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Matsuzawa, 2010 WORD Katakana
/ɑ/ bot
/i:/ beet イー
/i/ bit
/ei/ bait エイ
/e/ bet
/æ/ bat エァ
/uː/ boot ウー
/u/ good
/ou/ boat オウ
/ɔː/ bought オオ
/ə/ abbot アッ
/ʌ/ but アッ
/ɚ:/ bird アr
/ɚ/ Albert アr
/au/ about アウ
/ai/ bite アイ
/ɔi/ boy オイ

/a / unrounded and front vowel    /ɒ/ rounded and back vowel    /ɑ/ Unrounded and back vowel

Note: The katakana equivalent is more or less the same with the English sound, but does not accurately represent the sounds.

Click here to see a more detailed version of the PRONUNCIATION SYMBOLS


Front, central, and back represent the backness of the vowel or which part of your tongue is moving. Front means the front part of your tongue. Central means the center part of your tongue. Back means back part of your tongue.

 High, mid, and low represent the height of the vowel or the distance between your tongue and the roof of your mouth. High means your tongue is raised high or up that it is near your tongue. Mid means your tongue is in the middle position, it is not near nor far from the roof of your mouth. Low means that your tongue is far from the roof of your mouth. Usually, teachers say that you need to drop your jaw to pronounce these sounds, BUT remember, NEVER DROP YOUR JAW TOO MUCH. It is tiring and difficult, and it will not sound and look natural.  

This link has a Japanese translation for the explanation of the vowel table.http://webpark1183.sakura.ne.jp/hatsuon/

Table 1.1 -English Vowels-

  front central back
high /i:/




mid /no/


/е/            /or/

/ʌ /


low /æ/


  / ɑ /
Source: International Phonetic Association, 2018 and Matsuzawa, 2010

Table 1.2 -Japanese Vowels-

  front Central back
high /i: /(i)*   /u:/(U U)*
mid /ei/   /ou/*
low   /a/  
Source: Ohata, 2004 and Halpern, 2018 and Matsuzawa, 2010

Look at the tables above.

Are there sounds in English not present in Japanese? Are there sounds in Japanese not present in English?

The sounds that you cannot see in both charts are the sounds that will be difficult for Japanese students to pronounce.

Table 1.3 -Comparison of English and Japanese Vowels-

  front central back
high /i:/*


            / u:/*


mid /no/*



 / or /*

 /ʌ / 


low /æ/   


  / ɑ /

Look at the table above. The red ones are sounds in English that DO NOT have any similar sounds in the Japanese sound system. *The blue ones are sounds that HAVE small similarities to the American sound.

The sounds in red font colors are the sounds that are COMMONLY MISPRONOUNCED by students because it does not have a direct counterpart in the Japanese sound system.

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現在はセブノーマル大学の博士課程(哲学における研究と評価)に所属。Doctor of Philosophy in Research and Evaluation ( Cebu Normal University)
それ以前にはフィリピン大学で修士号(第2言語として英語教育)を取得しています。Masters of Education in English as a Second Language (University of the Philippines)

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