Having trouble remembering U-sound!

I just can’t get my head wrapped around with the u-sound! Like 古 (Ko) and 公(kou). Sometime i might accidentally added an “U” to Ko, or not adding “U” to Kou. It really frustrates me!

For 古, I just came up with a reading mnemonic that might help me. “Grandpa Ko is old”. Hopefully it helps to solve this 古. Still there plenty of Kanji around with the same issue! Recently, another kanji is 号 and 午. For 午 reading mnemonic, “Goku have to fight Frieza in the afternoon”. As for, 号, no possible reading mnemonic yet.

What’s your solution? How did you overcome this?

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If I remember correctly, some of the mnemonics denote the -o readings as “little,” like “little Kyoto” for きょ.

Personally, I’ve found it easiest to assume -ou and try to remember it specially when the reading is just -o. There’s so many kanji with しょう, こう, ろう, ほう, ゆう, etc., and comparatively fewer (so far) without the extra u.


I’m not sure. I just find hard to get them right… Hahaha!

To be honest i mostly try to listen to the pronunciation for the actor multiple times which help me assume which sound is it closer to. Other times i just push through and it works.

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I’m not sure how much this will help, but the difference between a something like こ and こう in an onyomi is just the length of time you are making the お sound. So if a こ is one beat long, a こう is two beats long. Physically clapping out the sounds with the words might help ingrain them.


I tried that, doesnt much help. Perhaps I need to keep on doing it…It sucks that I keep getting pushed down to Apprentice level. Hahaha!

Okay, just wanted to check that you weren’t making a hard u-sound as well.

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I think the trick lies in the pronunciation. That’s really it.

If you learn and listen to the pronunciation of a word, it should be obvious how it is spelled. Japanese is a very straightforward language like that. There are no “hidden” vowels, appearing in writing, but getting a shorter sound, like in French or English.

If it’s a long “oh”-sound it’s spelled ou, if it’s a short “oh”-sound it’s spelled o.

Just like a short i-sound is spelled i, and a long i-sound is spelled ii.
(the difference in sounds for words like kowai (scary) to kawaii (cute) )

The principle is exactly the same.

If you put them together you get, kowai kawaii, a fashion statement :slightly_smiling_face:


Sometimes it’s spelled oo

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Sorry about that. I simply forgot about that. Hm. :thinking: But, the pronunciation for oo and ou is still not the same. You can always hear the u coming through in the pronunciation of an ou. All vowels are pronounced in Japanese; nothing remains silent.

Perhaps, it can help to have a typical ou-sound word in mind when learning new words, to help cement their spelling and pronunciation. For example, king, Ou, and connect the new word to the same sound.

This isn’t true, the おお in 大きい and the おう in 王 are the same pronunciation.

The difference is merely a spelling relic reflecting the differing etymologies.

The only time う after お would make its own distinct う sound is when it’s crossing a morpheme border, like in the verb う.


Interesting. I have been saying o o and o u a bit separately to some extent probably in a effort to remember how they are written. I thought ou and oo were different. Oh well. one more thing to correct and think about.


If you say so, I’m probably wrong. But, to my ears, they don’t sound exactly the same. (as in all the countless times I’ve heard them spoken. The difference is not big, but it is there. Hard to explain. Well, that’s more my musical training trying to understand Japanese than textbook. Oh, well.)


If someone could think of some anime character with those sounds in we can hear them repeated in the dialogues. Maybe like Tooru in fruit basket - is is tooru or touru? I thought tooru. There’s Kou in blue spring ride i think? Must be tons of others with those sounds.

To my ears, the ou has a slight dip at the end, a slight emphasis of some kind. Ookii is simply two long versions of o and i. But Ou, is like you’re saying o+ou.

(it’s not like the English U, yuu, it’s quite subtle instead. But, English isn’t my native language, so the Japanese ou still sounds like an u sound to me)

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I’m not really sure what to say, other than that they are both /oː/ (in IPA). I wouldn’t discount the possibility that there are dialects that differentiate them somewhere, but I think it’s clear we’re usually talking about Standard Japanese when we have these kinds of discussions. And in Standard Japanese they are the same.


Oh my! I’m definitely doing the opposite of you. I separate same vowels and I blend o and u. We need an authority on this thread. Quickly!

I’m pretty sure my ears hear what I think it should sound like from making it up with absolutely no logical reason at some point when learning…

I will take your word as the more knowledgeable on the subject. I’m mostly self-taught still. That’s some unstable ground to stand on. So thanks for taking time and clearing things out! :slight_smile:

Well, it’s not so much my word as much as the phonology resources I have seen describe them as being /oː/ with no distinction. If you come across some source that does indicate they are different, I would take in that information. It’s not based on me doing double-blinded audio studies or anything.


And I come from the opposite direction. I’ve learned most of my vocab from listening, which doesn’t tell you how to read or write, or spell, (which I’m now trying to fix), but, I still stand by that to me, personally, the ou- and oo-difference feels intuitive, which made me conclude that I perceive some kind of difference. How that works: :woman_shrugging: no idea.