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About Japanese Consonants Chart

Would like to know which are the consonants in Japanese language? In articulatory phonetics, a Japanese consonant is known as a speech sound that’s articulated by using complete or perhaps partial closure within the vocal system. The word consonant is usually used to talk about a letter of the Japanese alphabet which indicates a consonant sound. Learn More

Japanese Consonants Chart

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Japanese Consonants in Alphabet

With the solitary exception of "n" (ん・ン), consonants in Japanese are always followed by a vowel to form a syllable. Consonants and vowels are not freely combinable as in English, see table on the right for all possible syllables and note irregularities like し shi or ふ fu. Certain syllables can be marked with diacritics, which alters the pronunciation of the consonant part. The list below first gives the consonant part of the syllable in romanized Japanese, then the Japanese syllables that the sound occurs in first in Hiragana, then Katakana.
like 'k' in "king"k in かきくけこ・カキクケコ
like 'g' in "go"g in がぎぐげご・ガギグゲゴ
like 's' in "sit"s in さすせそ・サスセソ
like 'z' in "haze"z in ざずぜぞ・ザズゼゾ
like 't' in "top"t in たてと・タテト
like 'd' in "dog"d in だでど・ダデド
like 'n' in "nice"n in なにぬねの・ナニヌネノ
like 'h' in "help"h in はひへほ・ハヒヘホ
like 'p' in "pig"p in ぱぴぷぺぽ・パピプペポ
like 'b' in "bed"b in ばびぶべぼ・バビブベボ
like 'm' in "mother"m in まみむめも・マミムメモ
like 'y' in "yard"y in やゆよ・ヤユヨ
no equivalent in English, a sound between 'l', 'r' and 'd', but close to a very soft 'r'r in らりるれろ・ラリルレロ
like 'w' in "wall"w in わ・ワ
like 'sh' in "sheep"sh in し・シ
like 'j' in "jar"j in じ・ジ
like 'ch' in "touch"ch in ち・チ
like 'ts' in "hot soup"ts in つ・ツ
like 'f' in "food"f in ふ・フ
short 'n', slides towards 'm' in some casesn, ん, ン
glottal stop; the following consonant is prepared, held and stopped for the duration of one syllable. For example, にっぽん nippon is pronounced "nip-(pause)-pon".っ・ッ (small tsu)
(Note that the double consonants nn, mm, which are not written with っ, do not have this pause.)
kon'nichiwa → kon-nee-chee-wa (not kounneeCHEEua)
sumimasen → soo-mee-mah-sen (not sue my maysen)
onegai shimasu → oh-neh-gigh shee-mahss (not ouneeGAY SHYmessu)
Katakana chart, with hiragana and Roman letters below each kana character
Katakana are used to write foreign and loanwords and are hence a good choice for travellers to learn. The katakana set of characters encompasses exactly the same sounds as hiragana; they only look different. The table on the left only reproduces the basic character set and diacritics (カ → ガ). Combinations (キャ) apply just as for hiragana. One additional sound though is ヴ vu and combinations like ヴェ ve based on it, accommodating additional foreign sounds. Every once in a while you may spot additional ingenious combinations or use of diacritics.
Since Japanese doesn't very well accommodate rapid successions of consonants, the katakana transcription can often only approximate the actual pronunciation of a foreign word. While some words like café (カフェ kafe) can be represented quite gracefully, other words like beer (ビール bīru) or rent-a-car (レンタカー rentakā) seem slightly strange to the native English speaker. Nonetheless, many English expressions and concepts are used in everyday life, as are a number of German, French, Dutch and Portugese loanwords. Oftentimes the exact meaning of a word has changed in Japanese (de: Arbeit → アルバイト arubaito is used only for part-time work) or a completely new meaning was invented (ワンマンカー wanmankā → "one-man car", trains and buses without an inspector, only one driver), but you can usually at least guess at the meaning.
To identify a katakana word, it's usually helpful to repeat it out loud a few times and to leave out superfluous vocals, especially the 'u' in ス su and 'o' in ト to. That way ライス raisu quickly becomes "rice" and チケット chiketto becomes "ticket". Don't try too hard though, as sometimes original Japanese words are written in katakana as well, similar to the use of uppercase or italic letters in English. In addition, some words were not derived from English but from other languages such as German, French or Dutch.

Japanese Diphthongs in Alphabet

Select the links directly below to view a number of helpful Japanese travel words and phrases which are organized by category. For every holiday phrase in Japanese, there’ll be the actual English interpretation.

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