Saturday, May 29, 2010

How do you say...?

I know I hate reading along and coming across a word in a different language and not knowing how to pronounce it. Ugh!

So, I think I will post a little bit about how to pronounce vowels in Japanese.

There are basically 5 sounds. A I U E O. They're pronounced ah, eee, ooo, eh, and oh.

Each vowel gets its own syllable. For instance sake. We don't pronounce it sake, as in "Oh, for Pete's sake!" It's pronounced "sah-keh." The letter "e" is a trick for us English speakers. We expect it to be pronounced eee, or else to change that middle vowel.

Another example is my name. Hana Bijin. Hana isn't the same as Hannah Montana. It's Hana, (which means flower) and pronounced Hah-nah. Neither syllable seems to have a stronger emphasis than the other, if that's possible. Then my last name Bijin doesn't rhyme with Bert's favorite bird, doin' the pigeon. It's more like Barry, Robin, Maurice (and Andy before his untimely demise, so sad, he had such magnificent hair). Bee-jeen.

The letter o sometimes has the "long o" sign over it when its written out in romaji (or the English alphabet.) That "long o" is sometimes written out differently as "ou." It means the same thing. Tokyo, for instance. If I could figure out how to make the "long o" line over the o's on this dumb blog I'd put them on both o's in Tokyo. It would also be correct to spell it Toukyou. Of course, that looks kind of weird, correct or not.

So the letter U sounds like "oo." Think Mt. Fuji. It doesn't sound at all like fudge.

So this might be a good guide for pronouncing the sumo wrestlers' names. Akebono. It has 4 syllables. No aches. And the long o keeps him from being connected to any Irish politically vocal pop stars. (My sister would argue that U2 isn't really "pop." But I was there in the 1980s when they sang "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." Fairly poppy, I think. They played it on our cutesy pop station. I sang along. Feel free to disagree.)

Ah ee oo eh oh.
Kah kee koo keh koh.
Sah shee soo seh soh.
Tah chi tsu teh toh.
And so on, as the kids learn to say their alphabet. It's so cute!

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