Why do you fail single Kanji vocabulary words if you put in the kanji reading?

The Tsurukame app will let you mark an answer as correct even if you got it wrong. It’s helped me for all those times I kept spelling the meaning of 円 as yenn because I get so used to doubling n’s. :wink:

I know the ones you mean! Here it helps to do extra memorisation for the word and not just individual kanji.

Since you like to go fast and you may not know yet: you can type si instead of shi to get し, tu instead of tsu to get つ and ti instead of chi to get ち. (Not sure if there are longer ways to type づ and ぢ than du and di respectively.) Very handy to know for words like siatu I mean shiatsu.


Thanks for the tip! I do it from time to time but I don’t want to form bad habits haha. I remember chatting with Japanese students while I was at school, and it was so weird to see them writing chi as ti when typing things in English :stuck_out_tongue:

I randomly checked out your bio site and saw that you use Blender. That’s awesome as! It’s another tool I want to learn but I’m just so busy with other stuff right now. Ugh. I haven’t really done any modelling in pretty much a decade :sob:

All the time I used to spend on 3D stuff I spend on Japanese these days! I can find time for one or the other but not both. Especially not when the sumo is on.

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That is one of the things I am finding irritating about this course. Simple mistakes where knowledge is proven but penalised by holding you back for further lessons.

When I do my reviews I do them with speed as a priority. For example I like to type it out as quickly as possible to prove accuracy and sharpen my retention. If I do not know the answer then I will deliberately type a wrong answer just to move on and force it into another round of reviews.

Now that I am finally on level 11 it is proving more interesting but going through levels 1 to 10 for someone already certified with Japanese was just plain torture being held back and deprived of lessons based on typos and instances like you describe above.

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It’s not “suffering” if an item is demoted and you have to answer it again. It’s the learning process.


I think it is because as simple mistake on a Kanji can prevent the unlocking of other vocabulary and stepping up another level. For example you could know that Kanji off by heart and it could be impossible to forget no matter how much you drink or how tired you are, yet one wrong key stroke at the wrong time is enough to enact an incorrect answer thereby preventing the unlocking of other lessons.

I’m not sure about ぢ, but you can type ‘dzu’ for づ. ‘Dzu’ best reflects the kana’s pronunciation.

in this particular case, you are not held back from lessons, though, since the penalty occurs on vocab only.

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づ and ず are interchangeable in pronunciation in standard Japanese, and both can sound as either ‘dzu’ or ‘zu’ depending on the speaker, the stress/pitch of a word, and where in the word it occurs. They are both free variant allophones of the phoneme /zu/.


In Standard Tokyo Japanese, it turns out it’s not. More to follow.

It’s really less complicated to type and more economical to think of づ as du. Try typing tudukeru vs tsudzukeru. Huge speed difference and the letters come out the same.

Back to the pronunciation bit:

True free variation would mean “whatever wherever”, but this appears to be a stricter rule-governed realisation…

YouTuber Dōgen (he of the pitch accent course) has dug into the phonetics literature and talks about this in his Japanese Phonetics video course. He concurs with Wikipedia’s page on yotsugana that in standard dialect づ du equals ず zu and ぢ di equals じ zi for pronunciation purposes. He also goes into the history of the yotsugana situation in Episode 46 and says that since 1948, づ and ぢ are only ever used to indicate:

  1. rendaku, like in 鼻血 (はなぢ) where 血 would usually be pronounced ち but is voiced into ぢ; and
  2. when a syllable is repeated with the second repetition being voiced, like in 続ける (つづける)

But he also says the different pronunciations aren’t in free variation. There are rules, and the rules apply even beyond just the yotsugana…

The affricate version of じ and ぢ [d͡ʑi] is used at the beginnings of words and after ん and っ (as in かんじ, じけん and バッジ), but between vowels it’s pronounced as a fricative [ʑi] (as in かじ). Moreover, this pattern is something that goes for ざ ぜ and ぞ too, so ゼロ is “dzero”, ばんざい is “ban-dzai” but かぜ is “kaze”. This is covered in Episode 43.

The same affricate/fricative pattern applies to づ du and ず zu - fricative [zɯᵝ] appears between vowels and the affricate (with the d- sound) [d͡zɯᵝ] appears at the beginning of words and immediately following ん and っ. The only word that Dōgen could find where づ is actually pronounced [d͡zɯᵝ] was さん付く (さんづく, to attach -san to someone’s name).

Anyway, since づ is almost always pronounced zu and only very very rarely dzu, dzu couldn’t strictly really be called accurate to pronunciation either (according to the literature). And since native English speakers generally don’t have reason to type the sequence dz a whole lot compared with du, du for づ (and tu for つ) is a handy alternative!


I’ve also heard みず pronounced as ‘midzu’. I do agree with you on it not being in free variation at the beginning of a word/after ん and っ, but it’s possible that for my tutors (Fukuoka- & Nagasaki-located) it’s more of a free variation elsewhere.

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No that is more geared towards Americans opposed to other English speakers. Having the word spelled midzu tells Americans who like to pronounce Z as Zeeee opposed to other English speakers who pronounce Z as Zed that mizu in this case the Z is pronounced differently to what Americans are used to pronouncing it.

Just making sure that I understood you right: you’re saying that Japanese has no ‘zu’, and only ‘dzu’? Because that’s not true, and my conversation with @quollism is about figuring out when ず and づ are pronounced ‘zu’ and when it’s ‘dzu’ (hint: whether it’s written with ず or づ doesn’t matter).

Indeed! To be clear everything I quoted goes for standard Tokyo dialect only and it relies heavily on Dogen’s scholarship. Dogen has a linguistics background and wanted to achieve that native accent, but if you can hear your tutors free-varying dzu with zu between vowels, never mind Dogen. :slight_smile:

With proper free variation between dzu and zu I might expect dzu for more deliberate clear speech or to give the word in question more “punch”, and zu for quicker speech or to make the word softer.

Wikipedia’s yotsugana page has one last thing of relevance for us here. In Standard Tokyo Japanese, the yotsugana got turned into… uh… “futatsuon” I guess? ぢ = じ, づ = ず.

Some areas went one better and went full “hitotsuon”. In Okinawa, North Tohoku and Izumo, ぢ, じ, づ and ず merged into one sound and are all realised as [d͡ʑi]. In South Tohoku, the yotsugana merged into a different sound and are realised as [d͡zɯᵝ] instead.

At the other extreme, some more conservative dialects preferred “yotsuon”. The differences between the four kana are very well conserved in Kōchi (Hata, Tosa): [di] ~ [dᶻi] for for ぢ, [ʑi] for じ, [dɯᵝ] ~ [dᶻɯᵝ] for づ and [zɯᵝ] for ず; Kagoshima also conserves the differences between all four kana with more recent forms: [d͡ʑi] for ぢ, [ʑi] for じ, [d͡zɯᵝ] for づ and [zɯᵝ] for ず.

In terms of which is used where: one’s home dialect would play a role, age and gender and urban/rural background would play a role… but if you have access to native speakers, your ears and their language intuitions are your best source of information. If saying 座禅 as “za-dzen”, “dza-dzen”, “za-zen” or “dza-zen” doesn’t prompt some kind of correction, that’s free variation confirmed! :slight_smile:


I’ll test it out with them with 座禅 , that’s a good idea!

Watch out for the few notable occasions where the single vocab has multiple readings and multiple meanings, like 金, which can be read as either きん or かね and you can only know the difference through context. Wanikani only accepts one of the readings for this vocabulary and when you point out the problem to them, they get really rude really fast.

What about this? This is from iKnow. Could you explain why it becomes せい in latter sentence? I have to hit hint everytime I got this vocab :sweat_smile:

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It’s a different word. This just happens sometimes, like with 金 (きん, gold) and 金 (かね, money).

If it helps, apparently 生を受ける means “to be born” (which makes a lot of sense).


Because they are teaching the word raw/fresh not life/living. It’s like how 頭 can mean head when read as あたま or it can also be a counter for large animals when read as とう.

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