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Japanese: Pronunciation

The Japanese use 3 alphabets: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. These systems are much more complex than the Latin writing system, a person should know around 2,000 characters in order to be able to read a Japanese book or newspaper, furthermore it takes years to learn. It is not necessary to know Japanese characters in order to learn the language. Learning books make of of translitteration, in which the Japanese characters are 'translated' in Latin characters. We will use this system throughout Languagetrav.com, the below description will give you a feeling of how each vowel and consonant is pronounced.

If you are interested in Japanese characters, click here to learn more.


In general the consonants are pronounced identical as in English. The only exception is 'r', which is pronounced as a rolling sound similair as in Spanish or Schottish. Another exception is the consonants 'h', which is pronounced between the English h and the Schotish g. If consonants are doubled, then they are pronounced twice as long.


a is pronounced as in 'father'.
e is pronounced as in 'men'.
i is pronounced as in 'sheep'. Somtimes this wovel is not pronounced at all, for example when it is follows 'sh' and is follwed by another consonant.
o is pronounced as in 'hot'.
u is pronounced as in 'you'. Often this vowel is not pronounced at all, for example when it appears at the end of a word, of sometimes at the end of a syllable.

In Japanese words are not particularly stressed as in English. Words might vary slightly in intonation. As this would be beyond the purpose of this course, the intonation will not be dealt with further.

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