Strange but true: pronunciation similarities in Spanish and Japanese

If you know anything about the history of Spain and Japan, you know that there are few similarities between their cultures and languages. Culturally and linguistically, Spain has a strong influence on ancient Rome as well as the country’s long Moorish rule.

In contrast, Japan had its strongest influences from Asia, mainly Korea and China. The different forms of Japanese writing have their roots in Chinese writing, although Mandarin Chinese and Japanese are linguistically completely different.

The Mandarin Chinese language is a good example of a language that is in a different category from Japanese and Spanish. Chinese uses a complex array of tones to communicate meaning. A good example is the word “ma”. This word can mean anything from “mom” to “horse” to a kind of “pronounced question mark” at the end of a sentence to indicate that you’re asking a question. There are 5 different ways (sounds) you can use to pronounce “ma” and each sound would completely change the meaning of the word.

In contrast, Japanese and Spanish don’t use as complex tones to change the meaning of words. Japanese and Spanish are thus in a different category from Mandarin Chinese and other tonal languages ​​such as Vietnamese and Thai.

We can also separate Japanese and Spanish from languages ​​like English. When a person learns English as a second language, they often struggle with English pronunciation rules. English isn’t one of those languages ​​where it’s easy to understand the pronunciation of a word as it’s spelled, and there are complicated rules about when to pronounce things differently.

In contrast, Spanish and Japanese have consistent pronunciation rules that make it possible to see the written word and know how to pronounce it. In Spanish, once you know the sounds of the Spanish alphabet and some basic pronunciation rules, you’re pretty much ready to see and pronounce Spanish words.

In Japanese, the sounds of the language are represented by a small set of Japanese characters called kana (hiragana and katakana), each of which represents a syllable in the language. Once you master the sounds related to this small number of syllables, you can piece together the pronunciation of any Japanese word.

So, at a high level, Japanese and Spanish share the quality that their written forms can be used to easily convey the pronunciation of words clearly and consistently. But even if we delve deeper into the pronunciation, we see more similarities between the two languages.

The vowels in Spanish and Japanese are pronounced roughly the same. The “a” is pronounced like the “a” in father. In Spanish, an example is “gracias” (thank you) and in Japanese, an example is “asa” (tomorrow). The “i” is pronounced like the “ee” in the English word “meet”. In Spanish, an example is the word “mi” (my) and the Japanese “ichi” (one). In both languages, the “u” is pronounced like the “oo” in “loot”. Examples include “umi” (sea) and “gustar” (like) in Japanese and Spanish, respectively. The “e” is pronounced like the “e” in “bed”. In Japanese it is the initial of “ebi” (shrimp) and in Spanish it is the initial of “el” (der). Finally, “o” is pronounced like the “o” in “hope”. In Spanish, an example is “ocho” (eight) and in Japanese “otoko” (man).

Also, the consonants in Spanish and Japanese are roughly the same, with some notable exceptions such as the Spanish and Japanese pronunciation of the “r”.

A Spanish word is made up of a series of consonants and vowels that we can break down into syllables. The Spanish alphabet is used to compose a word like “gustar” which essentially breaks down into two syllables “gu-star”.

As mentioned earlier, Japanese pronunciation will break things down into the sounds of the syllables of the kana characters. Each kana character represents a sound in the word and can be written as such. Using one of the examples above, we could break down Japanese pronunciation into individual kana character sounds like this “o-to-ko”.

So in both Spanish and Japanese we have most of the consonants and vowels that have basically the same pronunciation, a consistent set of pronunciation rules, and the fact that both languages ​​are non-tonal. With these common elements, we have the ingredients we need to have pronunciation overlap between the two languages.

There is at least one example where a word is pronounced roughly the same in Spanish and Japanese. In Japanese, it is a form of the verb “kaerimasu” (to return, to go home). In Spanish, it’s a form of the verb “callar” (to stop talking or be quiet). In both languages, the initial sounds of “ca” and “ka” are the same. The verbs just have to change their form to make them sound the same.

In Japanese, a verb of the “kaerimasu” type changes to one of the Japanese forms called the “-te form,” such as “kaette” (ka-eh-te). This verb form is used in sentences like “Chan-san wa Chuugoku ni kaette imasu” (Mr. Chan has returned to China).

In Spanish, a verb of the type “callar” in an imperative conjugation (to give an order) results in the word “callate” (shut up). This can be used in a phrase like “Callate la boca” (shut up).

The two words “kaette” and “callate” are actually pronounced very similarly, due to the effect the “ae” combination has on “kaette” and the way some Spanish dialects pronounce the “ll”.

With a more rigorous analysis, the similarities begin to break down, but the aim is not to prove that Spanish and Japanese have exactly the same pronunciation, only that there is a surprisingly high degree of similarity due to the linguistic distance between the two languages.

Perhaps there are other, better examples of this. If the reader knows of other such examples where Japanese and Spanish words have the same or very similar pronunciation of words, please feel free to contact me through my website listing at the end of this article.

In conclusion, it is indeed strange but true that the languages ​​Japanese and Spanish can find similarities despite their linguistic roots on opposite sides of the planet.

It’s strange but true that the languages ​​Japanese and Spanish can share pronunciation similarities despite having vastly different linguistic histories. Find out why this is the case and see an example.

Thanks to Barry J Smythe | #Strange #true #pronunciation #similarities #Spanish #Japanese

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