Japanese Vowels and Consonants 2017-08-21T21:35:57+00:00
How to Pronounce Japanese Vowels and Consonants

Learn Japanese Grammar – Pronouncing Vowels and Consonants

In this lesson, we will learn how to pronounce Japanese vowels and consonants.  Japanese pronunciation is incredibly easy to learn compared to other languages.  It is strongly advised to learn some Hiragana first, although it’s not required yet.  If you study the “Reading and Writing” section now at JapaneseMeow.com, you will be much more prepared for these lessons!


How to Pronounce Japanese Vowels

The vowel あ (a) sounds like “ah” as in “father”. a
The vowel い (i) sounds like “e” as in “seat”. i
The vowel う (u) sounds like “oo” as in “spoon”. u
The vowel え (e) sounds like “e” as in “bed”. e
The vowel お (o) sounds like “oh” as in “rope”. o


Pronounce two similar vowels next to each other by holding the sound.

Double Vowel ああ (AA)
sounds like “ahh!
かあさん
okaasan
(mother)
  okaasan
Double Vowel いい (II)
sounds like the “ee” from “seed”
じいさん
ojiisan
(grandpa)
  ojiisan
Double Vowel うう (UU)
sounds like the “oo” from “food”
すうがく
suugaku
(math)
  suugaku
Double Vowel ええ (EE)
sounds like “ehh
ねえさん
oneesan
(older sister)
  oneesan
Double Vowels おお (OO)
sounds like “ooh” from “loan”
おお
ooi
(many)
  ooi
Often you will see words with the vowels おう (“ou“) instead of おお (“oo“).  Both are the pronounced the same.  For example:
おう (OU)
(sounds like “ooh” as in “loan”)
とうさん
otousan
(father)


If two different Japanese Vowels are next to each other, say them separately.


When different Japanese vowels are next to each other, just pronounce them as if they are separated on their own:
こたえる
kotaeru

(to answer)
ae  
ならう
narau
(to learn)
au  
わかい
wakai

(young)
ai  
ふとい
futoi

(fat)
oi  
 

 


How to Pronounce Japanese Consonants


Showing you all of the consonants won’t be necessary because most of them are similar in English.  There are only four exceptions to remember:

F G R TSU
eg. FUKU
(clothes)
eg. GENKI
(health, well-being)
eg. SORA
(sky)
eg. TSUNAMI
(tsunami)
fuku genki sora tsunami
This vowel is pronounced as a sharp “who”. Same as a hard “g” in “get”.  It will never be soft like “gentle”. Think of this as a “hard L” with only the tip of your tongue. Just take the middle of “eat soup” and you’ve got it!


How to Pronounce Japanese Double Consonants


When you see two Japanese consonants together, pause for a small moment before completing the sound.  
Listen below:  


gakki
(instrument)
ぷん
ippun

(one minute)

zasshi

(magazine)
ちょ
chotto

(a little)
gakki ippun zasshi chotto

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How to use the Japanese WA DESU construction.
Japanese Grammar Index How to build a basic sentence with WA and DESU