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Mnemonics for sa and chi?

I keep getting sa and chi mixed up, do you have a good mnemonic for it?

March 23, 2018



The mnemonic I used was that if you put さ and ち right next to each other (like さち), it kinda looks like a butterfly (use your imagination), and I would associate the shape with the way it would be read: sachi. So I knew that the one on the left was sa, and the one on the right was chi.

Now, the word for butterfly unfortunately isn't sachi, but the trick helped me distinguish the two letters in the beginning, and once I was comfortable recognizing which was which, I could just stop using the association.


さ looks like a sitting person in a “sa-bway” and ち looks like a “chichi” (word for father in Japanese) laughing.


Ooh, I like "sa-bway"! Not sure chichi will work so well for me, but maybe it will help someone else. :)


I used to imagine the character to be a head looking to the right. The curve at the bottom is the mouth:

さ is a wide open mouth so it makes the A (sa) sound.

ち is the tounge coming forward to make a CHI sound.


This sounds helpful too, thanks!


After a few days, this is the one that helps me most, thank you again. :)


I think of ち(chi) as the number five while さ(sa).. maybe you can think of that character as the lowercase letter (d). I think I actually had trouble with this myself before.


How does number five and lowercase 'd' help in any way to prevent mixing up さ and ち? ^^;


Well, thinking of ち as the number five helped me out so I might as well recommend it to someone and hopefully it'll help them out aswell. Now thinking of さ as the lowercase (d) just kinda came up to me while I was typing so that can be a little iffy. We all learn in different ways :P


I've just realised... You know how '5' looks similar to the letter 'S', isn't it therefore even more confusing to remember that 5 is for "chi" not "sa"? xD


That might be vaguely helpful as something to liken the two shapes to. However, this discussion is about finding a way to prevent mixing up さ and ち.

So, what I meant is, how does "number five" help you remember whether ち is "sa" or "chi", and how does "lowercase d" help you remember whether さ is "sa" or "chi"?

The name of the alphabet letter 'd' in English is "dee", for which the pronunciation is written as di: in IPA phonetics. This sound has much more in common with "chi" or "ti" (ち) than it does with "sa" (さ).

In fact, the form of ち with the voicing marker ぢ ("ji") is written in some versions of romaji as "di"!

So having "lowercase d" as a mnemonic for さ "sa" seems pretty confusing...


A mnemonic doesn't need to be perfectly logical or fit exactly to work. As long as it gives you a mental hook to latch on to when you are struggling, it serves its purpose.

Chi was one of the first hirigana that i memorized, in large part because the shape was so recognizable.

In the case of distinguishing between さ and ち, associating Chi with 5 and Sa with d will help you to tell the characters apart based on their shapes quite easily.

If you are struggling with the sounds themselves, or if these suggestions don't work for you, use something else. But if you look at a character and think "Okay, that's either Chi or Sa ... but which is it?", memorize these mnemonics to help yourself remember better.


Ah, I *think* I understand what you mean...

First you have to memorise that "5" is to be paired with the sound/romaji "chi", and memorise that "d" is to be paired with the sound/romaji "sa".

Once you've finished memorising that, then, when you see ち and know it's the one which looks like a 5, your memory then tells you 5 is paired with the sound/romaji "chi".

Therefore, so long as you remember 5=chi and d=sa correctly, you've got a link from ち to 5 to "chi" and from さ to d to "sa". Something like this?


Yep, you got it. Not the pronunciation, but the looks.


Oh haha, my apologies. I was basing on how they look similar lol. As in ち to me looks like the number five and same goes with さ, which to me looks like the lowercase (d).

Sorry for making you type all of that hehe.

EDIT: Basically what Katherine said :P


Think of さ as sounding like 'sa', and ち as sounding like 'chi'. Practice writing words with each one (one both) elements of the words. Using tricks or association will only hurt you in the long run, as you will have to unlearn them (unlearning takes way more time than learning).


In theory what you're saying about having to unlearn makes sense, I just have not found that to be the case. Using mnemonics helped me in the beginning (I remember a picture of すas superman, diving down - very memorable), and then they somehow just faded into the mental woodwork.

As General Lee said in "Hamilton": "But there's so many of them!" So any help is appreciated.


'ち' looks like '七' ('qi ' in Mandarin or 'shichi ' Japanese On reading) with an extra curl; this is not etymologically accurate, but it worked for me.


ち looks like 5 to me, so I never had any trouble identifying Chi. Although I would occasionally confuse Chi (ち) with Ra (ら) until I got better at checking for the crossed lines.

I would sometimes confuse Sa (さ) and Ki (き), but I eventually got them sorted out too. Ki looks a little like an old key, when you look at it the right way. For Sa, I thought of a signpost being SAwed in half. Both Ki and Sa can be written using an extra stroke, so the shaft is not connected to the hoop. This is the "saw mark" that helped me remember the sound for Sa.

You can tell it is a signpost, because there is just one horizontal line - that's the sign, attached to the broken post. The rusty old Ki has two lines, so it can open an old padlock.


It does look a little like '5', although I'm not sure how that helps unless you can somehow associate 'five' with 'chi'.
I also saw 'き' as a key, however. The only mnemonic that stuck with me for 'さ' (found on memrise) was that it looks like the profile of a shifty-eyed man telling a lie ('撒謊' in Chinese), although this is not likely to be much use to someone who doesn't know any Mandarin.


I have no knowledge of Mandarin, but I'm sure this will be helpful to someone. :)


Sa is like a sagging belly Chi is like the face of someone sideways, so you can see their chin That's what worked for me


Caveat: This will only help if you know that さ and ち are one of either "sa" or "chi".

The way that I keep them separate is that the bottom of さ looks like a c, but it's not "chi" (which obviously starts with c). Therefore さ is "sa". Which means ち is "chi".

Seems counter intuitive, but it's what helped me. Good luck!

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