Sunday, May 2, 2010

Japanese for Saké Lovers

Saké can be intimidating because of all the "strange" terminology, the Japanese terms of which many people are unfamiliar. On my blog, I have tried to help demystify this terminology, explaining the definitions of these words. I have also presented additional resources that will assist you in that regard.

But another obstacle still stands. Ok, you may know the meanings of these Japanese terms but that is not enough. How do you correctly pronounce them? You would like to order Saké at a restaurant but you don't want to sound foolish. Help is now here.

John Gauntner, the famed Saké expert and "Saké Dendoushi" ("Saké Evangelist"), has created Japanese for Saké Lovers ($9.99), a short text file and three audio files that will teach you how to pronounce many Saké-related terms and phrases. I purchased it, hoping to hone my own pronunciation skills.

The fourteen-page text file begins with "The Basics of Pronunciation of the Japanese Language." This section provides some theory behind pronunciation, as well as how certain letters and letter groups are pronounced. This part will give you some valuable tips, that may help you pronounce other Japanese words that are not in this text. The other sections provide the list of words that are in the audio files. There is an Appendix too, providing a chart of the basic hiragana symbols, one of the Japanese forms of phonetics.

The first audio file has a list of 46 items, including Saké grades, rice names, and other terms. The second audio file contains 62 Saké brand names and the third file contains 29 useful phrases and sentences, especially when ordering Saké. The voice in the audio is a native, female speaker and she repeats each word three times in the first audio file, and twice in the other two files. There is no explantion for the difference in the number of repeats.

I found these files to be very helpful, especially the file of useful phrases such as "Please show me the sake menu" and “What ginjō do you carry?” The files are certainly easy to use, and cover plenty of Saké-related terms. Most Saké books do not contain a pronunciation guide to all of these terms. At best, you might find a few pronunciations provided, but with no explanation for the reasons why. You'll gain more confidence when you feel more secure pronouncing these words, and another obstacle to your enjoyment of Saké will have fallen.

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