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Learning pitch accent

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RE: Learning pitch accent

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Tue 01.15.2008 4:11 pm

arbalest: I'm serious. Using your ear is impossible; without correction and study, you won't be able to pick up either pitch accent or stress unless you are an unusually perceptive person. If you can't handle stress/accent, it's not going to render you incomprehensible, but I think it's a bad idea to ever say "I don't need to study this because they'll be able to understand me anyway."
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RE: Learning pitch accent

Postby skrhgh3b » Tue 01.15.2008 5:09 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
arbalest: I'm serious. Using your ear is impossible; without correction and study, you won't be able to pick up either pitch accent or stress unless you are an unusually perceptive person. If you can't handle stress/accent, it's not going to render you incomprehensible, but I think it's a bad idea to ever say "I don't need to study this because they'll be able to understand me anyway."


Here, here! This is why I believe studying the phonology of a language can be so beneficial to adult learners of a foreign language. Once you become aware of what to listen for, it becomes that much easier. And even if you can't hear it, you'll at least know how and when to produce it.

I don't buy into the accent isn't important argument either. I was having a conversation with a classmate from Japan a couple of years ago. I told her I was giving an oral presentation on hanami in my Japanese class, but she thought I had said anime. Apparently my pronunciation of hanami had some strange pitch-accent - probably under the influence of English stress - and it threw her off. Anyway, she corrected me. This was around the time I started to become paranoid about my accent. Once you start conversing with native speakers, you'll run into situations that will show you first hand how important good accentuation is to being understood. Another example. A couple of months ago I was having dinner with a Japanese and a Chinese, and they tried to tell me they went to a Renaissance festival, but their pronunciation of "Renaissance" was so atrocious, I had no idea what the heck they were trying to say. It was only after a lot of explanation on their part that I finally figured it out.
Last edited by skrhgh3b on Tue 01.15.2008 5:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
♪夢も見たくない 幸せなんか要らない
恋もしたくない お金なんか要らない
ぼくに必要な眠りを眠らせておくれ♪
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RE: Learning pitch accent

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Tue 01.15.2008 6:16 pm

More generally, I think it's always a bad idea to say "You don't have to study X, you can just pick that up naturally" (or "learn it when you get to Japan"), no matter what X is. The most common things I hear people say this about are pronunciation, pitch accent, politeness, or speaking in general. The problem is that if you have absolutely no basis in X, you can't really learn from what other people are doing.

Now, I'm not necessarily saying that you need to spend 50% of your time on pitch accent or anything like that. But you shouldn't ignore it entirely either.

(Personally I'm terrible at pitch accent, although I must be doing something right because I almost never have situations where I'm not making myself understood solely due to pronunciation issues.)

Although as another side note, judging from my own students, by far the most problematic area of pronunciation for English natives is that of English loan words. People don't take the pronunciation of them seriously; in general they seem to consider the whole idea of the English loan words kind of a big joke -- I think they don't quite believe me fully when I try to tell them how often they are used, and how nobody will be able to understand them if they pronounce them as English or randomly switch the syllables (e.g. saying カンピュータ instead of コンピューター).
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RE: Learning pitch accent

Postby Miyu-rin » Tue 01.15.2008 7:04 pm

.... And all of a sudden my Japanese studies just got ten times harder. D:
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RE: Learning pitch accent

Postby furrykef » Tue 01.15.2008 7:18 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
I think they don't quite believe me fully when I try to tell them how often they are used, and how nobody will be able to understand them if they pronounce them as English or randomly switch the syllables (e.g. saying カンピュータ instead of コンピューター).


I'm certain they don't believe you fully. People who learn languages in classes -- especially the type who don't really even want the class, if you get any of those -- get all sorts of weird ideas about the language they're studying. A lot of those weird ideas involve the notion that laziness is acceptable... I only had three years of Spanish in high school, but I remember what it was like.

Anyway, I can't help you with the lazy pronunciation thing -- I guess the students will have to learn about that the hard way -- but it shouldn't be difficult to impress the frequency of English words upon them. Go to any Japanese website and you'll be assaulted with katakana words, of course. So find a good one, print out a page, and hand it out. :)

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RE: Learning pitch accent

Postby HarakoMeshi » Tue 01.15.2008 8:48 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
English has stress patterns too- would you suggest that a foreign learner of English spend time memorizing them for each word they learned?


Of course!


You're not suggesting that all that knowledge for EVERY single word must come from correction and explicit study are you?

I don't think that's true; I think the vast majority can and is accquired by listening, and mimmicking until you get a feel for it. At least that's how I think I accquired most pronunciation & accents in English. I didn't get formal teaching and lots of correction on this, but I had immersion so I listened to people talking, TV, radio, and tried to mimmick it until it became natural.

Of course... it does require getting an ear for the language.

skrhgh3b: I hear ya about English pronunciation. The main thing I've had trouble understanding for Japanese speaking English is l/r and h/f mixing. Even speaking with Japanese whose English is near perfect in most ways, an occasional mixing of those pronunciations (probably for words they don't use very frequently) has had me understanding something different altogether, or scratching my head and asking them to repeat several times.
Last edited by HarakoMeshi on Tue 01.15.2008 9:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Learning pitch accent

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Tue 01.15.2008 9:05 pm

You're not suggesting that all that knowledge for EVERY single word must come from correction and explicit study are you?


No. I think the more you learn explicitly better off you will be, both in your ability to predict future stress/accent patterns and to pick up on what you're hearing. But of course there is a point where you can learn pretty well on your own.

I think that if you are explicitly learning a word, you should learn the accent or stress pattern as well. But once you've reached the point where you're not explicitly learning words, hopefully you have some basis to do it yourself.
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RE: Learning pitch accent

Postby HarakoMeshi » Tue 01.15.2008 9:13 pm

^^
Makes sense.
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RE: Learning pitch accent

Postby NZJutsu » Tue 01.15.2008 10:46 pm

I thought that it would be moderately easy to pick up an accent if you, for example, go and live in Japan, with a minimal amount of speaking or listening experience. Thus if you only imitated what native speakers say, would you pick up an accent? I have heard of some foreigners that spend a large amount of time in the Kinki region, and get told by people in Tokyo that they have a strong Kinki accent.
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RE: Learning pitch accent

Postby skrhgh3b » Wed 01.16.2008 12:56 am

NZJutsu wrote:
I thought that it would be moderately easy to pick up an accent if you, for example, go and live in Japan, with a minimal amount of speaking or listening experience. Thus if you only imitated what native speakers say, would you pick up an accent? I have heard of some foreigners that spend a large amount of time in the Kinki region, and get told by people in Tokyo that they have a strong Kinki accent.


it depends on what you mean by accent. in this thread, we're talking about pitch accent as opposed to stress accent or even tone accent. that's a very specific use of the word accent. having made sojourns to kyoto and hiroshima, i know it wasn't the differences in pitch accent that made western japanese dialects so hard for me to understand as a student of the tokyo dialect, but rather the regional differences in vocabulary and grammar.
♪夢も見たくない 幸せなんか要らない
恋もしたくない お金なんか要らない
ぼくに必要な眠りを眠らせておくれ♪
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RE: Learning pitch accent

Postby furrykef » Wed 01.16.2008 1:38 am

NZJutsu wrote:
I thought that it would be moderately easy to pick up an accent if you, for example, go and live in Japan, with a minimal amount of speaking or listening experience. Thus if you only imitated what native speakers say, would you pick up an accent? I have heard of some foreigners that spend a large amount of time in the Kinki region, and get told by people in Tokyo that they have a strong Kinki accent.


That's a different sense of the word "accent". We're talking about accentuating words and phrases, sort of like stress in English, not regional pronunciation differences.
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RE: Learning pitch accent

Postby Wakannai » Wed 01.16.2008 2:02 am

More generally, I think it's always a bad idea to say "You don't have to study X, you can just pick that up naturally"


heh, that was the excuse I used to ignore my English teacher when I was going through school. Why should I have to study stuff I already know? It wasn't until later that I really wished I had paid more attention.
I thought that it would be moderately easy to pick up an accent if you, for example, go and live in Japan, with a minimal amount of speaking or listening experience.



If you go to Japan when you are 3 yes, just moving there should be enough. But as an adult, if you want to develop a Japanese accent, or reduce your native accent, then you have to do so through deliberate study and practice. You may not be able to eliminate it entirely, but I know a lot of people that learned English as a second language as adults. All of the ones that sound barely foreign, or only foreign when they try to pronounce certain words, all of them were that good only because they deliberately made an extra effort.

All of the people with horrid accents, learned the "just move to america" way.
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RE: Learning pitch accent

Postby arbalest71 » Thu 01.17.2008 12:49 am

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
More generally, I think it's always a bad idea to say "You don't have to study X, you can just pick that up naturally" (or "learn it when you get to Japan"), no matter what X is.


I'm not really saying that... I'm just wondering if memorising the accents for every word is the most productive way to improve your accent, though I don't have a firm opinion either way, tbh. And I'm certainly not saying that having a good accent is not important. But, when I listen to, say, Japanese who have a poor accent in English... the stresses are part of it, but there are so many other things wrong that I'm not sure that memorising accent patterns would be all that useful for them.

After getting a set of method books (Nakama) and a couple of references, one of the first books I bought when I started learning Japanese was "Breaking Into Japanese Literature". The website for the book has mp3s of the stories in the book. I spent some time with headphones, listening to a phrase, repeating it, rewinding, repeating it, trying to match the reader as closely as possible. At one point I could pretty much recite Rashomon. This was a very natural way for me approach things, as I misspent a good part of my youth copping licks from records in a similar fashion. I'm not naturally perceptive, in this sense- I had to work hard to train my ear to the point it's at, and it is still not as good as the ear of some "natural" musicians I've met. But I did learn that it is possible to improve your ability to really "hear" things, or at least to learn to emphasise hearing the things that are important for some purpose.

I think this was pretty useful- unfortunately I had no-one to give me feedback- it would have been a lot more useful if I had. You've pointed out that introspection is not entirely reliable, and I won't disagree. But I certainly felt that that did more for my accent than memorizing pitch accents for every word would have. If you had to choose one or the other, which do you think would be more useful?
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RE: Learning pitch accent

Postby skrhgh3b » Thu 01.17.2008 3:41 am

arbalest71 wrote:
I'm not really saying that... I'm just wondering if memorising the accents for every word is the most productive way to improve your accent, though I don't have a firm opinion either way, tbh. And I'm certainly not saying that having a good accent is not important. But, when I listen to, say, Japanese who have a poor accent in English... the stresses are part of it, but there are so many other things wrong that I'm not sure that memorising accent patterns would be all that useful for them.


It's true, the bad news is the pitch accent of Japanese words have to be learned on a word-by-word basis just as the stress accent of English words have to be. The good news is, unlike English, an estimated 80% of the Japanese lexicon is unaccented. Still, accent is a part of a word's pronunciation, and yes, I believe the pronunciation of every word learned should be practiced. I'm putting a lot of effort into correcting bad pronunciation habits. I have no idea how large my vocabulary is, but I'm sure it's in the thousands, and I'm having to relearn the pronunciation of so many words as best I can. I didn't even know there was such a thing as pitch accent when I was a beginner, and I really wish I had.

People mistakenly believe articulating a word is the easy part. They probably don't realize that, for example, the /t, d, n/ sounds in Japanese are articulated with the tip of the tongue touching the back of the teeth just in front of the gum ridge, whereas the /t, d, n/ sounds in English are articulated at the gum ridge further back without touching the teeth. This is a very subtle difference, but all of these things big and small add up to produce a foreign sounding accent. Most of these things can't be heard because the adult ear isn't trained to hear them.
Last edited by skrhgh3b on Thu 01.17.2008 3:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
♪夢も見たくない 幸せなんか要らない
恋もしたくない お金なんか要らない
ぼくに必要な眠りを眠らせておくれ♪
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RE: Learning pitch accent

Postby HarakoMeshi » Thu 01.17.2008 5:00 am

What I do is I have a voice recorder, I record my own voice then listen and try to adjust my speech. Being able to hear what you sound like can be really helpful to correct some problems.
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