In another article on how to read Hiragana, I discussed how to pronounce certain vowel combinations such as おう、えい、and いい. Most often, textbooks and other Japanese language learning resources will tell students that おう and おお are pronounced exactly the same, and the difference is merely due to historical orthography. In most cases, this is true. However, this simplification is not entirely accurate and ignores a crucial distinction that all native Japanese speakers intuitively make.
Plosive consonants, what are they? Plosives, also known as stops, are consonants that when articulated, block your vocal tract and constrict airflow.
In Japanese, these are the sounds <k>, <g>, <t>, <d>, <b> and <p>. Although these phonemes sound similar to their English counterparts, there are a few key differences to keep in mind in order to improve your pronunciation.
Vowels are the backbone of Japanese pronunciation. In order to master Japanese pronunciation you have to master the vowels. Luckily for non-native learners, there are only 5 of them. However, these vowels are quite different in quality to the vowels found in English and will take practice to get perfect.
Japanese is often said to have not only very easy pronunciation, but the easiest pronunciation of all the world’s major languages.
In some ways, this sentiment is not without merit. Japanese has very few consonants and only 5 vowels. In addition, the language has very simple phonotactics, meaning these sounds can only be arranged in a very limited manner (more on this later).