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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sorry, I Don’t Speak Manglenese: Pronouncing Foreign Terms through Japanese Phonetics (part 5)

Now that you have a foundation to work from, let's get back to the knitty gritty sounds that give Japanese both its challenge and its flavor, especially with foreign terms. As previously discussed, L sounds are one English's tallest verbal mountains to climb for first timers, and part of that comes from the fact that both L & R sounds are rendered with R mora. Of course if your context reading skills are as keen as I'd expect them to be, you should be able to easily tell what someone's talking about when they say 「ライト」(and I say this because high grade context reading skills will be your fast pass to high grade Japanese skills). Naturally, other countries that use the alphabet also give it voice in their own way, including how different R sounds are rendered.

Take, for example, words with the short 'ar,''er,''or' & 'ur' sounds, which, in Japanese, are pronounced by extending the original mora, much like they do in the Boston and New England dialects.

What is that original mora?

Generally, it's 「ア」 mora , as seen in the renderings of bar「バー」, slider「スライダー」, birdie「バーディ」 & sponsor「スポンサー」. Low 'or' sounds, however, are where you'll find the greatest difficulty approaching correctly, so here are a couple other methods to keep in mind.

With some exception, like cork「コルク」, long 'or' sounds are rendered using extended 「オ」Mora, which would make four into フォー &  Orton into オートン. Words containing 'ore' or 'oor', meanwhile, use「オ」Mora + ア to render them; you'll hear this in how words like floor「フロア」, door「ドア」, fore「フォア」 & core「コア」 are spoken in the language.

How can you tell if you're applying this correctly?

Use this phrase as your litmus test: Park the car in Harvard Yard. When it starts to sound more like this 「パーク・ザ・カー・イン・ハーヴァード・ヤード」, you'll know you're on the right track (note that when the word isn't English in origin, , like Arbeit (German) & Forte (Italian), appropriate mora + ル are used to render it-thus making the word for part time jobs/temping (Arbeit) into アルバイト and the word for someone's strong suit (forte) into フォルテ).

Speaking from the view of someone's who grown up speaking English, I know first hand how much of the technical aspects that come so naturally to me can feel like pushing a boulder up a hill for those picking English up from scratch, and one of those boulders, germinate consonants, is what we'll get into next.

Key Takeaways

  • L & R sounds are rendered with R mora  (EX: Lime → ライム/Rhyme → ライム/Long → ロング/Ring → リング)
  • Words with short 'ar,''er,''or' & 'ur' sounds are rendered by using extended 「ア」 mora(EX: Chowder → チャウダー/Director → ダーレックター/Star → スター)
  • Long 'or' sounds are rendered by using extended 「オ」Mora(EX: Orthodox → オーソドックス/Corner → コーナー)
  • Words not of English origin with these sounds are rendered with the appropriate mora + ル(EX: Carta → カルタ/Merkel → メルケル/Torta → トルタ)

Extra Credit!

As best as you can, render the words Lingo, Tarver, Mordor, Orta & Near into Japanese phonetics

As best as you can, render the words ランプ、ビンダー & ホーメル into English phonetics 

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