Difficult English sounds for the Japanese (part 2, ə) 日本人にとって難しい英語の音 2

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Jan 19, 2011 09:01 pronunciation
Katakanacorresponds to five different English vowels.

2. The 'very short' vowel ə appears at the beginning of the word about /əˈbaʊt/. This vowel seems to be the most common vowel in English and it has a name, schwa /ʃwɑː/. Despite its dominance in English, however, schwa is relatively neglected by both native English speakers and learners, probably because it is unstressed and very short. Except my English teacher, none of my English friends seems to know about the word 'schwa'.

However, schwa may be important for Japanese people who study English. The Japanese are accustomed to a certain length of vowels. They never expect to hear vowels pronounced very shortly, but, in fact, such very short vowels frequently occur in English speech due to the existence of schwa. Thus, the Japanese tend to have difficulty in recognizing schwa sounds, and, of course, syllables. And, that is a disaster.

Here is a simple explanation. If I say that so-called short vowels of English have a length of 1.0, schwa may only have 0.3-0.4 or something. However, Japanese-tuned ears only recognize vowels longer than 0.7.

Sometimes, no matter how clearly an English native speaker try to speak, it still may not be clear enough for Japanese-tuned ears because of the 'unexpectedly short' schwa sounds.

Schwa often sounds like very short and ambiguous 'ア'. But it may also sounds like other vowels, depending on the spelling (I'm not quite schwa, ...sorry, I mean 'sure'). But it is always short, and sometimes almost nothing. If you would like to use katakana to describe the sounds of English, half-width font like 'ア' may be suitable for schwa-related sounds.

The pictures above show Ultramen, who save the earth from aliens and can only speak 'Schwaaach!'


schwa - Wikipedia


Difficult English sounds for the Japanese (part 1, ɜː) 日本人にとって難しい英語の音 1

Difficult English sounds for the Japanese (part 2, ə) 日本人にとって難しい英語の音 2

Difficult English sounds for the Japanese (part 3, æ, ʌ, ɑː) 日本人にとって難しい英語の音 3

Difficult English sounds for the Japanese (part 4, oʊ/əʊ vs ɔː) 日本人にとって難しい英語の音 4
2.「超短母音」 ə は about という単語の頭に出てきます。この母音は英語で一番よく出て来る母音らしく、それ自身、schwa シュワー という名前を持っています。しかし、それだけ英語の中で目立つ割には、schwa は、英語話者からも学習者からも比較的無視されています。というのはおそらく、schwa には強勢がなく、とても短い音だからです。英語の先生を除くと、私のイギリス人の友人は一人もこの言葉を知らないようです。



ときには、英語話者がどんなにはっきりと英語を話そうと努めても、日本語耳にとってはまだ分かりにくいかもしれません。予想外に短い schwa母音のために。