How to Pronounce Romaji
The rules for writing and pronouncing the romaji system used on NGS are listed below. They are fairly simple.
Japanese lacks what a linguist friend of mine calls “poop vowels.” That is, it contains NO falling diphthongs and NO schwas. If you don’t know what a diphthong or a schwa is, ignore this and move on to the next paragraph. If you do, you’ll want to note that the guide to pronunciation that I’ve provided here is only an approximate one, because most of the English words I’ve cited as pronunciation guides contain falling diphthongs. In fact, Japanese vowels are pronounced much more like vowels in languages like Spanish. If you want any songs in IPA transcription, you can email me (but seriously if that’s what you want why are you reading this?)
Japanese has five vowel sounds total: a as in father, i as in Hawaii, u as in blue, (NOT pronounced eu as in euphonic), e as in café, and o as in note.
If two of the same vowel come next to each other (aa, ii, uu, ee, oo) then they are pronounced in the same way as the vowels above, but held out for twice as long.
Therefore, aa is pronounced like the vowel sound in bra, flaw, and Shah.
And ii is pronounced like the vowel sound in fleece, Greece, and peace.
And uu is pronounced like the vowel sound in moose, loose, and ruse.
And ee in pronounced like the vowel sound in hey, say, play, and weigh.
And oo (this is the confusing one) is pronounced like the vowel sound in most, post, and toast.
If two different vowels come next to each other (for example, ae, ie, au, uo, etc.) they are pronounced fully and separately according to the above rules. For instance, if you see the vowel combination ae it will be pronounced ah eh. The two exceptions to this separate-vowel rule are as follows:
The ou sound is pronounced just like the oo sound above. That is, like the o in note, rote, and smote, NOT like the ow in cow or sow, or the oo in boom or balloon.
The ei sound is pronounced just like the ee sound above, that is, like the vowel sound in pray, flay, and neigh.
All g sounds are hard, as in granite, NOT soft as in gentle.
All j sounds are hard, as in jibe, NOT soft as in je t’aime.
The ch sound is soft, as in cheese, NOT hard, as in Bach.
The tsu sound is pronounced like the ts in cats, NOT like the s in sucks.
A true Japanese accent has many nuances, and there is no way to learn to speak in a good Japanese accent by reading an article on the internet. The above rules are simply to give non-Japanese speakers an idea of how Japanese words are pronounced. If you don’t speak Japanese, and you’re thinking of singing a j-rock song for karaoke, my suggestion is, listen to the song again and again, and copy the singer’s pronunciation while simultaneously reading the romaji.
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