spoken Japanese vs. written Japanese difficulties

Japanese, general discussion on the language
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spoken Japanese vs. written Japanese difficulties

Post by MenomaMinx » Tue 09.06.2005 11:04 am

in my personal experience, spoken Japanese is difficult: written Japanese is a joyous simplicity with the right dictionaries and grammatical decoding books at hand.

until a couple of days ago, I had no idea how truly horrible my listening skills were. After all, I've been praised a lot for my pronunciation when reading and unfortunately sometimes I forget I only get praised because people grade my performance on a curb against all the other craptacular foreign pronunciations they've been forced to endure over the years;-)

anyway,Friday I got hit three times with spoken Japanese I couldn't make heads or tales with.

first one was at physical therapy with an American trying to show off his Japanese. He was using that talking from the back of the throat trick some people use to eliminate accents. Unfortunately, that trick also eliminates the natural breathing cues and intonations associated with normal human speech patterns. the third time he said it, he threw in 'hai' at the end of the sentence when he really meant 'ne' which tipped me off what he was actually saying by counting backwards through the syllables. What he said =

Nihongo ha hanasu desu ka?

Yes, I actually managed to misunderstand one of the most commonly taught sentences in the entire Japanese language! LMAO!

Second one was my brand new mangajin computer CD. I went to my favorite comic from the magazine first = where's Michael. I pressed the audio button and my mouth just kind of hung there open. Around the 5th play through, I finally figured out what was wrong. It was that regional accent again. The one that has been haunting me for years and had yet again come back to bite me in the ass. If you haven't heard this monstrosity, you can replicate it by substituting every "h" sound in spoken Japanese for an American "st" sound. Not the only sound change involved, but the most obvious. For example the word "hibito" sounds like "stub your toe" with a Southern U.S. accent.

Yes, it's bad from a second language learners perspective; but I been assured by another messageboard that it's a very small section of Japan that actually has this particular accent. Most people can go their entire lives without ever hearing it. I haven't been quite so lucky ;-)

The worst was a language learning computer CD put out by the infamous topic entertainment, who used this heavily accented woman's voice on all their beginning teaching software. Several people have complained in various review is of having to relearn everything they learned after using the software and this accent plays a large role in the problem {although certainly not the only reason it's bad software}.

Next worse was an expensive anime I bought that I was never able to bring myself to finish because one of the main characters speaks in this accent. There's only so many times you can hear the name Hitomi spoken as Stotomi before you want to blow your brains out! Unfortunately, this was a medieval setting anime, so using a gun for suicidal purposes wasn't an option ;-) I settled for never watching it again after the second episode.

And then of course, the third time was a much milder version of the accent in the Where's Michael audio. You know, considering the first time I heard it was over two years ago, you would think by now I would have been able to memorize the sound changes for the accent and just be able to figure out what someone was saying that way. You would think that, but it hasn't happened :-(

I can read just about anything thrown at me in Japanese with the right reference books, but I can't look up what I hear if I don't know how to transliterate the accent involved.

Even names are a problem. Just a few days ago, I was watching the history Channel and a woman samurai's name came up. The name was spoken by a native Japanese, so I can't blame the education system for this one. I heard "toumae". What the man actually said was "Tomoe ". Go ahead and laugh. I did -- half an hour later when I finally figured out what I heard wrong and stopped slamming my head into the wall that is ;-)

Now I can't say there's a huge shortage of access to spoken Japanese for me. I practically live with my headphones on and all the music I listen to is Japanese. Yes, I read along with full speed the lyric sheets {although I don't usually bother translating them}. I just don't get why I can pronounce and read something that I don't understand when I hear it. Anybody else have this problem?

This is actually starting to become important, as I have a standing invitations to go visit friends in Japan -- whose immediate family do not speak English.

You think it's too late to pretend I'm deaf, so I can trick everyone into writing what they say down for me ;-)
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RE: spoken Japanese vs. written Japanese difficulties

Post by torgosaves » Tue 09.06.2005 12:56 pm

Do any good resources exist that pertain to different accents within the Japanese speaking world? Because I completely didn't realize there were huge differences in such a small country.

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RE: spoken Japanese vs. written Japanese difficulties

Post by Spaztick » Tue 09.06.2005 1:03 pm

Wow, quite a long post, and it does make sense, although I haven't delved into listening/speaking comprehension yet, I'm still building my vocabulary; I'm sure listening and speaking are going to be a completely different ballgame.

I'd say you're stuck without actually being around it all the time, or (as you might already be) using written text with the speech, the McDonalds flash animation (halarious btw) had that at the beginning and I could absoloutly understand nothing, even with the written text. :)

I'd say Pimpsleur, but I'm still trying to get mine working that I borrowed.
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