How I remember which consonants are voiceless

For some reason I have a lot of trouble quickly identifying whether consonants are voiced or voiceless, even when I touch my throat. This sometimes slows me down when I’m trying to remember rendaku readings or whether a vowel is devoiced. So I came up with this mnemonic:

SHhhh! The King Silently Checked the Heavens For TSUnamis

The voiceless consonants are (in a weird order, admittedly): SH, T, K, S, CH, H, TSU. Maybe I’m a weirdo and this is either unnecessary or doesn’t make sense to people. But hopefully it helps some poor soul out there like me!

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It doesn’t really make sense to me, but I don’t think it’s such a big deal. As long as I can learn that か is “ka” and adding dakuten (が) makes it “ga”, I don’t have to care about what is voiced, what is unvoiced and what that even means.

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Isn’t this just as simple as looking for dakuten or handakuten? I mean… if it’s there, it’s voiced. If it’s not there, it’s unvoiced. No?


My interpretation was that they’re still learning the kana, and that not understanding the concept of voiced or unvoiced stuff was getting in the way of that, but now that I noticed they’re level 5 on WK… that’s unlikely to say the least.

Now I don’t really understand what was meant anymore :sweat_smile:

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Well the N kana and M kana aren’t voiceless and don’t have dakuten

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It’s not about whether it’s pronounced ka or ga. It’s about, for example remembering that 人々 is “hitobito” and not hitohito (silly example, but it’s the first one that comes to my mind) or that です is pronounced more like “des” with the “u” devoiced (again, a silly example).

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But they don’t have the opposite counterpart, so I don’t see why it would ever be a question? They don’t get involved with gemination at all either.

Also, whether vowels are devoiced is situational. Any patterns would be something you’d have to read a linguistics paper to work out.


Oh, I see. Though I still don’t understand how that relates to identifying the difference between voiced and unvoiced. I just learn these things as they come, at least.

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The dakuten only apply to stops, fricatives and affricates, so the OP is correct that there are other voiced consonants that are not so marked.

That said, I am also at a loss as to why this is a concern. Are there sounds in Japanese that don’t exist in your native tongue, @Chillannyc and so you are having trouble with basic pronunciation? Otherwise, Japanese is wonderfully consistant in its ‘spelling’ to sound so shouldn’t be a challenge once you have learned the kana.

EDIT: There have been 3 more comments while I was writing mine - as Leebo writes, the devoiced vowel is situational, very common at the end of the sentence - something you’ll come to know with exposure. As far as rendaku goes, are you not able to listen to / hear the audio for the vocab? I still sometimes make mistakes, but hearing that audio and saying aloud with it helped me enormously with rendaku.


I’m just starting to go through Genki I and early on it mentions a general rule that -i- and -u- are devoiced when between voiceless consonants or at the end of a phrase after a voiceless consonant. WK also explains rendaku by stating that a voiceless consonant changes into it’s voiced counterpart in certain situations.

It was just tripping me up, I don’t know what else to say. So I came up with this and it has helped me. Obviously you 49 and 60 level WKers don’t need the help :rofl:

Leebo’s level is actually 109 - he’s on his second lap!


I think just listening to audio and shadowing it is going to be more effective than thinking about it. If you absolute must know where devoiced vowels are, the Prosody Tutor Suzuki-kun tool shows that info by marking mora gray. But again, just copying is the safest bet I think.


As far as I can think, the rendaku only affects these ones, not others such as the n and m you mentioned.

I learned these in another language course way back when. For me, it helped when I also learned the difference between the places in the mouth the consonants are formed.

The ones made with the lips:

p (unvoiced) b (voiced)

The ones made with the tongue:

t (unvoiced) d (voiced) th (rough)

The ones made with the hard palate (the roof of the mouth)

k (unvoiced) g (voiced) German ch (that thing that makes German speakers sound so mean)


So just say a bunch of t’s, and then a bunch of d’s, and then a bunch of t’s and then a bunch of d’s. Do this in the shower. And then do it with k’s and g’s. And then with p’s and b’s. Eventually you’ll start “hear” the voicing come from your vocal cords. And then the harder ones like s’s and z’s and “ch’s” and “j’s” will click.

That’s how it worked for me.

(Oh, and side benefit, you’ll become a better singer/rapper)

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This. I didn’t even know that there were rules for when to drop I and U sounds in Japanese but when I heard about it I realized that I was already doing it. Listen a lot and these things will come naturally after sometime (I think…).

Rendaku is trickier and it takes a longer time to be bale to guess when it should and wouldn’t appear. I can guess it right sometimes when reading new words for the first time but then again, I don’t know what the rules are. It just becomes a 6th sense after a while.

Not telling you NOT to seek out the reasons or the rules for this kind of stuff. I’m only reassuring you of the fact that it can be taught by exposure as well.


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