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Quick! What's the difference between these two words:

ใŠใฐใ•ใ‚“

ใŠใฐใ‚ใ•ใ‚“

Calling a middle-aged lady, ใ€ŒใŠใฐใ‚ใ•ใ‚“ใ€ will most likely be seen as an insult.

Calling an older, grandmotherly lady, ใ€ŒใŠใฐใ•ใ‚“ใ€ will most likely be seen as a compliment.

้•ท้Ÿณ Long Vowels

Many Japanese words have long vowels. This is called:

้•ท้Ÿณ(ใกใ‚‡ใ†ใŠใ‚“)

chou on

The word, ้•ท้Ÿณ(ใกใ‚‡ใ†ใŠใ‚“), itself has a ้•ท้Ÿณ(ใกใ‚‡ใ†ใŠใ‚“) sound. (Sorry, couldn't resist.) The ใ† u sound makes the ใกใ‚‡ long.

  • The long vowels do not add syllables: ใกใ‚‡ and ใกใ‚‡ใ† are both one syllable.

Listen to the difference:

ใกใ‚‡

ใกใ‚‡ใ†

  • As a result, the vowel sound, usually, will sound the same, just held longer.
  • The long vowels are about twice as long as a short vowel.


Rules for making longer sounds with Hiragana

For the most part, the following makes sense. The same vowel sound is pronounced twice as long and written with the hiragana that that sound represents. The last two, ใˆ and ใŠ, have a variation in the written form, however.

  • For sounds ending in an ใ‚ a sound, add an ใ‚:
    ใŠใฐใ•ใ‚“ (aunt) โ†’ ใŠใฐใ‚ใ•ใ‚“ (grandmother)

ใŠใฐใ•ใ‚“

ใŠใฐใ‚ใ•ใ‚“

  • For sounds ending in an ใ„ i sound, add an ใ„ after it:
    ใŠใ˜ใ•ใ‚“ (uncle) โ†’ ใŠใ˜ใ„ใ•ใ‚“ (grandfather)

ใŠใ˜ใ•ใ‚“

ใŠใ˜ใ„ใ•ใ‚“


  • For sounds ending in a ใ† u sound, add an ใ†:
    ใใ“ (Chinese wolfberry ๆžธๆž) โ†’ ใใ†ใ“ใ† (airport ็ฉบๆธฏ)

ใใ“

ใใ†ใ“ใ†


  • For sounds ending in a ใˆ e sound, add either an ใˆ or ใ„. While this can be confusing, just memorize which one as you learn vocabulary words.
    ใŠใญใˆใ•ใ‚“ (older sister; young lady ใŠๅง‰ใ•ใ‚“)
    ใธใ„ใ (calmness ๅนณๆฐ— -or- military arms and weapons ๅ…ตๅ™จ)

ใŠใญใˆใ•ใ‚“

ใธใ„ใ


  • For sounds ending in a ใŠ o sound, add either an ใŠ or an ใ†. As with the ใˆ sound, you will just have to memorize these words. However, most of them use ใ†.
    ใŠใ (open sea; okinawa ๆฒ–) โ†’ ใŠใŠใใ„ (big ๅคงใใ„; notice this has two long vowels. ใŠ for the ใŠ sound and ใ„ for the ใ sound)
    ใจใ (time ๆ™‚) โ†’ ใจใ†ใ (porcelain; china ้™ถๅ™จ)

ใŠใ

ใจใ 

ใŠใŠใใ„

 ใจใ†ใ


Rules for making longer sounds with Katakana

This is much easier than hiragana. Instead of adding another vowel, simply add a dash after it. ใƒผ

ใ‚ณใƒผใƒ’ใƒผ coffee

ใ‚ขใƒ‘ใƒผใƒˆ apartment

ใƒใ‚ฟใƒผ butter



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