I was doing some tutoring work the other day, and I was trying to correct one of my student’s accents to make it sound more natural. Now keep in mind this is one of those bastard genius students that everybody secretly loves to hate because they learn everything twice as fast. (I’m just kidding of course I love her...)
But I couldn't quite get it right, even though she was such a good student. That is until I had this little revelation. When you speak in English, do you enunciate every single syllable? I mean, even if you’re one of those people that do pride yourself in your speech, if you’re honest, I’d hallucinate that you really don’t. Because it just sounds weird when you talk to people like that.
It’s not natural, and frankly it’s more work too. And I hate work, so as you can imagine I’m one of the worst enunciators in the world. But, I sound like a native English speaker, probably cause I am, I think... But I believe a lot of it has to do with the fact I don’t enunciate everything. I don’t say words the way they are written. (Big key when learning Japanese!)
Now this might be influenced from slang, and if you’re British or something then you probably already think I talk like an idiot anyway and really shouldn't be encouraging it.
But if you look at the first sentence of this post, yes the one that looks like I fell asleep in spelling class.. which of course I did, just don't tell anyone… you’ll see the way you pronounce, “did you go to the store?”, is a lot closer to “diju go dada store” if you’re speaking at normal speed in the middle of a conversation.
Now of course like I said in the beginning there are always exceptions, so you don’t need to get mad and throw rocks and stuff at me for it. But once I tried explaining this to my student, her Japanese pronunciation improved immediately.
Instead of trying to say “Ore wa shinobi da” just like it’s written.
(I’m a ninja)
Try meshing the 4 words together a little bit more. Think of the whole sentence as being one big word instead of 4 individual ones.
If you get really close it should sound a little closer to something like.
Orea shnobi da
Let’s try another
Yatsu wa baka da yo
(He’s an idiot.)
If you mesh it together good enough, and don’t just try to say the whole thing really fast. Of course when you try this, the speed of the sentence does increase, but that’s not the only dynamic that occurs.
It should sound a little something like this…
Yatsa baka dao
Well I hope that helps your pronounciation a bit. For more methods of improving your Japanese pronounciation and other pieces of advice subscribe to my newsletter.