EAST ASIAN STUDIES 170
JAPAN: ITS CULTURE AND HERITAGE

A SIMPLE GUIDE TO PRONOUNCING ROMANIZED JAPANESE

Vowels are always pronounced as follows:

'a' as in 'father'
'i' as in 'machine'
'u' as in 'duty'
'e' as in 'get'
'o' as in 'go'

There are no diphthongs; each vowel is read individually even when grouped together with other vowels. For example, the word aoi ('blue') sounds something like 'ah-oh- ee.'

Clusters of consonants are rare and when they occur, they are pronounced together in one syllable. For example, kyu sounds like the 'cu' in 'cute.' The word Tokyo, therefore, has only two syllables: to and kyo.

There are 'long' and 'short' vowels, but for the purposes of this course you will not be expected to be able to distinguish between the two. (Long vowels are represented by placing a macron above the vowel, while short vowels have no macron.)

The Japanese r is a flap-r, as in the British 'very.'

On some occasions, vowels become whispered when preceded by certain consonants; this usually happens after sh, as in shita ('did'), and ku as in takusan ('many'). There is no set rule for this "whisper," so you must depend on having heard the word pronounced at least once to know. Even if you pronounce it without the whisper, though, it is not too far removed from the correct version.

Generally speaking, all syllables in Japanese get equal or close to equal stress.