Accents are an underrated, completely crucial part of speaking Japanese. Using the right accent, your speaking can go from difficult-to-understand to sounding perfectly natural. You won’t even need to change the words you’re using to make it more clear, you’ll just need to change your tone and pauses. Something I’ve realised while speaking Japanese for a while is how important an accent is when speaking Japanese. Accent may be more important in Japanese than most languages; when dealing with such a complex language it’s imperative to get our tone and pauses right. Today we’ll talk about some general rules you can follow to make your Japanese voice sound natural, so let’s jump right into it!
The first thing to touch on is the tone of Japanese. When compared to English, Japanese is far more monotone and neutral in tone. In English the goal is to change tone often in speech to sound as natural as possible, while the goal in Japanese is to keep one consistent tone throughout the entirety of your speech. And while your tone can change throughout your speech it’s not nearly as evident as it is in English. Even if you’re expressing surprise or sadness, your tone will generally stay at a similar level – very neutral.
The second thing to talk about is where you place mid-sentence pauses in Japanese. In English there can be myriads of different positions of where you put your pauses mid-sentence, but in Japanese, it’s actually quite easy to remember. Your pauses in Japanese will almost always be after any particle. Everything besides after a particular should all meld together without pause, while only leaving a very brief pause after every particle you use in the sentence. Let’s try it with a simple example sentence with small breaks to show you where to place your small pause:
昨日私は 公園に 歩きました
It’s as simple as finding where your particles are. If you follow these two simple rules your Japanese accent will sound much more natural.
But probably the best way to learn is speaking and listening to Japanese to perfect your accent. It can be difficult to master an accent by reading a blog post, so try talking to either a Japanese speaker or a Japanese tutor about finding any errors in your accent, and it will be an easy fix. In the meantime, remember the rules of keeping your tone flat and neutral, and remembering to place your mid-sentence pauses after particles!