Kun'yomi vs On'yomi When Speaking Japanese

For you, Japanese speakers: How is it speaking Japanese and using the proper pronunciation? Does the differentiation come with time? Do you just learn an array of vocabulary and then know the proper pronunciation?

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By proper pronunciation it looks like you’re just meaning how the word is read, right? Not intonation/pitch accent?

Im somewhat confused because the onyomi and kunyomi is no different while speaking as compared to reading. 学生 is both read as がくせい and pronounced as がくせい and you should learn that when you learn the word 学生. Could you maybe elaborate on what you mean?


Seconding Vanilla above. I don’t know what you mean. Kun and On readings refer to how the kanji is read, but each word uses the same readings whether you read them aloud or transcribe them as kana. Maybe you misunderstood what Kun and On are supposed to be? It’s a mostly etymological difference. On readings are derived from the original Chinese readings of kanji, whereas kun readings have their origins in Japanese itself.

If you’re referring to pitch accent, though, that takes a lot of practice to pick up, and it’s only important when you’re already comfortable with the language and want to take your skills a step further. For now, focus on building a more general understanding of things.

Japanese natives just know words. They don’t think about onyomi kunyomi. They don’t even learn the difference until like 3rd grade (when they already know like 300 kanji). So it’s not something you need to be aware of when speaking Japanese.

If you are guessing the readings of written words you’ve never seen before, or are taking a Japanese test, you might need to think about it.


When you learn a word, that particular word will either use onyomi or kunyomi (exceptions exist, but I digress). Some words are a single kanji, some are compounds made up of kanji that can possibly stand on their own. Examples at level 4 would be something like if you wanted to say princess, you would say 王女おうじょ. Princess is always pronounced おうじょ. As far as when おんな is by itself, I don’t think there is ever a time where you would just say じょ, and if there is, you won’t have to worry about that for a long while.

MOST of the time when a kanji is by itself, it will the kun’yomi reading. If it’s in a compound, it’ll probably be on’yomi (minus the stuff they tell you about, like compounds that have kanji for body parts frequently being kun’yomi, like 入口いりぐち).

This is the one.

When you’re speaking English, you don’t think “ok, I want to say ‘vocabulary’ - that’s spelt V-O-C…” You just plain say “vocabulary”. Ditto for Japanese - people aren’t thinking “単語, oh boy, was that kun’yomi or on’yomi?” They just know that the word is たんご and aren’t thinking anything more.


Gonna repost something I wrote about this a few days ago:

LOL im embarrassed that I forgot to delete this post but that makes sense. Youre saying once I know more Japanese Ill know the correct pronunciation? As in I wont be thinking is it the Kun’yomi or On’yomi. Ill just know :sunglasses:


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