In a practice round I got asked to choose the correct characters for "ocha" and two of the choices were "おちゃ" and the same thing with a slightly bigger "ゃ".
Is there a difference between them, or is it a problem with the question?
The word with the small や is pronounced (ocha), and is the correct choice.
The one with big や is pronounced (ochiya) and isn't correct.
I summarized some Japanese pronunciation resources for beginners in this post (click on the gray text). I hope they can be of some use. Good luck with your Japanese learning.
ちゃ is a yoon character for a single sound "cha" like we use "th" for one sound in English. ちや is for two sounds "chi-ya". In this sense, it is misleading to call the Japanese Kana for "syllables" when they are for "mora". These can sound very similar to foreign listeners but can have different meanings.
One such example is こんやく kon'yaku (engagement) and こにゃく konyaku (Japanese potato). My fiancee does not like it when I call her a vegetable by mistake. This is also why romanised Japanese has apostrophes to distinguish these (in addition to macrons: e.g., ō=おう).
@kelsi602: I plugged both こんやく and こにゃく into Quizlet to have them read to me, and I don't hear a difference - could you put into words what the difference would be?
(Also, from what I can find online, the potato is こんにゃく which would make it easier to distinguish because of the double n.)
Watch this youtube
ちゃ is written as Cha in Romaji only to distinguish itself from Chia ちあ. It is not a single A vowel as Char in Charcoal. If you say slowly you should hear yourself saying Cheeea, not Chaaaa.
In each of the following words you should have 3 distinct syllables that are different in each word:
治安/ちあん Social order, safety
Chi - A - Ng
土屋/つちや A Japanese family name
Tsu - Chi - Ya
茶碗/ちゃわん A bowl
Chia - Wa - Ng
Note that the above are not standard Romaji notation.