In terms of pronunciation Japanese is surprisingly easy to get to grips with, but some words can be real tongue-tanglers! Here are 10 of the worst.
Since it’s a phonetic language, Japanese tends to be pretty straightforward when it comes to pronouncing its sounds. But some words do change in tone and inflection, and this can sometimes trip Japanese learners up. One of the first exceptions to the “say it how it’s written” rule that foreigners learn is “suki“, meaning “like”. While the word often sounds like “soo kee”, especially when sung, it’s much more common to dispense with the “u” and pronounce it like “ski” in spoken Japanese. Sometimes, even words which seem straightforward when written down have the ability to twist your tongue in knots when you actually try to use them in conversation.
Below is an informative video from the “Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101” YouTube channel. In it, video presenter Risa introduces 10 words that foreign learners of Japanese often find difficult to pronounce. Naturally, she also includes the correct pronunciation to help you practice.
Here’s the full list of the 10 difficult-to-pronounce words:
Tsutaerarenakatta (couldn’t tell)
Shutsuryoku (output power)
Tennin (shop assistant)
Atatakakunakatta (wasn’t warm)
Chuushajou (car park/parking lot)
It seems also that a person’s native language can have an effect on how difficult they might find some words in Japanese. Spanish speakers, for example, often say that they find Japanese “r” sounds really easy. Some Japanese language learners have a better ear for proper pronunciation than others do, while some people tend to hold on to the pronunciation quirks of their native tongue, even when speaking other languages. It’s totally possible to be great at Japanese and still pronounce certain words a bit differently due to maintaining your own accent — it doesn’t mean you’re not still great at expressing yourself in Japanese.
What Japanese words do you have trouble pronouncing?