Archive for the ‘pronounciation’ Category

A common question from most beginners is whether Japan (日本) is written and pronounced as  にほんor にっぽん.  In actuality, it is both.  日本 can be pronounced にほん or にっぽん and it would be correct. However, the way it works is as so:

にほん is used in everyday conversation, to name the country, language and so on.

にっぽん is, typically, only used by the government and for legal documentation.  Banks and other money related places sometimes use this notation as well.

So, if you were trying to figure out which one to use or were wondering why it was pronounced differently sometimes, there’s your answer.  I don’t live in Japan, so I’m sure there’s other circumstances that would warrant either’s use, but from what I’ve gathered from other sites and texts, this is the basic useage of both words.


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Learning kanji can be a difficult task for the most seasoned Japanese speaker. Kanji have two distinct readings – On and Kun. Many use different readings for completely different words. On top of that, many have multiple On and Kun readings to further complicate which one to use to pronounce a word. In general, the On is used in compounds, words with more than one kanji in them, and the Kun is used when the kanji is by itself. You’ll come to see that is not always the case though, as the language is riddled with exceptions and exceptions to those exceptions. For the time being, I’ll try to simplify it for everyone with some simple definitions of the two readings and explanations as to when to use them.


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While it’s fine for Latin and other dead languages to not require knowing how to speak it aloud, if you are learning a new language, it’s most likely to speak it for one reason or another and the first step to speaking a language is learning how to pronounce words. Thankfully, Japanese is a relatively simple language in this regard. Whereas in English we have numerous rules and exceptions to said rules and different pronounciations for words, Japanese has a relatively small amount of sounds that a word can be made up from and they form the basis for the kana.

For example, in English, just look at tomato. “You say tomato, I say tomato.”, is a popular phrase that illustrates two distinct pronounciations for the same word, with the same meaning that is not associated with an accent or specific dialect.

In contrast, in Japanese, if you see or , they are always pronounced the exact same way with very defined exceptions and those exceptions cause the sounds to be identical every time. This means there is a very limited number of sounds from which a word can be pronounced which is a good and bad thing, as you will come to see later.

So, for our first step to learning Japanese, you should familiarize yourself with the hiragana and katakana. Both are identical in the sounds they allow you to speak, but it would be beneficial to get a glimpse of two of the three writing systems Japanese uses.


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