posts
    1
    The whole "bath - bus, thing - sing, etc." thing made me think up a quick question. Is the English word ever wrote over the Katakana, Furigana-style? (Or vice versa, Katakana over the English word.) 'Cause I think I've seen it done before.

  20. #20
    Regular Member neko_girl22's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 14, 2003
    Posts
    36
    Quote Originally Posted by Keeni84
    Hey what did you guys mean by you can't say loan-words with a native accent? Like, as an english speaker, you can't say "department" but "depaato" ??
    "depaato" is no longer English, but Japanese. so to be understood you have to use their pronunciation - no matter how silly you feel!!

    Is the English word ever wrote over the Katakana, Furigana-style? (Or vice versa, Katakana over the English word.) 'Cause I think I've seen it done before.
    Personally I've never seen English written furigana style over Japanese but of course have seen English words with Katakana furigana.

    oh, except when I watched a few English comedies, when it's a word pun sometimes they'll have the English word over the Japanese translation(not necessarily katakana). The Japanese translation is never as funny.....

  21. #21
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    ź‹ž
    Posts
    2,434
    Quote Originally Posted by Keeni84
    Hey Maciamo--is Italian similar to Japanese in terms of pronounciation or just grammar or both???
    Italian, Spanish and French, as Latin languages have the same vowels as Japanese (French has actually 13 vowels, instead of just 5 for the 3 others).
    Consonnants are almost the same except that Japanese confuse r/l and b/v, can't say "wu" or "lyi" ("gli" in Italian), and there is no "h" sound in Latin languages. Japanese "k" are also softer ("ka" sounds almost like "ha") and "fu" is pronounced "hu" in Japanese. Double consonnant (little "tsu" っ ) don't exist in French and Spanish, but exist in Italian and Japanese.

    The French "j" doesn't exist in the other 3, and the Spanish "z" or "c" (like "th" in English) like they pronounce it in Spain (but not in Latin America) and "j" (like German "ch" or Dutch "g") also don't exist in the other 3.

    All in all it is easier for French, Italian and Spanish speakers to speak Japanase than the opposite.

  22. #22
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    ź‹ž
    Posts
    2,434
    Quote Originally Posted by Johnathan
    The whole "bath - bus, thing - sing, etc." thing made me think up a quick question. Is the English word ever wrote over the Katakana, Furigana-style? (Or vice versa, Katakana over the English word.) 'Cause I think I've seen it done before.
    In Japanese textbook to learn English (or any other language), there is usually the furigana written above, which I think is a very bad idea, as they end up saying something wrong. I've never seen the English word written above/under a katakana word.

  23. #23
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    ź‹ž
    Posts
    2,434
    Some more :

    - horse, hose, whores, force, fourth
    - appeal, appear
    - reader, leader

  24. #24
    Regular Member fixelbrumpf's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 16, 2003
    Location
    Germany
    Posts
    5
    How about German as a second language for Japanese native speakers? Admittedly, German grammar can be tough (three pretty much randomly-assigned grammatical genders, lots of case inflection and conjugation), but yet again, there's a striking similarity between German and Japanese vowels, save for the /u/ phoneme. I know a few Japanese speakers with very good German skills and their accent is nowhere as thick as when I hear Japanese speakers speak English. The German /ch/ doesn't seem to give them much trouble, either, due to their noisy /h/ sound in words like hito which comes pretty close, in my opinion.

    They still occasionally confuse Ls and Rs, though, even though the /r/ and /l/ sounds are a lot more different in German than in English and the German /r/ is a very throaty sound. Even my Japanese professor, whose German is excellent, admits to doing it sometime. Another Japanese teacher of mine also often confuses [b] and [v] sounds (the German "W" in words like Wetter, Wache, Wurst is usually pronounced [v].)

    By the way, let's also add a few English words containing "shi" and "si" to our list. When I teach her English, my Japanese language pal often asks me "is this 'shi' or 'si'?"
    ƒCƒPƒƒ“‚Á‚Ä“úŒnƒƒ“!

  25. #25
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    ź‹ž
    Posts
    2,434
    Quote Originally Posted by fixelbrumpf
    there's a striking similarity between German and Japanese vowels, save for the /u/ phoneme.
    I have to disagree with that. Most German vowels don't exist in Japanese because there are only 5 vowel sound in Japanese and they are basically the same as in Italian or Spanish, not German which has longer "a" and "o" and 2 "u" (with and without umlaut) while Japanese have an intermediary.

    The German /ch/ doesn't seem to give them much trouble, either, due to their noisy /h/ sound in words like hito which comes pretty close, in my opinion.
    That is true for the "ich" sound in German, but not for the stronger "ach", "och" or "uch", which untrained Japanese can't pronounce at all.

    They still occasionally confuse Ls and Rs, though, even though the /r/ and /l/ sounds are a lot more different in German than in English and the German /r/ is a very throaty sound.
    I can tell you for having taught French (which has the same "r" as German) that most Japanese cannot make that sound at all, even after years of practice, if they haven't lived in Europe.

    Another Japanese teacher of mine also often confuses [b] and [v] sounds (the German "W" in words like Wetter, Wache, Wurst is usually pronounced [v].)
    Same in all European languages, not just German.

    By the way, let's also add a few English words containing "shi" and "si" to our list. When I teach her English, my Japanese language pal often asks me "is this 'shi' or 'si'?"
    Because there is only one sound for both in Japanese. Worse, some Tokyoite ("Edo-ko", actually) even mistake "hi" and "shi" while speaking Japanese, so that "Asahi Shimbun" becomes "Asashi Hinbun".

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. Replies: 0
    Last Post: Jul 1, 2005, 14:21
  2. Why do the Japanese make so much fuss about "gaijin" ?
    By Maciamo in forum Immigration & Foreigners
    Replies: 20
    Last Post: Mar 18, 2005, 23:34
  3. Replies: 29
    Last Post: Sep 26, 2004, 13:57

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •