It is the season of karaoke parties, including TechKaraoke, giving me plenty of opportunity to hear the word karaoke mispronounced and even misspelled to fit the mispronunciation. Tonight, it was Ryan Owens on ABC World News with Charles Gibson that put me over the top.
Karaoke originated in Japan and it is a Japanese word meaning empty orchestra.
“Kara” comes from “karappo” meaning empty, and “oke” is the abbreviation of “okesutura,” or orchestra. I arrived in Japan in 1981, in plenty of time to participate in many hours of obligatory karaoke business entertainment during my twenty years working there.
Since karaoke is a Japanese tradition that we now enjoy here in the USA, it would be nice if we could pronounce it.
Japanese words are actually straightforward and simple to pronounce. If you know some Spanish, then you are familiar with the vowels and you should be able to sound out any Japanese word that you see written in roman letters. You should also be able to spell any Japanese name that you hear without having to have it spelled for you.
There are many things that make Japanese a difficult language but pronunciation is not one of them.
Please enjoy your festive singing this holiday season. May you be safe, healthy and happy.