20 November, 2021

Pronouncing the Japanese and Korean R (And Other Random Stuff)

I have been still studying the Japanese language, but ever since I began learning Russian, I realized Russian is easier to learn than it is to learn Japanese. Yes, Japanese is still a fairly easy language to learn, but the Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji can be a little tricky remembering what the characters mean. Plus, the sentence structure is entirely different from English. I have read which languages are easier for English speakers out of curiosity, and I saw Spanish and German because it's sort of similar to the English language. The hard part about Spanish is that R trill which can be difficult for English speakers. Hard, but not impossible. I don't base my interest in language learning by the easy level. If I have a specific reason to learn it, I just get started in learning the language.

Unfortunately, due to the difference in sentence structure, I study so much, that I can make errors when writing in English. You're taught to forget the English language to learn Japanese and indeed, I did just that to memorize the Japanese language. The bad thing about that is when I try going back to writing and speaking in English, I forget the rules in English grammar. Like for instance, the Japanese language does not use plural. So when saying Japanese words like Anime or Manga, the correct way is not Animes or Mangas, you only say Anime or Manga even if you are talking about more than one thing. I forget in English, you do actually use plural.

So anyway, I wanted to write some random notes about pronouncing the R in Japanese and Korean. In Japanese, the R is pronounced like a combination of L and D. You start off with an L and end with the D. For English speakers, it will most likely sound like this, but for people who trill their R's, I learned it most likely will sound closer to a D sound. You do roll the R, but it's not a complete trill as in Spanish, Arabic, Russian or other languages where you have to trill the R. I find it tricky not trilling the R, but just giving a rolled L and D sound. I never heard a Japanese speaker pronounce the R as a full trill, and so I try to have the R not too pronounced like how it's pronounced in Russian.

I just wonder how can one pronounce the Japanese R without over trilling the R? It just became instinctual to trill my R's, making my pronunciation wrong.

That pronunciation alone can be the most tricky. I find the Japanese pronunciation very easy, but I think the R is a little tricky. You can wonder how can you make it sound like an L and D at the same time? In the Japanese Hiragana, which is the Japanese alphabet, the characters starting with an R I think can be tricky.

For Korean, the R is easy. You just pronounce it as L. Yes, just a straight L. The other stuff can be hard to pronounce. I have heard Korean is easier for Japanese speakers and speakers of other East Asian languages. I believe because the pronunciations, grammar rules and sentence structure similarities. If I had to compare though, Japanese is definitely easier to learn than Korean.

Another interesting thing about Japanese; Japanese I learned the length a letter is pronounced, it can change the meaning of the word, and even the formal to informal rule. What I learned is when not to use informal. So, informal is only for people you personally know, only like close friends and family. Formal is appropriate to use everyday to anyone pretty much. In Japan, it can be seen as offensive and rude for inappropriately using informal words outside of personal family or friend situation. This is the reason why it's important to know if the letter should be longly said or not. If you get Japanese words from anime, many times they use informal speech. Some words too were modified to sound masculine, this is especially for those popular Shonen anime that's actually tailored for males. 

It's the same with handwriting Japanese. Of course Japanese looks different handwritten than print on a screen. I learned recently the same rule applies to Russian, but Japanese I feel more pressure because one slight difference in the calligraphy, and it's saying something entirely different. I know how important it is to learn how to write Japanese correctly in the handwritten version especially for filling out forms.

So, this is what I wanted to share about my study in the Japanese language. 

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