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Japanese Grammar

How To Pronounce the Japanese Syllable “tsu”


By on February 10, 2011 in Japanese Grammar

Japanese pronunciation tip:

How to pronounce the Japanese syllable “tsu”.

Of the 46 syllables in the Japanese syllabary, three are frequently mispronounced by beginning Japanese language learners. The focus of this mini lesson is on one hard to pronounce Japanese syllable, the “tsu” syllable.

Even when native English speakers say the word of Japanese origin, tsunami, they seem to be saying sunami. When speaking in Japanese, the difference in meaning between words that start with su, and words that start with tsu is enormous. In other words, mispronouncing tsu for su could wreak havoc. Learning correct pronunciation is therefore important toward meaningful communication.

Japanese words that contain “tsu” or begin or end with this syllable, require a little cleverness, patience and consistent practice to master it’s pronunciation.

The pronunciation of the “tsu” syllable is not overly difficult and can be understood by eliding two English words, eight suits. The English words, eight suits, when elided together gives a close verbal approximation of the way the Japanese syllable “tsu” should sound when pronounced correctly.

Improve your Japanese pronunciation by saying the following out loud:

eight suits, eight suits, eigh t suits, eigh t su its, eigh tsu its, eight suits

Continue saying aloud this phrase a few more times. Concentrate on the elision that occurs between the words eight, and suits. Say it faster and faster until you can feel the tsu come out of the phrase. The most correct or nearest equivalent that Japanese language learners can get to saying the “tsu” syllable is taking the t from the eight and adding the su to it as in the previous example. Once you have a feel for the way the “tsu” syllable is pronounced, practice sounding authentic by saying the following words that contain “tsu” –

tsu^yu^ 梅雨– the rainy season
itsu? 何時? (いつ) – when?
hachimitsu 蜂蜜– honey
itsutsu いつつ– 5 objects; object counter
itsumo^ 何時も– always
Motsuaruto モ-ツア-ルト – Mozart

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So what do you think?

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  • Ensenada

    Tsuitachi (一日) dose not mean 20th of the month but 1st day of the month.
    In Romaji, 20th day of the month should be “Hatsuka”
    And in kanji, it should be 二十日 or 20日.

  • samara

    how to say baby in japanesse