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Japanese Speaking
Introduction
Speaking Japanese is much easier to learn than what you’ve probably been led to believe. The writing system, well that’s another story. The information on this page will get you up and running in no time. With a little focus, you should be able to speak basic Japanese within a few hours.

Main points about spoken Japanese:
  • There are only 5 vowel sounds (a, i, u, e, o) to remember, compared with 20 in English

  • Every word in Japanese ends in a vowel sound, with the exception of “n”

  • All sounds are made by combining a consonant sound with a vowel sound, with the exception of “n”

  • There are a total of 69 basic sounds in Japanese, not including combination sounds (some books and sites list a few more or a few less) 

  • All sounds are represented in Japanese writing using any of the following:

    • Romaji - Japanese sounds written using English letters

    • Hiragana - Japanese sounds written in Japanese script

    • Katakana - Japanese sounds written in Japanese script (usually used for only foreign, or borrowed words)

    • Kanji - Japanese sounds written in Chinese characters

A single sound in Japanese can be written in any of the four styles of writing listed above but each sound can only be pronounced one way.

Example: The sound ki can only be pronounced one way but is written differently in romaji, hiragana, and katakana. The following table shows the only way ki can be written in these scripts.

keep ki
pronunciation Romaji Hiragana Katakana

The sound ki can, however, be written many different ways in kanji depending on the meaning.

- wood
- spirit or feeling
 
Next step - Learn pronunciation. The table will show you how each of the basic sounds of Japanese are pronounced using English words.
 

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