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Introduction 1 - question re: lesson

I was doing the first Introduction lesson, after finishing the Hiragana lessons and couldn't understand one of the combined characters. They presented the character 中 and asked for the sound based on three options. The voice was saying "naka" but that was not an option. The answer was ちゅう. When i've searched on a Japanese dictionary, 中 could be either なか or ちゅう. In the lesson, they used both interchangeably.

Is someone able to explain, why they were saying the なか pronounciation with the ちゅう writing? Is it an error?

Thanks in advance!

January 6, 2018



i feel your pain. You need an expert to answer this and sadly that's not me. But since no one has replied to you yet, I'll just say this: From what I've gleaned so far, almost every kanji has at least two readings. Sometimes the reading is affected by the position of the kanji in the combination... but not always... currently, I'm just learning each example separately and hoping that it will make sense later. Good luck!


Yes, the developers should have matched なか with 中 in this lesson to avoid confusion, but as you have found out, it can also be pronounced as ちゅう.

Examples: 田中 = たなか = Tanaka and 中国 = ちゅうごく= China

The readings are different because the Japanese, when developing a writing system, originally borrowed many characters from the Chinese language, and these characters retained their Chinese readings (called on'yomi). However, Japanese people have assigned Japanese readings (called kun'yomi) to the kanji as well. Generally, kanji have at least 2 readings because of this, and sometimes even more.

In this case, the kun'yomi reading for 中 is なか and the on'yomi reading is ちゅう.

There are lots of resources out there for learning kanji, but I highly recommend you purchase or find a copy of the Kodansha Kanji Learner's Course, and/or find an Anki deck for it ASAP to help you out with your kanji learning!


I am far from an expert but I would like to see if I can be helpful with the 2 cents I know.

Since the ancient time Japan had already developed its own language, at least a verbal one. The sound of the words so inherited is referred to as 和語 Wago, or Japanese words. Yet China being a powerful nation at such time and more advanced in economy, technology and cultural development, had a lot of influence on Japanese language. Not only Chinese characters were imported just as they were, as Kanji, but Chinese characters of similar sound, as well.as their parts, were borrowed and transformed into 仮名 Kana, to encrypt the Japanese sounds (仮名 has the meaning of borrowed names), and were used to annotate literature in Kanji.

Also Chinese sounds imported at different epochs and from different parts of China may lead to variation of sounds.

All these mingled through time and become the Japanese today: a mixed writing system combining Kanji and Kana (Hiragana and Katakana), and some meaning and words can be expressed in Japanese sound as well as Chinese sound. Depending on how a word has been originated and evolved, they take on a specific sound, even when the same Kanji is used.

Thus it is not at all consistent and there is no simple rule (if only it exists). We need to remember by heart which combination goes with which sound.

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