Japanese words you probably mispronounce when speaking English (even though you know Japanese)

In Japanese by Jeremy Arns

There are likely some Japanese words you pronounce with an accent when speaking English, even if you speak Japanese. This is often preferable to using the Japanese word as it’s pronounced in Japanese if you’re speaking English, so you don’t sound pretentious like Ross on Friends talking about Ka-Ra-Te.

This list started off as words that you probably pronounce with an accent in English opposed to Japanese, however it’s really more a list of words that have been adopted into English from Japanese (and thus aren’t spoken with a Japanese “accent”, and are technically now English words).

I can only speak for American English, however a general rule for how words are pronounced is raising a middle syllable a pitch. For instance with the word “umbrella”, it’s “um-BREL-luh”. As another example “insurance” is “in-SURE-ance”. As a side note, this is typically the first syllable in southern states, where they say “IN-sure-ance” or “UM-brel-luh”.  This raising of pitch often finds it’s way into Japanese words for English speakers. There is a pitch accent in Japanese, however if you aren’t familiar with the pitch of a word, your best bet is to speak it as flatly and steadily as you can without raising pitch.


Teriyaki

Image result for 照り焼き チキン

English speakers will typically call this “Tera-YAH-key”. Sometimes it’s mispronounced further, like “Tera-yeah-key”.

English pronunciation of Teriyaki:

Japanese pronunciation of Teriyaki(照り焼き てりやき):


Karaoke

Image result for カラオケ

In English, this is typically pronounced “Carry-oh-key”.

English pronunciation of Karaoke:

Japanese pronunciation of Karaoke(カラオケ):


Tokyo

Image result for 東京

In English, this is typically pronounced “Toe-key-yo”.

English pronunciation of Tokyo:

Japanese pronunciation of Tokyo(東京 とうきょう):


Anime

Image result for ドラゴンボール キャラ

In English, this is typically pronounced “An-nuh-may”.

English pronunciation of Anime:

Japanese pronunciation of Anime(アニメ):


Pokemon

Image result for ポケモンIn English, this is typically pronounced “Poh-key-mahn”.

English pronunciation of Pokemon:

Japanese pronunciation of Pokemon(ポケモン):


Origami

Image result for 折り紙

In English, this is typically pronounced “O-rah-gah-me”.

English pronunciation of Origami:

Japanese pronunciation of Origami(折り紙 おりがみ):


Nori

Image result for ノリ

In English, this is typically pronounced “Nore-Ree”.

English pronunciation of Nori:

Japanese pronunciation of Nori(海苔 のり):


Wasabi

Image result for 山葵

In English, this is typically pronounced “Wuh-Sah-Bee”. On another note, most restaurants outside of Japan serve horseradish dyed with green food coloring (sometimes mixed with mustard powder or a mixture of a little wasabi). Wasabi is very hard to grow and too expensive for most restaurants out of Japan to keep in stock.

English pronunciation of Wasabi:

Japanese pronunciation of Wasabi(山葵 わさび):


Rickshaw (from Jinrikisha)

Image result for 人力車In English, this is typically pronounced “Rick-Shaw”, coming from the Japanese “jinrikisha” (人力車), or “human powered cart”.

English pronunciation of Rickshaw:

Japanese pronunciation of Rickshaw (人力車 じんりきしゃ):


Typhoon

Related image

In English, this is typically prounounced “Tie-Foon”.

English pronunciation of Typhoon:

Japanese pronunciation of Typhoon(台風 たいふう):


Sake

Image result for お酒

In English, this is typically pronounced “Sah-Key”. It’s also not drunk quite as often as westerners would like to think, where the go to drink is usually beer(ビール), watered down whiskey / ice (水割り), or shochu(焼酎).

English pronunciation of Sake:

Japanese pronunciation of Sake(酒 さけ):


Futon

Image result for 布団

In English, this is typically pronounced “Foo-Tawn”. In English this usually makes someone think of a fold out futon style couch, where in Japan it just means the mattress.

English pronunciation of Futon:

Japanese pronunciation of Futon:


Tempura

Image result for 天ぷら

In English, this is typically pronounced “Tem-poor-uh”.

English pronunciation of Tempura:

Japanese pronunciation of Tempura(天ぷら てんぷら):


Udon

Image result for 饂飩

In English, this is typically pronounced “Ooo-Dahn”.

English pronunciation of Udon:

Japanese pronunciation of Udon(饂飩 うどん):


Shiba Inu

Image result for 柴犬

In English, this is typically pronounced “She-Buh Eee-New”, or just “She-Buh”. Sometimes they’re referred to as “Sheebs”.

English pronunciation of Shiba Inu:

Japanse pronunciation of Shiba Inu (柴犬 しばいぬ):


Kudzu

Image result for 葛 いっぱい

In English, this is typically pronounced “Kud-Zoo”. This stuff took over the southeastern United States, and seeing how much it grows is  w i l d.

English pronunciation of Kudzu:

Japanese pronunciation of Kudzu(葛 くず):


Katana

Image result for 刀

In English, this is typically pronounced “Kuh-Tah-Nuh”.

English pronunciation of Katana:

Japanese pronunciation of Katana(刀 かたな):


Bonsai

Image result for 盆栽

In English, this is typically pronounced “Bahn-Zai”, which ends up sounding like a different Japanese word, 万歳(ばんざい)which can be translated as “hooray!”

English pronunciation of Bonsai:

Japanese pronunciation of Bonsai:


 

Not all words that came from Japanese are mispronounced, a lot of words have stayed for the most part intact. Here’s a group of words that sound (pretty much) the same in English and Japanese. 

 

Emoji

Image result for 絵文字

English pronunciation of Emoji:

Japanese pronunciation of Emoji(絵文字 えもじ):


Sushi

Image result for 寿司 食べる

English pronunciation of Sushi:

Japanese pronunciation of Sushi:


Shiatsu

Image result for 指圧

English pronunciation of Shiatsu:

Japanese pronunciation of Shiatsu:


Zen

Image result for 禅 庭

English pronunciation of Zen:

Japanese pronunciation of Zen:


Koi

Image result for コイ

English pronunciation of Koi:

Japanese pronunciation of Koi:


Haiku

Related image

English pronunciation of Haiku:

Japanese pronunciation of Haiku:


Miso

Image result for 味噌

English pronunciation of Miso:

Japanese pronunciation of Miso:

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