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Japanese Lesson 1: pronunciation

I thought, hey why not. I've already given all my resources, but sometimes it's still hard to get started. I could point everyone toward my Japanese blog, but all of you here at Duolingo are pretty comfortable with the order that things are taught here and I don't want to mess with that set up if it's working. Blah blah blah.

So the first thing I want to teach is pronunciation and a few basics of the language before I start with the "Basics 1" so to speak.

Okay so first off, unlike in English, Japanese consonants and vowels for the most part don't change sound. They stay pretty consistent. You don't have to deal with pesky silent letters and stuff like that.

Which is partially a lie. Sometimes "u" ends up being silent. Like in "Desu" which is pronounced "Dess" but it's not a very common thing, don't worry. Then there's "ha" and "wo" as particles... but I'll explain that when we get there.


A - ah - as in "father"

I - ee - as in "see"

U - oo - as in "Luke"

E - eh - as in "deck"

O - oh - as in "boat"


K - like the hard C in "Car" "Cat" or "Can"

G - as in "Gift"

S - as in "Sit"

SH - as in "SHe"

Z - as in "Zoo"

J - as in "Jar"

T - as in "Tell"

CH - as in "CHair"

TS - ... this is weird and I don't remember where I got it... but like the "TS" in "FooTStore"

D - as in "Dog"

N - as in "No"

H - as in "Hat"

F - this one sounds more like an almost close mouthed sigh. More like "Fhoo" not a hard "F" sound.

B - as in "Bat"

P - as in "Pink"

M - as in "Man"

Y - as in "Yes"

R - sounds sort of like "D", "L", and "R" had a baby. Put your tongue right behind your front teeth and close to the roof of your mouth, but don't touch either. Now say "Roo" (or "Rah" or what ever combo you want). Your tongue should (or might) just barely touch the roof of your mouth when you say it. Hear that odd D/L/R mixed sound? That's it!

W - as in "Water"

N - as in "No" (adding this a 2nd time for the lone "N" 「ん」)


Sometimes you'll find a consonant next to "ya" "yu" or "yo" same pronunciation rules apply.

So "Kya" would be the hard C sound as in "Cat" next to the sound "Yah" "K-yah" :)

Sometimes you may find two vowels together they lengthen the sound a little bit:

OU - like the O in "show" but held just a fraction longer.

EI - like the A in "lay"

II - hold the "ee" sound (as in "see") a little longer

AA - hold the "a" sound (as in "father") a little longer

AI - pronounced "eye"

The rest should go on acting as normal:

Example: iie = "ee" + "eh"

I think this lesson has gone on long enough... so that's it for now. If you know a pronunciation I forgot or maybe a mistake I made, let me know! Also feel free to ask any questions Either myself, or someone else familiar with the language will be happy to help you!

Anyone who has something to add, feel free. I want this to be a learning community, not just a teacher and students. Don't be afraid to help others or to even give me new information! I'm still learning too! :) You might teach me something new as well!

Thank you! And good luck!

Next Lesson

Japanese Lesson Table of Contents


March 4, 2015



This is really interesting. Have you ever thought about contacting Duolingo to start a Japanese course?


I would probably add that there are some sound changes. I'm pretty sure I sometimes hear g pronounced closer to ng, and before some consonants n becomes m (thinking here of words like がんばって where although the romaji is ganbatte I'm pretty sure I've only ever heard it pronounced gambatte).


I just flashed on the old "Frasier" episodes where Niles mentions his former domestic employee, Ngi.


Maybe link to wikipedia's article on Japanese phonology for the really keen.


Btw gambatte means ' do well ' or some thing like that right ?


I believe it literally means "try"; but yes, it's often used to encourage someone or wish them good luck.


It means try your best


That is very true. Thanks for pointing that out.


I don't know if it's the same sound in Japanese so correct me if I'm wrong, but my mandarin teacher explained the pinyin "ts" as half a t, like if you thought you were going to say toy but you were actually trying to say slinky so before you were finished with the t sound in toy you switch to an s sound.


Kind of I guess. It is a soft switch from the t to the s. The explanation I learned from was the "ts" sound when you say "Footstore" Or something similarly kind of dumb like that.


Thank you for this :)


Great, thanks :)


helpfull yess indeed


Nice explanation of the R sound.


Thank you for this =)

  • 2246

Just a minor point, the Japanese u sound (when not silent) seems to be pronounced like the German ü. Other than that, ありがとうございます for putting this series together!


Ah yes. :) that sounds about right! Nice!


This is really cool, didn't expect to find this gem on here. Thanks again!!


I really need Japanese courses, thanks for the effort!


Also be sure to check out my List of Free Japanese Learning Resources They're all the sites I used to learn in the first place. :) They all have different pieces of information and different methods so you can find what works for you! Good luck!


Thanks again for your kindness! Wish you all the best!


Thank you! :DDD this is really useful!

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