How To Remember Extra Vowels, Glottal Stops, Etc

Hello all,

I’m still pretty new and I’m trying to stay motivated and get into the forums here so I’m sorry if this is something that comes up often.

I find that I’m struggling with extra u’s, little tsu’s, dashes, etc. Almost all my mistakes when doing my reviews are related to me forgetting whether it’s ‘ko’ or ‘kou’. Is that counter itsutsu, or ittsu? I’ve seen higher-level people mention the same thing and I was just wondering if anybody had any tips or tricks for making it easier? Does anybody have a mnemonic they use that’s particularly effective?

Any help is of course appreciated.


The mnemonic for こう is usually Koichi, while こ is usually 子.


For vocabulary, I listen to the audio. The difference between an extra u or not is easier to determine. The same goes for double consonants (little tsu).


What about the old fashioned way like reading the textbook and repeat after the CD. Kind of boring but very effective.
Memorizing this kind of thing is like learning spelling. Everyone misspells. I believe advanced Japanese learners also slip, but like when you sing you need to pay attention to the rhythm, and those extra morae bothered you so much is nothing but a very natural thing like rhythm in Japanese.
Good luck!

imo, this is something that’s quicker to learn when you have a teacher or tutor and do work with writing, because typically beginner classes use hiragana, so the teacher will correct you anytime you make those sorts of mistakes. If you don’t have a teacher or tutor, I think that studying with a textbook or reading children’s hiragana only texts can also help in the same way, because you’ll see it written out correctly.

As others mentioned, be sure you have the audio on and practice listening for the differences. Saying it out loud is good practice, too.

If all else fails, rote memorization should eventually do the trick.

@rowena, didn’t you work on something with mnemonics that would help with distinguishing similar readings?


(for the record, the small っ in words is not called a glottal stop, but rather gemination, without an r)


(っ at the end of words - like あっ! - is a glottal stop, though. :slightly_smiling_face: )


What I do is, when I’m learning a new kanji or vocab item I will say the readings (both on’yomi and kun’yomi in the case of kanji) out loud a few times, and I deliberately exaggerate the pronunciation those first few times. I let the こう stretch out nice and long, I cut off the こ sharply, and I make sure to make the difference the small っ makes sound through very clearly. And every time I fail a review because of those differences, I repeat the ritual.

(If I’m in company I won’t pronounce the readings out loud, but I still do them in my head and do the same exaggeration a few times.)

That way, the pronunciation sticks a lot better for me. Just make sure to do the pronunciation normally when you’re actually speaking Japanese :slight_smile:

This works for me, your mileage may vary of course.


(Touche! But they aren’t glottal stops in cases like いっつ)


I also recommend to try to stop thinking in romanji even though you can’t escape that fully in IME.

For small tsu, I find it easier to memorize 学校 as がっこう rather than gakkou or even gakkō.

I think it has something to do with how doubled kanas and big tsus rendaku into small tsus.

for distinguishing similar sounding long and short sounds, I try to vocalize for example と as short and dynamic to and extending とう as toooooo without gluttal stop. Take extra note for words using お as extender and remember them by rote.




I don’t think that’s a good solution for most people. We here at WK because we don’t like this stuff (and want our mnemonics). Natural reading and speaking practice is nice, but this is too forced (for me). But whatever works is fine

I’m sure there are some general rules for it, but after a while you’ll start seeing some patterns, and will get a feel for when the little っ will appear. A good thing it’s that once you establish a pattern, then it’s likely that it’ll be true for most cases.

A lot of times つ, ち, し and くhave some combinations that’ll make them go all っ.

Btw, I used to mess up きょ with きょう a lot, so I just use the Little Old KYOtou versus the Modern Big KYOUtou :stuck_out_tongue:

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Sure on WK you have mnemonics for everything, but I wonder if there is such thing for every morae in Japanese, designed for your as mnemonics.
Also I wasn’t talking about natural speaking, but listening repeating after audio files. As whether this is a good solution or not for most people I cannot judge, I just happen know lots of unfortunate guys who mastered Japanese this way.

I’m too am trying to solidify a pattern/ritual myself to go forward into the program.
I realized I was doing nothing other than letting the lessons and reviews come to me on-screen; meaning I wasn’t doing any other effort. I started using the Reading Notes and Meaning Notes features every time to either simply repeat (type in) the same definitions and synonyms, or more frequently, adapt the mnemonic to a more personal meaning. That, along with some idea twist, I do use a kind of bastardized phonetic romaji with separators and it’s been helpful for me.
Soon, another thing I need to get into are the suggested supporting resources to help reinforce, especially for speaking.
But I get you on the ko, kou, u - and I often overthink and take away the correct answer on the reviews.SamuraiJack

I mess these up so much, since they’re both places and I’ll mix up the mnemonics.

Kyouto doesn’t have an u on the end


Yes, I had a system where every first mora was a person and every second mora was an object, so じょ was Jo Frost, Supernanny and じょう was her wearing ugg boots!

I still use it here and there, but it was a whole new system to remember, when I was already struggling to remember WK stuff.

It was only for the 音読み readings, though which are only ever 1 or 2 mora, so no っ to deal with.


Fun fact: 東京都 differs in meaning depending on how you read it.

東(京都) = ひがしきょうと = East Kyoto
(東京)都 = とうきょうと = Tokyo Metropolis

Point is, though, they both end with a short と.



I keep forgetting that kyoto isn’t written as 京東 (reverse of 東京)

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I don’t know how helpful/practical this is, but consistently listening to and using the language is what helps me remember the kanji readings. Without context, it can take me ages to remember tricky readings.

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