Making your Japanese Voice Sound More Natural — 10 Comments

  1. It feels amazing when somebody tells you you sound like a native speaker and they mean it. At work, I’ve only gotten the compliment once, after a casual ありがとう to a coworker. I must say that word hundreds of times every work day, but after that one instance she immediately stopped what she was doing, turned to me and said “You sounded exactly like a Japanese person right there! Your accent was absolutely perfect.” It was at a moment when I was very relaxed and not thinking about my tone of voice at all. If you try and force it, you’ll definitely sound awkward.

    But being relaxed and not forcing it doesn’t mean not even bothering to notice Japanese tones and sounds at all. I’ve met a few middle-aged people who had spent 20+ years in this country and can speak with good vocabulary and grammar, but their accents were atrocious. It sounded exactly like their English-speaking voice, including using English vowels and consonants in place of Japanese ones. Listening to it was actually more stressful than listening to complicated native Japanese.

  2. Although I agree with trying to sound as native as possible, I dislike hearing people I know who speak English do a complete 180 in Japanese. Like their pitch is extra high and sounds fake. Tones and pronunciation is important but at least let it match your natural pitch.

    I’m not even sure how I really sound but my coworker says my pronunciation is pretty good and that is probably because of how much I listen. Especially in the beginning of my journey I listened and sang along to many songs. She also loves how my words are more Kansai even though I study with standard Japanese (for example my ありがとうintonation is def not like Tokyo’s intonation).

  3. OK, what do you mean by “sound the same” in Japanese and English? Accent, lexicon, grammatical syntax, slang? You need to be a little more specific in the post.

    To me, sounding the same in Japanese and English is actually a good thing, but then my definition of “same” may be different. To me, “same” means it sounds like the same person is talking regardless of in what language. A lot of native bilinguals to me “sound the same” in both Japanese and English.

    However, I do not think I sound the “same” in Japanese and English, and I’m not talking about accents or anything; I mean my pitch, tone, cadence, etc. I think even someone who didn’t know either English or Japanese would tell me that I don’t sound the same in either language.

  4. In japanese, my pitch is higher, but I made sure it was like that on purpose. For some reason higher pitch turns out to having a more realistic accent for me. I started by just imitating satoshi from pokemon or shirobon from bomberman jetterz

  5. Aaron, I think a good example is Risa Stegmayer (the co-host of the show “Cool Japan”. She is a perfect, native speaker of both English and Japanese and when watching Cool Japan, she seamlessly crosses back and forth between Japanese and English. She doesn’t completely change into a new person or sound like a completely different voice- it is simply her voice speaking both languages perfectly. Pronunciation and inflection, of course, change dramatically and I think that is more the intended purpose of this article.

  6. If Japanese people like the way you sound, I think they will tell you so. I almost always get compliments from the people I meet here in Japan. even before I was living in Japan my Japanese instructor and my classmates kept telling me how natural I sounded. Can’t really give any good advice that hasn’t already been spoken here, but I can say, having an ear for sound is a big help. I was working in that field of work before I graduated college and left the US to teach English. Now my boss keeps telling me that I sound like one of those recordings on the native English CDs. Ha ha. By no means am I calling myself perfect though. Even I have cringe moments when I hear myself say a word in a bad accent. But the difference is, I can tell which words I’m saying sound off and which ones I’m saying sound natural.

  7. I know people often talk about becoming more formal with Japanese, but I seem to be the opposite. While my general use of English isn’t very formal to begin with, I very much speak like those my age in casual situations throwing around the オレs and じゃねぇs. I’d say I’m less formal in Japanese than in English, but I’m not sure if that’s a subconscious choice to justify my present level. It is just how I natural talk and I don’t want to use words I wouldn’t normally.

    • I’m the same way, when speaking to my Japanese friends, or even just writing stuff in Japanese to myself I tend to be quite colloquial… far more so than I am in English even. Yet at the same time, if I get upset with someone I’ll start speaking more formally. If I’m speaking to someone who is always speaking formally, I’ll do the same. If I speak to someone for the first time, I’ll start off a little more formal as well.

  8. I see a lot of animes, then I began speaking as a character of an anime. Ohayoooo… Moshimoshhhh… All anime characters are “genki”, specially cute girls. If a japanese hearing to me, woul’d be funny.

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