Let's learn the pronunciation ! Japanese pronunciation can be broken down into 101 single sounds. Each sound is transcribed into the English alphabet as you can see in the charts below. This way of transcribing is called rōmaji. Click on each character to listen to the pronunciation.
Chart for 68 sounds
*2 "di" doesn't exist. It becomes "ji".
*3 "du" doesn't exist. It becomes "zu".
Chart for additional 33 sounds
There are a lot of words which have double vowels such as "aa" or "oo". To transcribe double vowels, a straight line (-) on top of a vowel is used. e.g: ā , ō
It is very important to make a distinction between double vowels and a single vowel ! Double or single vowel makes a completely different word !
There are many words that have double consonants.
The short vowels "i" and "u" are sometimes silent in the following cases;
1 - When they are placed between consonants k, s, t, h or p.
2 - When they are preceded by consonants k, s, t, h or p at the end of the word.
Words with foreign origins
In Japanese, there are a lot of words that come from foreign languages, especially from English. Since single consonant sounds do not exist in Japanese (except some "mute vowels" cases), a vowel is attached to every consonant. This certainly sounds strange for English speakers !
Japanese words have "pitch accent". "Pitch accent" means that certain sounds in a word are higher than other sounds. Depending on where you place the pitch accent, certain words could mean completely different ! There are three primary types of Japanese pitch accent.
When you stress on these sounds, the length of the vowels DO NOT change !
1 - The first sound is higher than the rest.
2 - The first sound is lower than the rest.
3 - The middle part of the word is higher than the rest.
Probably the second type is the most difficult for English speakers. Try to keep the middle and the rest of the sounds "high" !
Now you can listen and pronounce Japanese sounds !
Let's move on to Basic grammar and start making short sentences !