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All About Japanese pronunciation

        ...just how do I say this...?

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Japanese is one of the easiest languages to pronounce

Japanese pronunciation is actually pretty easy for English speakers. There is only one sound in Japanese that we really don’t have in English, and even that sound is easy to master if you have ever studied Spanish or Italian.


Japanese only consists of a little over a hundred sounds. That may sound like a lot, but compare it to English which has over one thousand sounds! Each vowel in Japanese can only be pronounced one way, giving us a total of only 5 vowel sounds. This is opposed to the multiple ways we can pronounce vowels in English. I believe I’ve read that English has 13 vowel sounds.


These will be easy if you know Spanish or Italian. The Japanese pronunciation of these is nearly identical.

  • A - as in father
  • I - as in Ebert or macaroni
  • U - as in hoop or soup
  • E - as in set or bet
  • O - as in rope

Generally these are said a bit shorter than in English, but that’s it. Easy, huh?

But wait, there’s more…

Long vowels

Whenever you see a double vowel in a Japanese word, simply hold the sound for twice as long.

The difference between Takaki and Taakaki is you hold the ”a” sound in the second one twice as long as the first. Pretend each syllable is a beat.



This isn’t so important when using Japanese words in English, but it does become much more important if you are trying to read out of a phrase book to your taxi driver and want him to understand you.


There is only one here that is tricky for English speakers. That is the Japanese ”r”. This sound is made by flicking the tongue against the top-back of your upper teeth, right where your teeth meet the roof of your mouth. If you know how to make the Spanish or Italian “r” sound, you’ll find this easy.

Just don’t roll it. You’ll sound like yakuza.

The only other consonant sound you might want to be aware is that ”f” is said in such a way that it sounds like ”h” sometimes. So don’t be surprised when someone says ”Mt Fuji” but you think they said ”Mt Huji”.

Double consonant

Only one more.

Whenever you see a double consonant, think of it as a quick pause. Think of the short pause when you say ”bookshelf” between ”book” and ”shelf”. That’s kind of what you are aiming for here.

So ”natto”, for example, is pronounced ”nat–pause–to”.

Anything else

Not really. Well, yes, but unless you are actually learning Japanese, you don’t need to worry about anything else. Anything else you need to know I will point out in the article in which I talk about it.

See, I told you Japanese pronunciation was easy!

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