What kind of 'spelling' mistakes are common among japanese people?

On another thread someone mentioned that writing onna(on’na) as onnna would be wrong, that got me thinking, are there mistakes that are common/susceptible for japanese people to make because of differences between how the language is written vs pronounced?

I’m talking about stuff like that preganet video, where people write stuff wrong because it sounds a certain way when pronounced, like writing ‘cologne’ as ‘colon’.

Funny anecdotes welcome.


Off the top of my head, it’s hard to think of things that are similar to spelling mistakes in English.

The word 雰囲気 is properly read ふんいき, but many people say, and I guess some of them believe it actually is, ふいんき. It’s not like anyone would misunderstand someone saying that, and it’s extremely common to hear.

こんにちは is sometimes spelled こんにちわ, but it’s not accidental like with beginner non-natives. It’s more like “cute teen speak.”

What I would say is most common is using the wrong kanji, either because the person doesn’t know which kanji is correct, or they just didn’t notice that it was wrong when they did the conversion on the keyboard. If you read enough printed Japanese at offices or schools you will occasionally see things that phonetically make sense, but look ridiculous from a kanji perspective. They just didn’t double check the kanji conversion.

If you google for 変換ミス you can find examples of this. Some of what you will find is intentionally crafted to be funny as a joke, and not an actual mistake someone made, but still.

(Typed as: My horse-eating wife became elephant sized) (Intended to be: The picture got sized poorly)


There was a scene in GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka where he was at a job interview and the interviewer was reading his resume.

It was emphasized that there were a lot of mistakes in that resume, primarily using incorrect kanji, such as 重います(instead of 思います).


So kind of like this fashion of teen girls trying to look childish to seem cute also involves making some child like proposital “mistakes” :thinking:

And I wonder if there was ever a kanji that was gotten wrong so many times the meaning changed. Sort of like how they simplified some (sometime in the 20th century), but non proposital.

Although Japanese makes it seem like writing literacy was way more of an elite thing before than English, so maybe not :thinking:

On the odd occasion my coworkers will miswrite kanji on unimportant notes. Usually it’s kanji where there are 3-4 small strokes in the same or similar directions.

Japanese speech errors are also interesting, but I’m not sure either of these is what you’re going for.


And in keeping with my example

Typed as: Heavy trout (just one possible interpretation, but probably the most amusing)
Intended to be: I think (in polite form)


I mean the general direction of the thread is just what kind of mistakes Japanese people make when ‘language too confusing’

So if you got anything just post it. Who’s gonna stop you, the police?

Edit: I am under the effect of sleeping medication

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Well, considering that Japanese is basically phonetically what-you-see-is-what-you-get, with the exception of some specific particles, it’s hard to come up with pure spelling mistakes. If you know how to say a word (as most natives do) then you don’t have many options for the kana.


Yeah, and the input system ends up correcting things further in a way.

I did think it would go more along the lines of the things you did post

Also some confusion caused by the lack of spaces.

It’s boring but the most common mistakes are all use of the wrong radical while trying to handwrite a kanji

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Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

Is one of the most difficult names for native Japanese speakers to pronounce correctly and quickly. Native speakers tend to mix up vowels, especially long ones or ones that would be written as diagraphs, which most of the vowel’s in that famous singer’s name are.

In comparison, the most common (or one of the most common) speech errors in English is mixing up the onset (first) sound in words. For example “queer dean” instead of “dear queen.”

This is what I remember from my college classes at least, so from 3-4 years ago.

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Is this a believable mistake to a Japanese native? Those seem like such basic kanji as an english learner of japanese that it seems strange for a native to make that mistake. Is it just to make the character seem especially dumb by exaggerating or something?

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I’m not an expert and I didn’t double-check the specific mistakes. You’re right, it is possible that those could be exaggerated for comedic effect. But the general idea of this “spelling” mistake is that you write kanji with the same reading but the wrong meaning.

Here are a few screenshots from the anime adaptation.

じしん(supposed to be confidence vs. oneself)

しゅしょう (supposed to be commander vs prime minister)

かつやく(supposed to be activity but the second kanji is medicine)
やくたて(supposed to be be helpful vs “stand up medicine” ?)


It’s mostly due to not paying attention what the computer is converting your input to. I don’t think any native would confuse those two kanji when writing by hand… (probably for comedic effect in GTO :laughing:)

I think 気おつけて (instead of 気をつけて) is a common one.
Also, there are people who complain about others using そうゆう in writing (although this one is probably more commonly accepted or seen as „correct“ than 気おつけて

Of course natives make particle mistakes too, especially when speaking (if you forget what you started the sentence with) and when not paying attention. But maybe this is more akin to a typo?


Yea, if we’re talking about mistakes, this is really what one might call the a “spelling mistake”. Things like 雰囲気 are not mistakes, they are metathesis, or 音位転換 if you’d like.

@Myria I think お for を is a typing error that is more common to learners than Japanese people. But it’s probably also more common on keyboards where you can easily just miss the “w” than on a ten-key.

そうゆう on the other hand sounds like the same kind of person who would complain that “don’t” is not acceptable.

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And maybe first-graders learning kana.

Finally the mystery has been solved! :male_detective:

Learning 雰囲気 I was soo sure this was pronounced ふいんき. This is because I’ve learned tons of vocab from audio. :eyes: So, when WK said it was ふんいき I was like, “what?!”. It became a leech at first because of this. So I’ve had to fight this misunderstanding of mine. But I’m glad I now have a proper explanation for it. ^^

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Sometimes people will be able to write a place or name while not actually knowing how to say it. Case in point, I asked my coworkers about an area I saw on a flyer because it was written with two kanji from the first 10 (if not first 5) levels and out of four speakers, none of them knew how to say the name, and only one knew the pronunciation of the first kanji, but not the second. They could all figure out where I was talking about though because I took some swings in the dark as to possible pronunciations.


They didn’t know how to read the kanji? Or just didn’t know what reading to use?

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They just don’t which reading, although in this case, they thought the second kanji might be something archaic. I’m not sure if archaic for them would be something they didn’t learn or something they learned and forgot or what.

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