Q. How do I know which syllables to stress in Japanese words?
A. Japanese has a pitch accent or musical
accent. You might think Japanese is a monotone language since it is quite different from the stress accent in English, other European
languages and some Asian languages. The Japanese often struggle with putting the accent
on the syllables when learning English. This is because they have a different
A stress accent pronounces the syllable louder and holds it longer. English
speakers speed up between accented syllables unconsciously. Pitch accent is
based on the two relative pitch levels of high and low. Each syllable is
pronounced with equal length. Each word has its own determined pitch and only
one accent summit. Japanese sentences are made up like a melody with rising and
falling pitches. Unlike English's uneven rhythm, Japanese sounds like a steadily
Japan has many regional dialects (hogen).
The different dialects have different accents. However, there are no communication
problems among people of different dialects since everybody understands
standard Japanese (hyoujungo, a dialect spoken in Tokyo). In most cases, accentuation doesn't
make a difference in the meaning of the words.
The pronunciation of Japanese is relatively easy compared with other aspects
of the language. However, it requires understanding of Japanese sounds, pitch
accent and intonation to sound like a native speaker. It also takes time and
patience, but don't get frustrated! It is important to make an effort to listen
Japanese as much as you can. When listening, listen very carefully and imitate
what you hear. Try not think about the spelling too much, just listen and
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