5 Difficult Japanese Words You Could Be Saying Totally Wrong

Japanese Words – Are You Actually Pronouncing Them Right?


I think a huge proportion of Japanese learners study in their home, without help from a teacher. This makes it pretty common for someone to pick up a few bad habits when learning Japanese, or any language for that matter. The following five difficult Japanese words actually have different pronunciations compared to their spelling! Are you sure you’re not making these common mistakes?


Okay, guys – come me some slack on these first two. While they aren’t difficult, I find their etymology interesting and anyone learning Japanese should know about it! 


(1) こんにちは

Meaning: hello;  good day; good afternoon

Actual pronunciation: こんにちわ (konnichiwa)

The reason the は in こんにちは is pronounced like the grammar particle, instead of the ha hiragana is because the phrase was originally a part of the longer phrase. “今日はお元気そうですね”  was the original phrase, meaning “You look well today” which was then shortened into a greeting. The same applies for こんばんは

Note: The kanji for konnichi is 今日 and means “these days”. However, the more common reading is “kyou” that means “today”.


(2) こんばんは

Meaning: good evening

Actual pronunciation: こんばんわ (konbanwa)


(3) 原因 げんいん

Meaning: cause; origin; source

Actual pronunciation: げいいん (gei-in)


(4) 全員 ぜんいん

Meaning: all members (unanimity);  all hands;  the whole crew;  everyone.

Actual pronunciation: ぜいいん (zei-in)


Note: You may be tempted in thinking words such as 範囲 はんい follow the same pronunciation pattern as 全員 and 原因because い follows the ん vowel, but it does NOT.


(5) 雰囲気 ふんいき

Meaning: atmosphere;  mood;  ambience

Actual pronunciation: ふいんき (fuinki)


These are five difficult Japanese words that can trip up the careless learner. Leave a comment about anything you found difficult or got embarrassingly wrong – I may even write the next article about that!


Happy learning!