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I just started learning Japanese regularly, and I was wondering if it's worth it to work on pitch accent while learning grammar and vocab or forget it for now and start working on it when I can speak a bit and understand some spoken speech? And in any case, is there a pitch accent dictionary I can use or looking up every word isn't an efficient way of learning?

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    I don't speak Japanese at all so take this with a grain of salt: When I started learning Chinese, I spent a lot of time focusing on pronunciation to make sure I could make all of the sounds (including tones and the infamous 'r') correctly. Many of my classmates did not. You find out quickly that having a lot of grammar and vocab isn't worth much if you can't pronounce it: A significant fraction of my classmates could read and write excellently, but when they were speaking it was almost unintelligible.
    – user9600
    Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 15:59
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    I don't know how important pitch accent is to Japanese, but based on my experience learning Chinese, I would recommend that when you are first beginning learning a foreign language, putting effort into learning correct pronunciation is probably more valuable than grammar or vocab. That can wait. If you build bad pronunciation habits early, it's extremely difficult to correct them later. This is especially true about aspects of the language that you don't have in your native language.
    – user9600
    Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 16:01
  • thanks! By the way, is the tone intonation in Chinese governed by some rules or do you have to remember it for every word specifically? Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 6:35
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    There's no pattern. You have to remember it for every word specifically.
    – user9600
    Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 11:56
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    And thank you for the words of encouragement!:) Remembering the pitch accent was less hard then I thought too, haha. Thank you and good luck on your language learning journey! Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 15:51

2 Answers 2

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Short answer: yes.

Elaborate:

  1. Resources: When you use a good Japanese-Japanese dictionary or Takoboto (online or the app) it will take only a second to take note of the accent. You can also hear the correct accent when you use TTS in Anki.
  2. In my own experience, even at the beginning you'll notice a few patterns, like that most sino-japanese compounds have the 平板 accent, and quite a few sino-japanese words that don't have this accent become much more distinctive with their specific accent. Also in my own experience, when you note the accent, you are more likely to hear it as well, which will reinforce your awareness of the accent, without you having to drill it. Beyond basic vocabulary, it may be better to use Anki only for passive repetition (according to this guy). I put only complete Japanese sentences in the front of an Anki note, let those being read with TTS. If you really need to put in one word, put は after it so that you can hear if the word ends in a high pitch.
  3. From the beginning? Yes, you don't want to need to unlearn bad habits.
  4. Is it really important? Pitch accent in Japanese is at least as important as is stress accent in English. Do you want to be the person who puts stress on the wrong syllable all the time? Imagine having to listen to someone who does that in English (watch these Japanese people commenting on each others mistakes).
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The pitch accent is often forgotten in Japanese lessons, but is very important. Japanese have many similar words differentiated only by pitch accent.

The Takoboto Android app can display the pitch accent. You have to activate it in the settings. Sometimes, you have two different pitch accents because it can vary from a region to another.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=jp.takoboto

(I am not affiliated with this application.)

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  • Welcome to LL.SE. This does not seem to answer the question. Furthermore, please mention explicitly if you are affiliated with the linked programme.
    – Tommi
    Commented Oct 21, 2020 at 15:09
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    "And in any case, is there a pitch accent dictionary I can use or looking up every word isn't an efficient way of learning?" This phrase is not very clear. It looks like he started to write a phrase and finished with another. I thought he was looking for a dictionary indicating the pitch accent and was answering to it. I'm not affiliated with this application.
    – Thomas
    Commented Oct 21, 2020 at 17:02
  • Thanks. I edited the lack of affiliation into the answer. I would upvote the answer if you addressed the question on whether it is a good idea to start learn pitch accent from the start, based on you experiences or other reliable sources. It would improve the answer a lot.
    – Tommi
    Commented Oct 22, 2020 at 6:56

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