Here is a heavily edited recording for the first lesson (mostly to get rid of the annoying echo as much as possible) and my notes. You can subscribe to this podcast with iTunes from the following link:
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There is a very annoying echo throughout the whole thing, I’m very sorry about that. I will look into having that fixed by the next lesson.
Details of the next beginner lesson will be posted afterwards in another post.
And, Rossine, I’m so sorry I never correctly learned your name! I finally got time to relax and have it down now but my mind was just too full with other things at the time.
In Japanese, we don’t say “hello”.
Instead, there are three greetings for morning, afternoon, night. Let’s first look at the greeting for afternoon and night.
The last 「は」 is pronounced as /wa/ in this expression because it is the topic particles (covered later).
The tone is very important for proper pronunciation.
Theoretically, there are two tones: high and low, and the movement between them whether it’s up or down. The changes are important and not the actual pitch.
The key is to use your ears and mimic the tones. (Try humming the sounds first)
If you don’t get most of your tones right, native speakers won’t correct you because there’s too much to correct. So you need to pay attention from the start.
Be careful especially of English words because we tend to be used to the English way of saying them.
・Long vowel sound
The long vowel sound is two distinct sounds blurred together.
1. /a/ → あ
2. /i/ → い
3. /e/ → え
4. /u/o/ → う
There are several exceptions such as 「おお」 being the long vowel sound. （大きい、通る、and 遠い）
To split hairs, /ei/ is regarded as a long vowel but it’s really not. It’s actually pronounced “ay”. Just slur the /e/ and /i/ sound.
For the small や、ゆ、よ, the long vowel sound goes with the last vowel sound.
Long vowel sound is important because if you don’t pronounce it right, you may say another completely different word.
おばあさん vs おばさん
ここ vs 高校（こうこう）
家（いえ） vs いいえ
In Japanese, there are roughly three levels of politeness: casual, polite, honorific/humble.
Which one to use mostly depends on age, social ranking, the type of relationship, length of acquantice, etc. In normal conversational Japanese, you only need to worry about casual and polite.
Of the three greetings, only “Good Morning” has a casual/polite distinction.
「です」 is polite ending for state-of-being. When said quickly, it sounds like “des”
Add 「か」, the question marker to make a polite question. That’s it! You don’t have to worry about subject agreement. In fact, you don’t need anything else.
To say, “How are you?” we use the adjective 「元気」（げんき） which means cheerful, happy, in a good condition.
We can use nouns too with 「です」.
We’ll learn more about state-of-being such as the negative and referring to others in the next lesson. We’ll also learn more about politeness levels as we go along.
Try using these greeting with your family and friends. It’s good for daily practice.