I recently unlocked and learned 最悪 (さいあく; most + bad -> “the worst”).
That’s when I realized that this entire time (after watching lots of subtitled anime) that I thought that “the worst” was さいやく, instead of さいあく.
I got curious and had Google Translate pronounce 最悪 (さいあく) and 災厄 (さいやく), and they both sounded the same to me. Uh oh.
When there’s an “i” sound is followed by “ya”/“yu”/“yo” or “a”/“u”/“o”, how do you hear the difference?