Level One Vocab Question

I am still a beginner here, and I just have a question about the pronunciation of like “two things” and “two people” the characters are fu-ta-tsu or fu-ta-ri but when I listen to the given audio it sounds almost like shi-ta-tsu or shi-ta-ri.
Can someone please explain why this happens, or what’s going on with it. Am I just not good at hearing Japanese sounds yet??

I’ve heard of ひ sounding like し like discussed here:

But I’ve not heard of ふ sounding like し. I also went back and re-listened to those vocab items and didn’t notice what you did. I clearly heard a leading ふ sound. :man_shrugging:t2: Maybe someone else can chime in.

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When I learned pronunciation, my instructor was adamant we HAD to know pronunciation before we did anything else.

I don’t recall the lesson because it was way too many years ago but I hear it less of a F sound and more of a whispered H … maybe like who-tari.

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Funny things happen when you hear a sound that doesn’t exist in your native language.

If you say “f” in English, you put your top front teeth against your bottom lip and blow out. This is called a labiodental (labio=lip, dental=teeth) fricative.

In Japanese, the sound that’s rendered as an “f” in romaji is actually made with both of your lips instead, not by putting your lip against your teeth. It’s called a bilabial (bi=two, labial=lips) fricative.

Often people say it sounds more like a “hu,” but in your case it seems like it’s striking your ear more like another fricative sound, in this case “shi.” In fact, it’s neither of these— it’s a sound that can only be made by pursing your two lips together and blowing out.


I found a video on YouTube with a normal pronunciation and then a slowed version and it helped a lot. When I was just listening to it at normal speed, the transition between the fu/hu sound and the ta sound, still strikes me as a ch or sh kinda sound. but I do realize that I wasn’t hearing it at the beginning of word, rather the middle. The more I listen to it the more it sounds how it is suppose to. The slower version helped. I took linguistics so I’m pretty familiar with the mechanics of it all but it doesn’t help when the sound doesn’t exist in what you’ve studied before.

Yeah, you’ll need quite a bit more immersion before you can start picking out the nuances.

Note that this can vary quite a bit from person to person. You’ll hear some people pronounce more like ‘f’ with the lips closer together and others where it’s almost an ‘h’.

Again, more input will give you a better idea of what you’re listening for. :slight_smile:

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