Tough words/sounds to pronounce! [POLL]


There are some words/sounds that are just frustrating to try and pronounce as a non-native Japanese speaker, regardless of your mother tongue. I’ve been stumbling upon words that are giving me a tough time and thought it would be fun to see which words are the toughest for who to pronounce!

What is your native language?

  • English
  • French
  • Spanish
  • German
  • Dutch
  • Norwegian
  • Swedish
  • Russian
  • Chinese
  • Finnish
  • Hindi
  • Arabic
  • Portuguese
  • Other (Please state in a comment what you speak, if comfortable.)

0 voters

The word “本来” has been giving me some pronunciation trubs lately. I just can’t go from ん to ら very easily at all; it always ends up sounding very clunky and unnatural. What words are tough for you to pronounce?


I struggle with words with れら in them.


Anything with りょう or りょ is a hardcore struggle for me, especially if it’s in the middle or at the end of a word. That sound in the proper accent/pronunciation just does not naturally come out of my mouth :laughing: I can do a passable Japanese r in most cases (I think) but it gets totally messed up with this syllable for some reason.


Having learned Spanish well, to me, making the Japanese ‘R’ feels pretty close to doing a single R in Spanish (though not exactly the same). I feel pretty comfortable with it now though I would agree that it seem to be the hardest sound to make sound natural (at least for me). I remember when I first started to learn Japanese as a teenager, before I knew Spanish, and trying to say Ryu’s name from Street Fighter and getting super frustrated.


Same here!


Lots, mostly surrounding the r/l sound. But the one that really trips me up it “ryou,” especially if there are more “r/l” sounds in the word.

Basically, when called on to say “ryouri,” I end up tripping all over my tongue.


The Finnish R is reasonably close to Japanese, but りょ still makes me suffer (りょう isn’t as bad). Also saying みょう just feels wrong.
The thing that really worries me about speaking Japanese, though? Pitch accent. Finnish is the flattest language ever, so much that my teachers used to complain about people using intonation to denote a question, because that’s annoying and Not Real Finnish, so training my brain to even register that stuff is going to take some work.


Most Japanese sounds are easy for me to pronounce as an English speaker, including the r and ふ.

One thing that really gives me trouble is the word まだら though. Idk why. I had to practice saying it over and over to get some semblance of smoothness.



I noticed my “kudasai” gets a bit lazy on the “da” as an American. Instead of “dah” it ends up sounding more like “duh”. And so when I try to correct it, I overcompensate and it sounds unnatural. xD


下さい is one of those words that I have practiced saying over and over again to try and make it sound right. I’m still not sure I really have it but I have experienced the same thing you are describing. It seems to me that the D should probably be really flat, with just a light flick of the tongue. Not hard, as in “dog” but more like the double d in “ladder.”


Especially when talking fast


I don’t know why that is the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life but it is.

I used to have a problem with one of the conjugations of あたたかい; あたたか​くなかった just messed me up. In isolation it’s fine yeah, but in normal speed conversation I’d fudge it up so hard lol

(then I realized I could just go あったかい)

It’s honestly been a while since I’ve thought about difficult things to pronounce in Japanese because most of it (at this point) is easy. I have an easier time saying what words in English I avoid saying because I know I’ll f it up (anemone and calculator I’m looking at you).

But if you want to spice up your Japanese life 早口言葉 are the way to go :wink:


Interesting. From a Swedish perspective, Finnish sounds quite melodic!


As a native English speaker, the only Japanese sound I have trouble with is りょう, りゅう, etc. Maybe I’m pronouncing it okay, but it just never feels right.


As many others have said, for me (native English speaker) the り combination sounds are by far the hardest for me. I have a really hard time making りょ sound different from ろ or りよ. Also 便利(べんり)I know it’s not pronounced “bendy” or “benry”, but I just can’t make it sound right!


I just can’t nail down the Japanese R. I don’t have anyone to correct me though, so maybe that’s part of the problem. My worst enemy so far has been レストラン


I’m native English however most Japanese words I don’t find difficult to say. Its mostly loanwords which I find harder because I already have something in my head which I’m comparing it to. I feel like I’m breaking the pronunciation of words in my own language. Its weird.


On one hand, having French as a mother tongue, I always have to be careful to distinguish pure vowel from the ‘h’ column (は、ひ、へ、ほ) because most of our h are aspirated h and hence silent. But it’s the same struggle in German and English, so I guess overtime it’s getting more and more natural.

On the other hand, the ふ sound is easier to pronounce x). As for the other sounds, I feel they’re pretty natural and IMO, practicing shadowing really helped me a lot for pronunciation.

My favorite grammar form that was hard to pronounce at first was ‘なければなりません’, especially when you’re doing 会話 and you use いつまでに作らなければなりませんか。I think at time I was dreaming of using the short form 作らなきゃ :sweat_smile:


I find my “s” sounds always come out too close to "z"s to be right. My Japanese friends tell me it’s just fine, but whenever I hear a recording of myself speaking Japanese I can’t not hear it, heh.

(Dutch/English/French native)