Japanese Sound System

Japanese sounds system only contains 5 vowel sounds.

  • /ah/ as in car
  • /i/ as in key
  • /u/ as in moo
  • /eh/ as in edge
  • /oh/ as in joe

These vowel sounds are combined with consonants to make a syllable.
For example:

  • /ka/
  • /su/
  • /yo/


The Japanese /r/

Although the Japanese consonant /r/ is written using Roman letters r, the pronunciation is closer to /l/. This results in Japanese people making errors in English such as:

  • rice vs lice
  • wrong vs long
  • right vs light

Watch the following video to practice Japanese /r/.

See the following hiragana chart to get an understanding of the Japanese sounds.

Be aware of the reading order (from right to left and top to bottom)

Version 1. Standard hiragana chart


Version 1. Extended hiragana chart with romaji


Here are some resources to help you become familiar with Japanese sounds!

Hiragana Song

Hiragana Rap

Hiragana Cartoon

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