Hardest sounds in Japanese to replicate

みなさんおはよう! :grin:

I wanted to start a thread on some of the difficult-to-replicate sounds in Japanese that everyone has come across, and for more experienced members to possibly offer some resources for speech practice!

One of the most difficult sounds for me to replicate is 「-んり」 Any combination of the ん + “R” sounds like 「りょ・りゅ・りゃ」drive me up a wall :joy:

For instance the words like「便利・べんり」and 「入力・にゅうりょく」are really difficult for me to replicate.

What are some of the sounds you have found difficult and in what ways have you been practicing to get better?


Special thanks to @RoseEater for sharing this video that gives some great tips on sounding more like a native speaker!


I always had the most trouble with ん followed by a vowel sound, like 千円 (せんえん). But I’ve gotten a lot better at it (I think!) in the last year or so. I just practiced by listening to Japanese (through anime in my case) and trying to say words that I had trouble with. Most sounds in Japanese are (relatively) easy for native speakers of English, Spanish, etc. since those languages include most Japanese sounds. But there are a few that aren’t in those languages (and many others I assume), so it takes practice to train your mouth to make those sounds.

P.S. People don’t say みんなさん. When attaching an honorific you’d just use みな, like みなさん. But you can definitely use みんな by itself.


Thanks for the correction!! Had no idea of the distinction :slight_smile:


After trying Korean and giving up no sound in Japanese seems hard.


:joy: Oh gosh I can only imagine. Every time I listen to something in Chinese and Korean I’m like… nope I definitely can’t make those sounds haha. Japanese has been relatively easy for me to pronounce. I also speak Greek which has been a blessing because the pronunciation of both languages are quite similar.

A tip to help with ん combos is that you should position your tongue for the next sound and then make the ん with whatever mouth position you have. So for example, it becomes an M sound in words like せんぱい or さんばい. Basically you prepare to make the next sound and then make a nasal sound with that mouth position. It’s a little hard to explain but once you get the hang of it, it makes things a lot easier.

I think one of the hardest sounds is the nasal vowel, which is also related to this. In words like しんや or せんえん as seanblue mentioned, you have to make a nasal vowel sound for the ん which is really tricky to get the hang of.

Another thing I have issues with sometimes is pronouncing りょ clearly. (Sometimes I have trouble making it distinct from ろ). Also the same thing with つ versus す sometimes.

I’m glad that Japanese is phonetically simpler than other languages at least, only a handful of vowel sounds to worry about. :laughing:


I have trouble with れら. I can’t not stumble mumble it.


Same. Also いただけません is hard for me to pronounce.

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R mora are usually hard for me - I can make the sound in isolation and it feels natural in some words (in fact I’m probably overpronouncing the R in those cases because it makes kind of a plosive T-ish sound) but often when you cram it in between a lot of vowels my tongue gets lazy and either pronounces the R as Y or just drops it altogether, keeping the vowel. れら does that, so does られ and some other combinations. I can’t remember what specific words I really struggle with offhand, but there are definitely some I can’t say anywhere near normal speed.

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i find it hard to do the long vowels.
my native language is french and i speak english most of the time
i can say kyo and kyou differently but if one day (crosses fingers) i eventually get to the point of putting sentences together, i know for a fact long vowels will disappear!
for now i repeat them aloud when i hear them in anime


ん + R is indeed the only pronunciation that gives me trouble when speaking. I pronounce the R in those cases as more of an “L” sound, and have been told by native speakers that it sounds fine. My first encounter with this problem was 人類学, an early vocabulary word in my Japanese I class (WaniKani level 28 in case you’re curious.)


Pitch accent


靴下 [くつした] (socks). The first く drops its u sound and I just can’t pronounce the consonants kts without feeling like an idiot.


食べられる. how to do :no_mouth:


The Earth! :earth_asia: 地球 ちきゅう had me going when I first encountered it. And in the same vein, ちくしょう (damn) which is also hard to not stumble when pronouncing. ^^
But, overall, I don’t feel Japanese is that hard to pronounce . There are other languages out there that I never wanna attempt…>_> Japanese is doable! ^>^


食べられなかった ftw :joy:


Ryu and ryo. There such a balance to be kept between the R and the Yu/Yo sounds. Hit either side of the consonant too hard and the other side gets missed. Interestingly (for me anyway) is that previously I learned a decent amount of Cantonese. The word for I/Me is “ngo” (low rising tone). Not easy for a Westerner. The “ng” is similar to the “ng” in “sing” or “song,” but when placed at the front of the word, you have to originate the sound from the back of your throat–hardly any mechanics originating from the mouth other than forming your mouth to facilitate an “o” sound. Anyway, the point is that after being able to master that, I find out the “ga” in Japanese seems (to my ears anyway) often to be pronounced in similar fashion. In my early 20s, when studying Japanese, I just went with the hard “ga” pronunciation. Now, in my early 50s, I can choose either a soft “ga” or a hard “ga” when pronouncing it!


In the American English accent we have a habit of turning a “t” in the middle of a word into a “d”, and I don’t have any particular problem with any individual t sound in Japanese, but when there are a lot of them in a long string, I have a difficult time saying it smoothly. I’m just not used to emphasizing that many t’s.


For me, it’s つり, especially in スカイツリー.

And then there’s the しちゅ in シチュー, but maybe that’s just because I want to say “stew” instead.