11 Japanese Words That Are Impossible To Pronounce

Difficult To Pronounce Japanese WordsJapanese pronunciation: an area that probably doesn’t get too much attention from you, as luckily most native English speakers don’t have much troubles with the sounds found in the language. Some things will trip you  up like つ, ふ, ら as well as extended vowels and small っ stops, but nothing you can’t handle with some time.

You are safe. Time to relax. And that’s exactly the moment where the serial killer hunts you down at the lake.

Languages are not immune to difficult pronunciation regardless of how easy that language’s pronunciation appears. Every language has its painful to pronounce words, even for its own native speakers. It kind of makes you wonder why these words came into existence the way they did if they are so hard to pronounce. Why not just add an extra reading, or change something. Japanese breaks rules all the time. They could’ve done that here as well.

But maybe you’re different?

You are smart. You are on your path to kung fu linguistic master. Let’s see if you can handle:

11 words Japanese people struggle with.

Wait, let me change that.

11 words that Japanese newscasters (you know, the people who are paid high salaries to have beautiful pronunciation) struggle with. 

I want you to say these words out loud, repeating them multiple times in a row. Don’t worry, no one behind you is watching. Unless you are at the above mentioned lake.

A little flustered

11. 老若男女 (ろうにゃくなんにょ), men and women of all ages

10. 暖かく (あたたかく): warm

9. 取りざたされる  (とりざたされる): to be rumored about

8. 偽札作り (にせさつづくり) : fake currency production

Working Up A Sweat

7. 過失致死傷罪 (かしつちししょうざい) : crime of negligence resulting in injury or death

6. 六カ国協議 (ろっかこくきょうぎ): 6-Nation Talk Conference

5. 高速増殖炉 (こうそくぞうしょくろ): high speed nuclear reactor

4. 低所得者層 (ていしょとくしゃそう): low-income group

Your Tongue Is Owned 

These final words contain combinations with the word 手術 (しゅじゅつ) or operation/surgery, which by itself already is an annoying word.

3. 手術中 (しゅじゅつちゅう) : in the middle of a (surgical) operation

2. 腹腔鏡手術 (ふくくうきょうしゅじゅつ): laparoscopic surgery

1. 摘出手術 (てきしゅつしゅじゅつ): extirpation

Made it through?

Give your tongue a rest. Eat some ice cream or something.

Find any of these words easy and think their difficulty is over-exaggerated? Know of any other goods ones that belong on this list?


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Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.


11 Japanese Words That Are Impossible To Pronounce — 24 Comments

  1. I would love to click on a little audio clip of these words. They would be fun to hear. Can you do that on Jalup?

  2. Oh my that was hard haha, as a beginner I was watching an Anime and the guys name is “多田 万里” and I just cannot say ばんり properly haha

    • I’ve seen the ん followed by り cause problems for beginners. Especially in the word 便利(べんり) which sounds a lot closer to “bendy” then benree.

  3. I honestly think that 2) is harder than 1). With a little practice though it wasn’t that hard to pronounce ’em.

    暖かかった [atatakakatta] use to and still does give me some trouble.
    入れられる [irerareru] also gives me some trouble as well.

    • I agree on the 暖かかった. Which I guess why they often slur あたたかい to あったかい。

      Some of the られる attachments does give your tongue a nice roll through.

      Agreed, practice does help, but it is easier when the word is said stand alone here, them when randomly thrown in a sentence while reporting the news.

      And the ranking is open to difficulty interpretation. I wouldn’t call it a firm difficulty order.

  4. I’m surprised 雰囲気 didn’t make the list since no one, at least that I’m aware of, pronounces it how it’s actually read. (ふんいき vs ふいんき) Also most people slur 暖かく in regular speech. Another one that I bet is hard for new news casters is 運行 because a pronunciation slip will give everyone a bad case of the giggles.

    What’s even more hilarious is that Japanese people love to point out people’s pronunciation slips especially on variety shows. I’ve even seen Dave Spector get ribbed for slip-ups on his news show. (I guess that should be a JALUP level of it’s own. 85: Native Japanese speakers make fun of you when you make mistakes.)

    • I agree, 雰囲気 is definitely a good contender.

      I’ll admit, I used to laugh like a child when I heard 運行 on the news for the first time.

      That is interesting, because Japanese would normally never make fun of Non-Japanese for mistakes. So once that starts happening, it means your Japanese is pretty awesome.

      And you do see a lot of variety show entertainers making fun of their less eloquent counterparts.

    • When I saw the title, 雰囲気 is the word that sprang immediately to mind, hehe. I’m still not sure if I’m saying it right or not…

  5. The hardest word for me to say is 千円。 My Japanese friend said that I pronounce it okay, but I spent a long time twisting my tongue around all sorts of awkward ways to make it せ・ん・え・ん instead of せんねん。 He said that it’s okay to pronounce the え like a “ye,” but I’m worried that might form a bad speaking habit, like how I used to always pronounce を as “wo.”

    All of those ん+vowel words make me nervous. And then there’s 方法を… Oddly, the tongue twisters in this post weren’t so bad for me, but I always mix up the kana in 柔らか. Is is yakawara? Yarawaka? Rakawayakararakaya?

  6. It wasn’t really that hard. But I admit, I struggled with some few words like 過失致死傷罪 and 高速増殖炉 . :)

  7. It just goes to show that your native language really matters… I’m a Polish native speaker and I wouldn’t consider any of these particularly hard to pronounce xD

    …Except for 暖かく

    • Same for me. There are some Japanese words that I struggle with but non from that list. My native language is Swedish

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