Why is it difficult to pronounce English vowels?


"I'm not good at pronouncing English and I'm not good at speaking in public ..." "I don't really understand the difference between l and r pronunciation." Many Japanese people find it difficult to pronounce English, and they have this problem. There will be many people. Why do you find it so difficult to pronounce?

In this article, I will explain why you find it difficult to pronounce English. In addition, I will also introduce how to properly acquire pronunciation that Japanese people are not good at. To get closer to the native pronunciation, be sure to learn the pronunciation tips and practice repeatedly!

Why do Japanese people find it difficult to pronounce English?

There are many Japanese who are not good at pronunciation in English, but there are several reasons for this. If you know the reason, you should find a solution! First, let's look at why Japanese people find it difficult to pronounce English.

English has many vowels

One of the reasons why Japanese people find it difficult to pronounce English is that "English has many vowels". There are only five vowels in Japanese, "a", "i", "u", "e", and "o", but there are 25 vowels in English. English has a lot of sounds that Japanese people don't pronounce on a daily basis, which makes it difficult to pronounce.

If you want to pronounce English correctly, you need to be able to remember and pronounce all the vowels that Japanese does not have. In addition, both Japanese and English have a structure in which consonants are attached before and after the vowel, but there are cases where the number of consonants is large in English while the number of consonants is small in Japanese. .. For example, strength has 3 consonants before the vowel e and 4 consonants after it.

Since it is difficult for Japanese to pronounce, it is easy to convert it to Japanese reading using vowels such as "strength".

Spelling and pronunciation do not match

Japanese has the same spelling and pronunciation, so if you read it exactly as it is spelled, you will be able to pronounce it correctly. For example, the reading of "violet" is sumire, and spelling = pronunciation. On the other hand, in English, the spelling and pronunciation do not always match, so it is difficult to pronounce correctly even if you read it exactly as it is spelled.

Use phonetic symbols to pronounce English correctly. The word apple uses the vowel a, but this alone can be difficult to determine how to pronounce. There are roughly the following types of phonetic symbols corresponding to a.

・/ Ə /
・/ ɑ: /
・/ ɒ /
・/ æ /
・/ ʌ /

You can learn spelling and pronunciation patterns as you learn, but it will take some learning time.

Some words end with a consonant

The difference between Japanese and English pronunciation is that English has words that end in a consonant. The characteristic of Japanese pronunciation is that it all ends with a vowel, regardless of the noun or verb. For example, "makura" ends with a, and "running = hashiru" ends with u.

In English, on the other hand, there are both words that end with a vowel and words that end with a consonant. Let's change the previous Japanese to English.

Pillow = pillow
run = run

Both end with w, n and a consonant. In this way, when pronouncing a word that ends with a consonant that is not in the Japanese concept, the Japanese may unknowingly add a vowel. Pillow ends with w, but there are many cases where it sounds like wu.

Practice pronunciation of difficult words!

There are pronunciations such as r, l, and th that Japanese people find difficult. Words containing these are difficult to pronounce, and may end up being read in katakana. In order to acquire correct pronunciation, it is important to hold down the points of pronunciation and practice over and over again. Here, we will introduce pronunciations that Japanese people find difficult and tips for practicing them.

Words containing r and l

For Japanese people, the difference between l and r is that English pronunciation is almost always talked about. What I want you to be aware of as a way to make a difference between the two is "whether or not to attach the tongue to the base of the upper teeth." When pronouncing l, attach your tongue firmly to the base of your upper teeth. For example, the sounds of "ra", "ri", "ru", "re", and "ro". As you can see by pronouncing it, all the tongues are at the base.

On the other hand, r is a sound that is not pronounced in Japanese, so many people may struggle, but here the tongue does not stick anywhere in the mouth. The point of pronouncing r is to squeeze your mouth first. Next, try pronouncing "ra," "ri," "ru," "re," and "ro" without putting your tongue anywhere in your mouth. There is an unfamiliar sound like "Ua", which is the correct pronunciation of r.


Phonetic symbol: ríː (ə) li

The Japanese reading of really is "realy", but in English the first "ri" and the third "ri" are pronounced differently. For the first ri, squeeze your mouth and pronounce "ri" without putting your tongue anywhere. It makes a sound like "Ui". The next ri is the sound of l, so the trick is to put your tongue on the base of your upper teeth and pronounce it as "ri" like reading Japanese.


Phonetic symbol: rɪlˈæks

Japanese reading is "relax". The first "ri" is r, so it's a pronunciation that makes you squeeze. The following l can be pronounced close to the Japanese reading "la". The correct pronunciation sounds like "willax".


Phonetic symbol: wˈɚːld

The point of r is to squeeze the mouth and make it a curly tongue. Let's pronounce l similar to the Japanese reading "ru". It may be difficult to pronounce because r and l are close together, but try practicing over and over again.

Words that use / æ / and / ʌ / properly

I mentioned that there are 25 vowels in English, but it will be difficult for Japanese people who are not accustomed to pronouncing them. Isn't / æ / and / ʌ / confusing in the pronunciation of "a" in Japanese? When looking at the spelling, the letter a is often pronounced as / æ /, and the letter u is often pronounced as / ʌ /.

In order to use both properly, let's hold down the following points.

・/ Æ /: Pronounce "A" with the tip of the tongue attached to the back of the lower gums. The shape of the mouth is conscious of "d".
・/ Ʌ /: Relax and pronounce "a".

As you can see from the phonetic symbol of / æ /, a and e are combined. Therefore, it will be easy to remember that it sounds like something between a and e. Keep your power relaxed and be aware that / ʌ / is pronounced in the back of your throat.

staff (employee / staff)

Phonetic symbol: stæf

The alphabet a is pronounced / æ /. Pronounce "A" while keeping in mind that the shape of your mouth should be "E". It is an image that slightly crushes "A". In English pronunciation, it sounds like "Staev".


Phonetic symbol: stʌf

The alphabet u is pronounced as / ʌ /. Let's relax and pronounce "a". The pronunciation is similar to the Japanese "a".


Phonetic symbol: trˈʌk

This is also a word that pronounces / ʌ /. Try to pronounce it in the back of your throat, and be aware of it when you pronounce it relaxedly.

Words ending in a consonant, such as t and d

Basically, all Japanese words end with a vowel pronunciation, but many English words end with a consonant. For example, salad ends with "da" in Japanese reading. However, the English pronunciation is / sæləd / and ends with d. When d or t comes to the end of a word, it becomes unvoiced, so the point is not to pronounce it clearly. Keep it to the point where you can hear the sound of breath.

It sounds like "Saradu" in English pronunciation. Words that are read in katakana in Japanese, such as this salad, require special attention. It's easy to read the end of a word as a vowel, but it feels unnatural for native speakers. Check the phonetic symbols and pronounce them correctly.


Phonetic symbol: gˈʊd

If you read it in Japanese, it will be "good", but if you pronounce it in English, it will be "good". The end of a word is not pronounced clearly.


Phonetic symbol: kˈæt

The Japanese reading is "cat". It is commonly used in Japanese katakana notation. In English pronunciation, it is "cattu". Try pronouncing t as if you were taking a breath.


Phonetic symbol: déɪt

It is an expression often used in Japanese, such as "date". In Japanese reading, the end is "to" and the vowel, but in English pronunciation it is "day to".


Phonetic symbol: bést

The word read as "best" in Japanese. The point is that in English, "bestu" and t are not pronounced clearly.

Words containing th

When learning English pronunciation, one of the difficult things for Japanese people is probably th. At school, we learn "th = stick out our tongue and chew", but it is difficult to actually pronounce it because it is a sound that is not pronounced in Japanese. For example, the word think. If you pronounce "sink" in Japanese without biting your tongue, it will sound like a sink to the native speaker.

The conversation itself will be unnatural because it will be a word with a completely different meaning. The point of pronunciation of th is to lightly touch the tip of the tongue to the tip of the upper tooth and exhale lightly from the gap in the mouth. It's not pronounced properly, so when you hear it, you may feel that it's elusive.


Phonetic symbol: mˈʌnθ

In Japanese reading it is "month", but in English it is like exhaling the last th. At that time, be aware that you should chew the tip of your tongue lightly and exhale through the gap in your mouth.


Phonetic symbol: bˈɚːθ

This is also pronounced with the image of exhaling "Bathu" without reading "Bath" in Japanese.


Phonetic symbol: tíːθ

Be careful not to pronounce the th part clearly, not the Japanese reading "teeth".

Katakana English is a well-established word

Another reason why Japanese people are not good at pronouncing English is that they are accustomed to Katakana English. "Salad" and "date" introduced earlier are also in katakana English, but it is difficult to judge how well they can be pronounced in English. By the way, if you read salads and dates in Japanese, you can think that they are not transmitted to native speakers.

For example, chocolate is read in Japanese as "chocolate", but in English it is pronounced as "charklet". It's completely different from Japanese, so you may feel uncomfortable before you get used to it, but please practice aloud many times.


Phonetic symbol: θíːm

Imagine that th is deflated, and pronounce it as "(sme)". I don't think it's the pronunciation of the word "theme" that Japanese people often use. Please note that if you pronounce "te", it will not be transmitted to the native speakers.


Phonetic symbol: ælkəh`ɔːl

The Japanese reading is "alcohol", but in English, h is pronounced firmly and it sounds like "alcohol". Also, since there is / ə /, co is pronounced close to "ka".


Phonetic symbol: kˈɔːfi

In Japanese, f is pronounced as h, but in English, it should be pronounced as "fi" instead of "hee". It will be "Kuffy".


To get closer to native pronunciation, you need to learn the correct pronunciation method. Let's start by listening to the correct pronunciation. It is recommended to use a sound source that allows you to hear native voice, but it is ideal to practice the output with other people.