Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101.com

カタカナ語 Interesting Pronunciations

カタカナ語 Interesting Pronunciations

There are many words borrowed from English. These are always written in katakana. Today, we will look at a few Katakana English words where, in the process of entering the Japanese language, the pronunciation got, well, katakana-ized .

Eiji and Emi were having a romantic lunch at MAKUDONARUDO when suddenly a YU-FO- appeared at the MAUSU of a TONNERU. Eiji quickly donned his SU-PA- garments and saved the A-SU.

マクドナルド McDonald's ma ku do na ru do

If Mr. McDonald were alive today, he'd probably sell his farm.

As a beginner, I was fascinated by the pronunciation of this word. I couldn't figure how they could get such a pronunciation. I asked one of my Japanese friends that question and she answered, "It's pronounced just as it is spelled!" And she was right - if you are trying to read it without your glasses or... if you are thinking in katakana. Examining the second explanation is a great introduction to the Japanese sound system:

Both the C and L in the English McDonald's are just pronounced as consonants with no trailing vowel sound. But in Japanese with the exception of N ( ん ) you cannot do this. Therefore it is pronounced maKUdonaRUdo. Neat, huh?

On a related note, I used to torture, I mean, teach my kids how to pronounce this word by writing the English on the board and saying, "Ok class. How do you pronounce this word in English?" Some brave students would try to pronounce it by moving the stress from syllable to syllable. maKUdonarudo or makudoNArudo... But in the end, they too, could not understand how those crazy Americans could pronounce makudonarudo as McDonald's.

トンネル Tunnel ton ne ru

This one's fun. There is a famous comedian group in Japan called, " tonneruzu " which sounds a lot like "Toe Nails." For a long time, I actually thought that was what they were named after. I mean, after all, they were comedians!

アース Earth a-su

The Japanese have a hard time with the TH sound. The S sound can usually take the place of the TH sound without much problem. However in this case, BIG problem! This Katakana English sounds a lot like a dirty word meaning someone's back-end.

I remember having students read from dialogs in the book. I always sweated a bit when it came to " Our Earth is big and blue. " "Very good Eiji, next sentence please."

Other TH words are "Thank You" (becomes "Sank You") and "Think" (becomes "Sink").

One English teacher often taught the importance of the TH sound with this story. mukashi mukashi aru tokoro ni... Someone was in the bathroom a long time, so a friend knocked on the door to see if he was alright. The man in the bathroom said, "I'm Sinking!"

ユーフォー UFO yu-fo-

This is pronounced as a word and not as letters. (You foe)

Pink Lady, a disco singing 70's duo had a very famous song called UFO. To be the life of the party, learn the dance that goes with the song. 手を合わせて見つめるだけで。。。

マウス Mouth / Mouse mausu

Here is where we separate the men from the mice. Yes, in Katakana "Mouth" and "Mouse" are the same. I team-taught with a Japanese teacher on body parts once. We had a good rhythm going, I pronounced the words and the teacher would give the students some memory aid in Japanese. When we got to "mouth" she said, "You know, just like Mickey MOUSE!" My hopes for the zenkoku [nation-wide] speech contest were dashed to bite-sized pieces.

Support those who Support TJP!

Click here to learn Japanese with JapanesePod101.com