I have just started learning hiragana, and am confused about the pronunciation of some of them. I have heard some pronunciation guides for け which say it should sound like kay, and some which say it should just be ke (with an e sound like the one found at the start of the English word edge), and some for か say it should be kar, while others are telling me it should be ka (like the a sound at the beginning of apple). Can I have some verification as to which of these is correct, apologies if the question is deemed too basic.

EDIT: Apparently both sets of guides are incorrect, as they try and put the sounds into terms of English pronunciation. This being the case, can someone link me to a guide that explains how to properly pronounce them?

  • definitely NOT 'ka' with 'a as in apple' or 'ke' like 'kay'! listening to native speakers is definitely the best solution. :)
    – kinbiko
    Dec 7, 2013 at 18:19
  • 2
    The reason it's bad to learn in terms of English pronunciation is that many of the sounds in Japanese (incuding /a/ and /e/ that you're asking about) don't exist in English.
    – rintaun
    Dec 8, 2013 at 4:05

2 Answers 2


This site has voice recordings of all the kana: http://www.saiga-jp.com/pronunciation_voice.html

Trying to learn kana pronunciation from English is a bad idea.

  • Conversely, I once worked at the same school with a Japanese fellow who was trying to teach French pronunciation using kana. Anyone familiar with the broad range of French vowels, and the subtle distinctions between them, is probably wincing at this point... o.O Upon learning that he was the French teacher, my wife, who speaks French, once tried to strike up a conversation with him. He blanched and almost literally ran out of the room. Pro tip: do your best to learn the sounds of another language without relying too much on the sounds of your mother tongue. The differences can be huge. Jul 17, 2014 at 23:07

Why not use the International Phonetic Alphabet? According to that they would be /kɑ/ for and /kɛ/ or /ke/ for .

  • @snailboat: I don't see an entry for either a or e in that list. Where are you getting those?
    – istrasci
    Jul 14, 2014 at 18:19
  • I personally cannot tell any difference between /e/ and /ɛ/, nor can I conceive that any "normal" ear could either, so I'm leaving both of them in my answer.
    – istrasci
    Jul 14, 2014 at 18:49
  • 1
    In English transcriptions, /e/ and /ɛ/ are two different representations of the same phoneme, so there is no difference to hear. You can find dress spelled both /drɛs/ and /dres/ in dictionaries, indicating the exact same vowel two different ways. In Japanese, /e/ is roughly halfway between [e] and [ɛ] (The Sounds of Japanese, Vance 2008, p.54).
    – user1478
    Jul 15, 2014 at 1:40

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