Japanese Consonants: What They Are + How They're Pronounced

Written byIchika Yamamoto

In the 4th century AD, Japanese was not the language that we know nowadays. It had no writing system. This is why in the middle of the 4th century, Japanese people used some Chinese words and adapted some of them into their script. Nevertheless, in the 11th century, many important Japanese writers such as Lady Murasaki Shikibu emerged and the language reached a high point. Nowadays, the Japanese as a Language has four principal alphabets that include Hiragana (ひらがな), katakana (カタカナ), Kanji (漢字) and the Romanji.

You have to know that Japanese language has a syllabic alphabet but it has a only one consonant. In order to create a basic syllable, the consonants and the vowels have to be paired. There are a lot of combinations of paired syllables in Japanese such as:

Hiragana / Katakana
K か / カ き / キ く / ク け / ケ こ / コ
S さ / サ し / シ す / ス せ / セ そ / ソ
T た / タ ち / チ つ / ツ て / テ と / ト
N な / ナ に / ニ ぬ / ヌ ね / ネ の / ノ
H は / ハ ひ / ヒ ふ / フ へ / ヘ ほ / ホ
M ま / マ み / ミ む / ム め / メ も / モ
Y や / ヤゆ / ユよ / ヨ
R ら / ラ り / リ る / ル れ / レ ろ / ロ
W わ / ワを / ヲ

NOTE: The only consonant in Japanese language is "N" ん / ン.

Even though the Japanese consonants differ greatly from English language, learners must practice every day to speak well and as any other language in the world, grammar can be a little bit difficult at first. Fortunately, the majority of Japanese consonants have the same pronunciation as in English. However, some of them are really difficult.

  • The consonant “r” has a difficult pronunciation for American speakers, for example: Rakuda /ra-ku-da/ (Camel); Tora /Toh-rah/ (Tiger).
  • The consonant “f” has a softer sound, for instance: Tofu /tohh-foo/ bean curd.
  • The double combination of consonants is really hard in the beginning but then learners can pronounce them very well, for example the combination of “ts” in Tsunami (Tidal wave) or Tsuki (the moon).
  • The combination between “y” and “o” is sometimes a little bit problematic in the pronunciation. Ryo /ryohh/ Room.

Learners need to know that practice is the key to master any language. So they have to push themselves a lot in order to use the language properly.

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Author: Ichika Yamamoto
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