handakuten [ ﾟ] and dakuten [ ﾞ], and the little や、ゆ、よ, and つ (Unofficial Tips & Notes)
[This version is open for comments.]
If you tend to get overwhelmed with technical stuff, I recommend reading this whole thing once. Then, go through and focus only on the highlighted parts. (All of this is good, but the yellow stuff is essential. I recommend writing it down to help it stay in your memory.)
The handakuten [
ﾟ] and dakuten [
Japanese diacritical marks that alter the sound of the kana they are attached to. For instance, は (ha) becomes ぱ (pa) and て (te) becomes で
To see what these look and sound like without the handakuten and dakuten, click here
There are two things Japanese learners generally think of when someone mentions "little kana". The first is "furigana". These are the miniature hiragana sometimes placed over kanji to give you the pronunciation.
The second kind are the や、ゆ、よ, and つ.
Starting with や、ゆ、よ, these have to do with mora (timing).
Take the words byouin (hospital) and biyouin (beauty parlor). These words are very similar to each other. However, Japanese has no stand alone B sound. And, also these words are pronounced slightly different.
What is the difference in pronunciation?
(With little ょ):
びょういん Byo/O/I/N (hospital)
(4 beats of sound)
(Without little よ):
びよういん BI/YO/O/I/N (beauty parlor)
(5 beats of sound)
*Note: Space between / and / take up one beat of sound.
Note on pronunciation: whenever you see お (O) followed by う (U), it means to draw out the O sound for an extra beat of time, instead of making the U sound.
The sokuon works a little bit differently. (sokuon =
The miniaturized tsu っ or ッas represented in katakana). This appears when there is a doubled consonant, because in Japanese double consonants create a glottal stop. For instance, matte in English is not written as まてて in kana. It is written as
To pronounce this, think of beats of sound:
まて is MA/TE (2 beats of sound).
まって is MA/ /TE (3 beats of sound.)
To form the Japanese glottal stop in まって:
After saying MA, put the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth, but hold it for just a second before saying the final TE.
Other Unofficial Tips & Notes:
Japanese Skill: Position
As always, I am not a native Japanese speaker. If I have made a mistake, you are welcome let me know in the comments below. ^_^
This is a good point, beginners of the language tend to get these mixed up. They look and sound similar, but they are quite different.
I always tell people to look at it like this:
Hospital = Byo-in (byoo-een) A quick byo sound
Beauty Parlor = Bi-You-in (bee-yoh-een) A short Bi sound beside a long Yo sound.
(Okay, I installed the keyboard purely to say thank you, and wow, the Japanese keyboard on iOS is totally confusing LOL so I ended up using voice recognition. This is by way of saying, if I messed up, I'm sorry. But thank you, this is very useful. I remembered about the dashes and the dots, but I had forgotten (and couldn't figure out from the course) what the little kana meant.)
It is a matter of memorization and exposing yourself to the language frequently enough. If you are familiar with the terms "voicing" and "devoicing", these marks signify that you want to shift from devoiced syllables, to voiced syllables. If you're not familiar with those concepts, don't worry. It's just a memorization shortcut if you are. Otherwise, just use the instructions below. ^_^
Here are the most common:
k -> g. Example, ka (か) -> ga (が)
s -> z . Example, su (す) -> zu (ず)
t -> d. Example, ta (た) to da (だ)
h -> b, p. Example ha (は) -> ba (ば), and ha (は) to pa (ぱ)
These ones don't follow the same rules
"Shi" (し) turns into "Ji" (じ)
"Chi" (ち) also turns into "Ji" (ぢ)
"Tsu" (つ) turns into "Zu" (づ)
Here is a website with this information if you'd like to add it to your bookmarks. :)