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Wrong voice line uced for 中?

I dont know how many are experiencing this or its just me but there is a question that asks "what sound does this make". When it asks what sound 中 makes, why does it play a voice line saying "なか" but the right answer for the question is "ちゅう"?

June 29, 2017



This is due to the different readings of chinese characters (so called kanji, which means 'chinese character') in Japanese 漢(kan)=chinese, 字(ji)=character.

Most of the kanji have one or more Chinese (or Sino) -Japanese reading and aditionally one or more Japanese readings.

For example the kanji 中 has only one sino-japanese reading

  • チュウ (ちゅう Sino-Japanese are written in katakana to differ them from the Japanese readings).

Especially the chinese readings can change a bit, depending on the other kanji and the place, 中 is connected to

  • -ジュウ (じゅう)

and two Japanese readings

  • なか
  • うち

There are also special readings used for Japanese names, so called なのり

  • あたる
  • かなえ

Which of the readings are correct or have to be used depends on the words, this character is used in respective the function of the kanji in a kanji compound or word. There are some rules, but to be honest: There are also many, many exceptions, so you have to learn the vocabs, the writing and the spelling by heard.

But in most cases one of the Japanese readings (訓読み) is used, when the Kanji stands alone. In case of 中 it is なか but in certain situations you may have to choose うち. The Sino-Japanese reading (音読み) is often used, when 中 stands at the end of a kanji compound or word and often it´s function is to express something in entirely (the whole day, the whole night, the whole content and so on). To express a middle status often ちゅう is used.

You will learn it, if you read many Japanese books.

Some examples of kanji compounds using 中, to show the different use:

  • 中学校 (ちゅうがっこう, middle school)
  • 一日中 (いちにちじゅう, the whole day)
  • 小夜中 (さよなか, in the middle of the night)
  • 中味 (なかみ, content)

A short explanation about 音読み (on-reading) and 訓読み(kun-reading).

'On' means sound and this is for a reading, Japanese people heared, when Chinese people spoke their word for that specific character. As Japanese is very different from Chinese and it was difficult for Japanese people to hear, what Chinese people said, there are sometimes many different on-readings for one chinese character or kanji in Japanese. Also the characters may get into Japan on different times and different places in Japan, so that they can differ very much.

'kun' means term and these readings are real Japanese words for the meaning of a chinese character. But over the time, the characters changed their original meanings a bit in Japan, so that there are sometimes many slightly different ideas connected to one chinese character or kanji.

So now you can see, how complicate it is to program a course for Japanese in Duolingo.


Thank you so much for taking the time tor reply, this has helped a lot!


"なか" is used when 中 is alone. "ちゅう" is used in compounds like for example in 中国 (ちゅうごく). There are more readings but now you don't need to know them.

The same situation is with other characters so just listen carefully and get which reading is for alone character and which readings are used for compounds.

I've tried to explain that as simple as is it possible ;)


This explains why Duo reads that particular sound. However, the problem is with the Duo engine. It shows a kanji and from the options it's clear that one reading is the correct answer (the other ones don't appear as options). Then when the exercise is finished and Duo reads the correct answer, it uses the other reading.

I understand why from a programming perspective (the course has already used both readings) but from a language learning perspective it's totally useless for Duo to work this way.


This is the best explanation. It literally answers exactly what I had a question about, clear and simple. It completely cleared up any confusion for me.


You're welcome ;)


While some answers explain why 中 is pronouced "naka", I still think that it's a bug if clicking on ちゅう causes the audio to say "naka".


You are absolutely right. If you want us to learn that the two sounds mean the same thing, find a way to connect the three (meaning, onyomi and kunyomi) in a different kind of exercise. It is just plain bad pedagogy to set up an exercise for teaching the reading of hiragana that disconnects the hiragana from the sounds that accompany them!!!!


This might make sense to some other people but being someone who has had no experience with the language what so ever, I am, tremendously confused, can someone explain this to me?


That is not wrong. Each kanji has two ways to pronounce: Onyomi (Chinese reading) and Kunyomi (Japanese reading). It depends on meaning in the sentence, you will pronounce this kanji (this character) by onyomi or kunyomi.

The Kanji 中 has kunyomi (Japanese reading) is なか (means inside of something) and onyomi (Chinese reading) is ちゅう ( for example: ちゅうごく - 中国 - China)

Sorry that is what I know, hope others will explain more clearly.


Ah thank you for your help


You are welcome :-)


Thank you for all those who took the trouble to explain that there can be more than one way to read a kanji, but why is it relevant here? I want 中 to be read as なか as that is what the audio keeps saying!!! It is only used in the exercises as part of TaNAKA so it is irrelevant (and confusing) that in another context it apparently can represent other sounds. If context is so important - then surely the CONTEXT HERE is what should apply? Why can't the duolingo team change it? Don't they check our discussions? (I guess the answer to that is no)

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