Rocket Bomber - learning Japanese

Kana 01: a note on pronunciation - and hiragana あ, katakana ア

filed under , 16 January 2011, 11:00 by

First, you might need to install some fonts & Japanese language support for your browser. There are many, many resources available online for those of you who need help.

And welcome! I’m an absolute beginner at reading Japanese, but I thought I’d share some of the tips, tricks, and mnemonics I’m using to learn the Japanese alphabets (syllabaries, actually: the hiragana and katakana) and then building on that to learn the kanji – the pictographs that also make up written Japanese.

I’m not a fluent speaker (of Japanese — or English, debatably) and I’m in no position to present this as a valid or authoritative course in Japanese:

Which is why it’s available for free on some guy’s blog. ;)

##

the vowels A E I O U come out as “ah, eh, ee, oh, oo” in Spanish, German, Italian, Latin, no doubt a number of other western languages I’m not familiar with — and apparently Japanese as well. It’s just English that’s weird (ref. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Vowel_Shift) and the exact pronunciation of some vowels, especially in English, depends on where you live. A Glaswegian, a Cockney, and a Southie all walk into an Australian bar — write your own joke for this one, but be prepared to translate for this quartet as the four branches of “English” are sure to be mutually unintelligible.

In Japanese, we need to relearn the ‘usual’ order: the kana are arranged A I U E O : Ah Ee U Eh Oh — and there is no Y: note the lack of any Y’s in pronunciation, as we Americans are tempted to throw onto our vowels:

“Ah” あ ア – Ah (“ah ha!”) not [fonzie]Ayyyy![/fonzie]
“Ee” い イ – Ee (sw“ee“t) not Eye. It’s spelled “i” but reprogram your ear.
“U” う ウ – a short “oo” sound, not “You”
“Eh” え エ – Eh not “E”. And yes, that means there are two vowels you need to be careful around when reading romaji. i = e, e = a. It’s Sake — “sah kay” – the e in saké kinda like the e in café — and not “saki”

Thankfully, “O” お オis Oh. So you’re already pronouncing Shōjo and Shonen correctly. 多分 (tabun – maybe).

Wikipedia has some pronunciation aids:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/65/Open_front_unrounded_vowel.ogg
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/91/Close_front_unrounded_vowel.ogg
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/68/U_(Japanese).ogg
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6c/Close-mid_front_unrounded_vowel.ogg
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e2/O_(Japanese).ogg

…though of course I think the tracks not specifically labeled Japanese tend to really lay into the sound for emphasis; most Japanese pronunciation — that I’ve heard in anime ;) — tends to be short, unless an actor is drawing out a word for effect. But also, well, the same is true in English

The wikipedia article on “vowels” is also pretty damn good. The http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vowel article not only has audio samples, it charts them on some graphs and provides at least a basic introduction to the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Phonetic_Alphabet

##

First up:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/あ

あ in hiragana or ア in katakana (romanised a) is one of the Japanese kana that each represent one mora. あ is based on the sōsho style ofkanji 安, and ア is from the radical of kanji 阿. In the modern Japanese system of alphabetical order, it occupies the first position of the alphabet, before い. Its hiragana resembles the kana no combined with a cross.

wiki is handy to quote, but not quite as helpful for students. Let’s learn あ / ア

ありがとう
Arigatō —do I need to translate this? A certain basic familiarity with Japanese is perhaps assumed.

ああっ女神さまっ
Aa Megami-Sama = Ah! My Goddess

あずまんが大王
Azumanga Daioh. Classic. Like I said, “A certain basic familiarity is assumed”

Also:

あまえないでよっ!!
Amaenaideyo!! = Released by Media Blasters as Ah! My Buddha – it’s just a harem comedy with the barest gloss of the spiritual; if you hadn’t heard of it already I wouldn’t seek it out.

per ANN: “At the temple he finds himself surrounded by beautiful female priestesses-in-training. Upon seeing a girl naked, Ikko has the ability to turn into a super-monk, performing massive exorcisms for the good of the temple.”

…Yep.

You can buy it from Right Stuf in a 26ep box set. If you have to.

あしたのジョー
Ashita no Joe – Classic boxing manga & anime. The original manga ran from 1968 to ‘73; you’ve likely seen references to this as a sight gag in other anime many, many times – without knowing the source

あそびにいくヨ!
Asobi ni Ikuyo! – this was given the English subtitle, “Bombshells from the Sky” —you can go watch it on Crunchyroll right now, if you like fanservice-laden anime with cat-girls. [yes, yes, Of Course I’ve seen it.] —And it’s a shade better than I let on, but only by a bit.

##

The difference between hiragana and katakana is subtle, but one can think of katakana as the “bold” or “italic” option: while used most often for words borrowed from other languages, katakana is also often used for emphasis.

アキラ
Akira – in Japanese the title is written in katakana for emphasis

アキバ
Akiba – similarly, I’ve seen the abbreviation for Akihabara (kanji 秋葉原, “Field of Autumn Leaves” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akihabara) written in katakana

アキハバラ電脳組
Akihabara Dennou Gumi = Cyberteam in Akihabara – once again, katakana is used instead of the kanji for emphasis; this was released State-side by ADV.

アドルフに告ぐ
Adolf ni Tsugu = Osama Tezuka’s manga Adolf – in this case katakana is used for the foreign name, アドルフ = adorufu = Adolf

アクア
Aqua

アリア
Aria

both Aqua & Aria use ア twice. And, if I can be forgiven some proselytizing: You need to own as much of these as you can find in whatever format you can get your hands on. There are currently 8 manga volumes (2 for Aqua, 6 for Aria) from Tokyopop and 52 episodes of the anime (in four box sets) available from Nozomi.

##

Will any of this help you to remember あ and ア?



          


menu

home

Bookselling Resources

about the site
about the charts
contact

Manga Moveable Feasts!
Thanksgiving 2012
Emma, March 2010
MMF [incomplete] Archives


subscribe

RSS Feed Twitter Feed

categories

anime
bookselling
business
comics
commentary
field reports
found
general fandom
learning Japanese
linking to other people's stuff
Links and Thoughts
manga
Manga Moveable Feast
metablogging
music documentaries
publishing
rankings
rankings analysis
recipes
recommendations
retail
reviews
rewind
site news
snark
urban studies


-- not that anyone is paying me to place ads, but in lieu of paid advertising, here are some recommended links.--

support our friends


Top banner artwork by Lissa Pattillo. http://lissapattillo.com/

note: this comic is not about beer

note: this comic is not about Elvis

In my head, I sound like Yahtzee (quite a feat, given my inherited U.S.-flat-midwestern-accent.)

where I start my browsing day...

...and one source I trust for reviews, reports, and opinion on manga specifically. [disclaimer: I'm a contributor there]

attribution




RocketBomber is a publication of Matt Blind, some rights reserved: unless otherwise noted in the post, all articles are non-commercial CC licensed (please link back, and also allow others to use the same data where applicable).