WaniKani should forgive the long U sound when we know the word

There was another thread on here asking if younger sister and older sister could be forgiven as a valid answer, and I disagree with that. Those are different enough to where I could see that being deducted points on a test.

However, I can’t seem to keep track of the random O / OU sounds even when I know the word. Using the same example, Imoto and Imouto cannot be confused with another meaning, nor can GyuNyuu and GyuuNyuu. Or Chugoku and Chuugoku. There are so many words that have the U that I start to add it everywhere and then BLAMO I get hit with ShuJin instead of Shuujin, which sounds like it should have a long U. Super annoying. And again another word that cannot be confused with another.

Forgiving a long U seems like it should be forgiven as testing above N5 are going to use the kanji form anyway. Thoughts?

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It’s extremely common for words to be distinguished by vowel length. Japanese people don’t need context to distinguish these. They can hear the difference just in isolation.

しゅじん - head of household
しゅうじん - prisoner

じょし - girl
じょうし - boss

こかん - groin
こうかん - exchange

じこ - accident
じこう - item

しょじょ - (female) virgin
しょうじょ - girl
しょうじょう - symptom

いっしょ - together
いっしょう - lifetime

I could go on and on. It’s a very important part of correct pronunciation and word recognition.

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Can’t be forgiven. Room is not the same as rom. You need to know which ones have long vowels.

What I do find annoying as hell is the words that have とう and the ones that have とお. Like とおり (通り) and おとうさん (お父さん).

おとうさん and おとおさん have the exact same sound. These are the kinds of things that makes me hate Japanese. Or rather, the people that came up with such absurdity.

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Right, but those words are not typically spelled in Hiragana, and to avoid confusing people would sooner say Shachou than Joushi unless they’re being cheeky. It can be understood in context. Like in English, has anyone ever accused you of saying cache instead of cash?

I feel like I’m testing for a case that doesn’t exist.

That’s different. Long vs short vowels form different words in Japanese. Cache and cash are pronounced the same as far as I know

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しゃちょう and じょうし aren’t interchangeable (unless you’re the vice president of the company I suppose), so that wouldn’t work.

For Japanese people じょし and じょうし aren’t confusing. It’s a very clear difference. They aren’t going to choose different words because of it. It’s best to practice them until the difference feels clear to you as well.

Here’s a question someone asked on stack exchange about しょじょ and しょうじょ, to which a native responded and ended with this:

I would like you to know, however, that to us native speakers, 少女しょうじょ and 処女しょじょ do not sound very similar. There are a ton of other words pairs in which the only difference in pronunciation is the length of one of the vowels.

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You are welcome to only learn kanji/words by meaning and ignore the reading entirely. I suppose that would work if you only ever plan on reading Japanese and doing absolutely nothing else in the language. However, if you ever plan on typing Japanese on a computer you need to type it with the correct vowel length or the IME won’t be able to convert it to the kanji form. And as Leebo pointed out the vowel length is important for distinguishing words, so you wouldn’t be able to speak Japanese at all if you don’t learn the correct vowel length for words.

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As I noted, it’s important and also not confusing to native speakers when they are speaking to each other, but the OP is right to a certain extent that context would resolve many mistakes in speech. It would contribute to a very strong sense of foreign accent, but many people don’t mind that. It certainly would make native speakers work harder to understand you, though, which isn’t great.

I think the bigger issue is recognition in listening and reading non-kanji words. Typing is another good point you made.

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“Not typically” doesn’t mean never. :wink: And a lot of native materials can play fast and loose with when they use Kanji.

It’s like if I told you about to ducks and they find a friend who is a duck to, so now there are three ducks.

That extra ‘w’ and ‘o’ seem pretty important when you get to the end of those sentences and have to circle back to figure out what’s going on. [1]


  1. BTW, intentionally mistyping two and too is giving my OCD fits ↩︎

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Though omitting certain letters in English and Spanish is still not an issue. We can infer what someone means to say even with those types of mistakes.

I don’t think that’s the case in Japanese Lol

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Yeah, the main difference is that these words do have totally different pronunciations.

It’s not like to and two or cash and cache, where they are indistinguishable in isolation.

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I think you may need to work on your Japanese phonology some more if you think this should be forgiven. It’s an important distinction that should not be ignored.

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Of course you can, that was my point. But it puts the onus on the reader/listener and makes things harder than they need to be.

I agree, but I wanted to use same sounding words to illustrate the point that when reading the difference matters even when they sound the same although I’ll admit that may have conflated the issue.

A better UX for WaniKani would be for it to understand your goals from the onset. In my case, I primarily want to read children’s books and be able to have small talk with my family. So when I forget that it’s Shou instead of Sho I want to bite my arm. It really should not hold me back. Whereas for someone that wants to produce Japanese and work in Japan, sure, murder them.

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Knowing whether a vowel sound is short or long is important. Forgetting whether that long vowel sound is spelled with おお or おう should maybe get the shaky screen warning though.

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This reminds me of a bit from Louis CK. He talks about a newscaster that says:

Blah blah blah the N word blah blah

So Louis gets upset. “You’re making ME say it in my head. Ohhh she means [censored]. You b****. Why you don’t you freaking say it instead of putting it onto the listener?”

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You do realize that in both of those cases the distinction between しょ and しょう matters, right?

That one I can probably agree on since those choices seem to be related to historical changes and I don’t think it’s consistent.

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Children’s books will have this issue very frequently, since they usually omit kanji children haven’t learned yet.

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I know. Ewwww I refuse to read anything that has pure hiragana. Absolute garbage.

I know it’s necessary for kids but ewwww Lol

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Honestly, the only thing that’s harder to read than that is Romaji. :joy:

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