How To Speak Japanese

By optilingo

This post is for anyone who wants to know how to speak Japanese. In this post, I’m going to focus mostly on pronunciation of within the Japanese language. Let’s start with how to pronounce Japanese words.

Pronunciation: How to speak Japanese

Japanese has five main vowels, and their sounds in words are explained below

(a)     sounds like “a” as in “art”

(i)     sounds like “ea” as in “eat”

(u)     sounds like “oo” as in “food”

(e)     sounds like “e” as in “bed”

(o) sounds like “o” as in “orange”

If you’re really interested in how to speak Japanese, you should check out some of my other posts on other facets of the Japanese language. In this post, though, I’m going to provide some of the very basics.

Numbers in Japanese (1 – 10)

ichi-system
1. ichi
2. ni
3. san
4. shi, yon
5. go
6. roku
7. shichi, nana
8. hachi
9. kyuu, ku
10. juu
hitotsu-system
1. hitotsu
2. futatsu
3. mittsu
4. yottsu
5. itsutsu
6. muttsu
7. nanatsu
8. yattsu
9. kokonotsu
10. too

Japanese numbers (10 to 10,000 – ichi-system only)

10. juu
20. ni-juu
30. san-juu
40. yon-juu
50. go-juu
60. roku-juu
70. nana-juu
80. hachi-juu
90. kyuu-juu
100. hyaku
100. hyaku
200. ni-hyaku
300. sanbyaku
400. yon-hyaku
500. go-hyaku
600. roppyaku
700. nana-hyaku
800. happyaku
900. kyuu-hyaku
1000. sen
1000. sen
2000. ni-sen
3000. san-zen
4000. yon-sen
5000. go-sen
6000. roku-sen
7000. nana-sen
8000. hassen
9000. kyuu-sen
10000. ichi-man

Large Numbers

1 ichi
10 juu
100 hyaku
1,000 sen
—–
10,000 ichi-man
100,000 juu-man
1,000,000 hyaku-man
10,000,000 issen-man
—–
100,000,000 ichi-oku
1,000,000,000 juu-oku
10,000,000,000 hyaku-oku
100,000,000,000 issen-oku
—–
1,000,000,000,000 icchoo
10,000,000,000,000 jucchoo
100,000,000,000,000 hyaku-choo
1,000,000,000,000,000 sen-choo

Colors in Japanese

Words for colors in Japanese with notes on their etymology and usage.

/ 黒い (kuro / kuroi) / ブラック (burakku)

Shades of black and black-related expressions

  • 墨色 (sumi-iro) – ink black
  • 濡れ羽色 (mureba-iro) – jet black
  • 黒黒 / 黒々 (kuroguro) – deep black
  • 真っ黒 / 真黒 (makkuro) – pitch black
  • 烏羽色 (karasuba-iro) – glossy black
  • 闇商人 (yamishōnin) – black marketeer
  • 珍中の珍 (chinchū no chin – rarity; black swan
  • 焼け野の鴉 (yakenonokarasu) – blacker than black

/ 白い (shiro / shiroi) – white; ‘white hat’

Shades of white and white-related expressions

  • 白湯 (sayu) – hot/boiled water
  • 白紙 (hakushi) – blank/white paper
  • 真白 (mashiro – pure white
  • 象牙色 (zōge-iro) – ivory-white

/ 赤い (aka / akai); 丹色 (ni-iro)

Shades of red and red-related expressions

  • 暗紅色/暗赤色 (ankōshoku) – dark red
  • 浅紅 (senkō) / 薄肉 (usuniku)) – light red
  • 紅梅色 (kōbai-iro) – red plum coloured
  • 桜色 (sakura-iro) – cherry blossom coloured
  • 桃色 (momo-iro) – peach-coloured
  • 紅海 (kōkai) – Red Sea
  • 赤熱 (sekinetsu) – red hot

黄色 (ki-iro / ōshoku / kōshoku) – yellow; amber

Shades of yellow and yellow-related expressions

  • 浅黄 (asagi) / 桑色 (kuwa-iro) – light yellow
  • 黄鉛 (ōen / kōen) – chrome yellow
  • 黄枯茶 (kigarachya) – bluish yellow
  • 朽ち葉色 (kuchiba-iro) – yellow-brown
  • 黄海 (kōkai) – Yellow Sea

/ 青色 (ao / ao-iro) – blue/green / ブリュ (buryu) – blue

Shades of blue and blue-related expressions

  • 水色 (mizudori) – light blue (water colour)
  • 濃紺 (nōkon) – dark blue
  • 紺色 (kon-iro) – deep blue
  • 紺青 (konshō) – navy blue
  • 空色 (sora-iro) – sky-blue
  • 碧眼 (hekigan) – blue eyes

 (midori) – green

Shades of green and green-related expressions

  • 碧色 (hekishoku) – green; emerald
  • 黄緑 (kimidori) / 浅緑 (asamidori) – light green
  • 草色 (kuchi-iro) / 暗緑 (hisui-iro) – dark green

茶色 (chairo) / 褐色 (kasshoku) – brown

Shades of brown

  • 黒茶色 (kurocha-iro) – deep brown
  • 暗褐色 (ankashoku) / 濃褐色 (n) – dark brown
  • 狐色 (kitsune-iro) 淡褐色 (tankasshoku) – light brown

桃色 (momoiro) / 淡紅色 (tankōshoku) / ピンク – pink

Shades of pink and pink-related expressions

  • 濃桃 (nōtō) – deep pink
  • 褪紅 (taikō) – light pink

橙色 (daidaiiro) / オレンジ (orenji) – orange

灰色 (haiiro) / 鼠色 (muzumi-iro) – grey

 (murasaki) / パープル (pūpuru) – purple

Shades of purple and purple-related expressions

  • 濃紫 (komurasaki) – dark purple
  • 浅紫 (achimurasaki) – light purple