Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Long Sounds

I'm back again with another quick lesson about Hiragana! This time it's as the title suggests: long sounds.

What are long sounds? They're basically just making a character sound longer. Take for example, とうきょう (Tōkyō). To English speakers, the capital of Japan is Tokyo, but it's really pronounced Tōkyō, with both O's being long. The length of pronouncing it should be about 2 syllables, and here's why.

とうきょう is spelled in romaji "toukyou." The う (u) that you see is not pronounced "ooh," (to-ooh, kyo- ooh is incorrect) because it follows an -o sound. If う (u) follows an -o sound, it makes the O sound long. So simply saying "Tokyo" when you're speaking Japanese is incorrect. You have to make the O's long, the length of two syllables: "Too-kyoo."

To make -a sounds like ka, sa, ma, etc. long, you follow the characters with あ.
To make -i sounds like ki, shi, mi, etc. long, you follow the characters with い.
To make -e sounds like ke, se, me, etc. long, you follow the characters with え.*
To make -u sounds like ku, su, mu, etc. long, you follow the characters with う.
To make -o sounds like ko, so, mo, etc. long, you follow the characters with う.**

*This is pretty uncommon, although it exists. You'll more likely see combinations of -e with い (i), as in せんせい (sensei).
**Mentioned earlier above with the example with とうきょう (Toukyou), to make -o sounds long, you have to follow it with う. Very rarely will you see -o with an お. HOWEVER, it does exist, making it that much more confusing! A very common word, such as おおきい (big) exists. The "o" sound is long, because there are two お's. You'll just have to remember which -o words are long with お!

I know this little lesson may be confusing, so if there are any questions or comments, or more examples are needed, comment below!

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