Just started learning Japanese again. My college offers no class on this so I am learning on my own. I have been using Rosetta Stone on and off again for a while now.

One thing I have noticed is that Rosetta Stone uses は and を in basic sentences such as:


This sentence gives the Romaji:

onna no hito wa ocha o nonde imasu

Now I know

  • は = ha
  • を = wo

Why would they use those in place of わ and お?


2 Answers 2


When being used as a grammatical particle ([助詞]{じょし}), は is pronounced わ (wa), を is pronounced お (o), and へ (which you may not have come across yet) is pronounced え (e).

I've never used Rosetta Stone but it seems quite strange that it would not mention this...

Information as to the historical reason for this difference between spelling and pronunciation can be found in the answer to this question.

  • 1
    Rosetta Stone's format involves presenting a phrase in audio and text and the image/video it's a description of, and leaving you as the student to figure out what's going on. I haven't used it much, but what I've seen of it is that it has no explanations at all - it might have a few, I don't know. It's a very strange system.
    – Sjiveru
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 0:05
  • One this I noticed it that it gives you phrases that that are commonly used and expects you to pick up on grammar laws as it goes. It is a weird system. But paired with this, my dictionary, grammar book, and other resources I should be fine. It takes a lot of research on your own part though.
    – Nick C.
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 1:46
  • Also, thanks for listing others. Now certain words are making more sense!
    – Nick C.
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 1:50
  • @Sjiveru re "it's a very strange system" - I would argue it's just a different style of teaching. Rosetta Stone believes strongly in the concept of immersion and getting you to learn like you did your first language, without any help from your native language. They believe it helps get you to think in that language, rather than think in your native language and then translate. It certainly makes some things harder (like this), but I would argue it also makes some things easier.
    – Shirik
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 15:37

Often the particle は is written "wa" in Latin letters, because は, when used as a particle, is in fact pronounced the same as わ. Of course, は, when it is not a particle, is usually pronounced "ha".

を is pronounced お, and therefore sometimes transcribed "wo" and sometimes "o".

Similarly, the particle へ is pronounced the same as え, whence "he" or "e".

For text input, you have to write "ha wo he" for は を へ, but for best pronunciation approximation, "wa o e" are often used.

So, as it should, Rosetta stone is writing correct Japanese and chooses rōmaji (not Romanji, see this question) for approximating pronunciation (presumably Hepburn romanization).

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