The Japanese N? ん

Another thing to point out with ん is that it isn’t always pronounced as an “N” sound. In words that have an ん followed by a ば or ぱ result in an M sound. For example, words like 先輩 (せんぱい) or 三倍 (さんばい), the ん is actually pronounced as an M sound rather than an N sound. The basic idea is that whenever ん is followed by another syllable, you shape your mouth so as to say that next syllable and then make a nasal sound for the ん before pronouncing the next syllable. For vowels, this ends up translating into a nasal vowel which is rather hard to pronounce at first. You can hear it in words like 深夜(しんや) or 全員 (ぜんいん). た or だ row sounds after an ん make the ん be pronounced with the tongue near the back of the teeth, where it should be for pronouncing t-row sounds, and か/が row sounds result in an N sound pronounced with the mouth shape for a K consonant. (This is all from Dogen’s videos which were really helpful for me on understanding this stuff).

If you listen closely to samples on forvo, you can hear some of these distinctions.

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