How2: romaji

ひのとり becomes Hinotori in romaji

Anyone who either learns or attempts to learn Japanese comes across romaji or romanized Japanese. Other languages have similar systems (pinyin for Chinese, romaja for romanised Korean etc- there are many different systems to represent each language).

In simple terms, romaji (Japanese romanisation of either Kana or Kanji) for most sounds is simple. Japanese sounds are either a vowel or a consonant and examples of singular vowel sound are: “a, i, u, e, and o”. In English there are the main vowels (we’ll ignore y) but each sound is pronounced differently- which is extremely important to note.

The phonics of each sound are:

  • /a/ from fat
  • /i/ from ink
  • /u/ from Uber
  • /e/ from egg
  • /o/ from video

Please note, there are no other ways to pronounce the letters- unlike English- there is either the correct or incorrect way.

These 5 sounds are then combined with a consonant either: k, s, t, n, h. m, y, r, or w. Together sounds such as ra, ma, ya etc are created. There are obviously exceptions. The main exceptions are

  • fu (not hu)
  • ha in a sentence is pronounced as “wa”
  • wi, wu, we- these sound have been mostly removed from the language
  • wo is just pronounced o
  • n- is a consonant digraph. Imagine the m sound you make when thinking- not pronounced but made in the throat. This is n.

With this basic understanding, the following sentence can be read:

watashi ha nihongo wo yomemasu. ( I can read Japanese)

For any visitors, this is immensely helpful with reading Japanese signs or simple sentences. Now we’ll get into it a bit more.

There are a lot more rules for transliteration on Japanese and converting elongated sounds to romaji but in order to read romaji and write, you need to be aware of some slight differences.

An elongation in a u sound may be represented in one of the following ways:

  • u- without any hit elongation (technically a mistake)
  • either using uu or uo to stress an elongation
  • û shows a stress and thus elongation
  • ū uses a line to show a lengthened vowel

I hope you enjoyed my into into the romanisation of Japanese.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

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