Pronuciation of じょ vs よ

I keep making mistakes on the kanji readings because of these. I try to remember the sound, but these two sound very similar to me.

I know じょ is pronounced like “jyo” and よ like “yo”, but I don’t really see a big difference there.

Is there something I could focus on to differentiate them better?


These are not pronounced with the “yo” like how you often see them written, they’re simply pronounced as:

ja, jo, ju, sho, shu, sha, cha, chu, cho


Note that it’s a “hard” J, like in the English name James, rather than in the German Johann. I assume you’re thinking of the latter if you’re getting them confused at all.


Yes, what is your native language?


I think of it as じょ actually being jo (JoJo) and よ being basically ió (like yo-yo).

For Spanish speakers, it’s usually じょ as yo and よ as ió (again).


I recommend this Tofugu article:

It includes a lot of audio clips and a podcast specifically on pronunciation, so it’s good for listening for those differences. I hope this is helpful to you, along with everyone else’s explanations.

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@Leebo My native language is Spanish.

@Kazzeon that makes a lot of sense. But it’s really weird for me since most hiragana are either vowel or consonant-vowel, but this one seems to be vowel-vowel.

@sleepylearner Thanks for sharing! That article is great! :slight_smile:


Y is a consonant in English, even though it generally behaves like a vowel.

In Japanese, kana sounds aren’t actually formed from pairs of romaji characters, so the idea of consonants or vowels doesn’t really apply. Instead, kana are formed from pairs of sounds, called the 子音しいん (the starting sound, ≈ consonant) and 母音ぼいん (the ending sound, ≈ vowel).

To me, it kinda feels like the mother and child are backwards, but hey, they didn’t ask me when they were deciding it…