It has been bugging me for a while; I'm using memrise for learning and for example:

  • ちゅうごく China → I hear it pronounced chūmoku
  • かがく science → I hear it pronounced kanaku

Is this an error from memrise's side or are there rules for pronouncing some hiragana/katakana differently?

  • 1
    There are dialects of Japanese (fairly common ones) with what is often described as a nasal g sound. The topic has been extensively discussed. Here's an example. japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/26227/…
    – Leebo
    Nov 16, 2017 at 8:00
  • So in standard japanese everything is read as it is written and it would be wrong to do so? (with few exceptions like particle ha for example)
    – Human
    Nov 16, 2017 at 8:19
  • Many people speak standard Japanese and also use a nasal g. Tokyo is a place where it is common. These things you heard are definitely not ちゅうもく or かなく. That is not an accurate way to describe what is being pronounced. Sorry if I'm being vague, the details are in the answer in the question I linked.
    – Leebo
    Nov 16, 2017 at 8:26
  • 2
    The nasal 'g' is an important feature of Standard Japanese. Regardless of the region, professional announcers, singers, actors, voice actors are required to use it where necessary. Japanese-learners often ask this question because they hear it and notice it in their audio materials for their Japanese study, anime, dramas, films, etc. It is usually professionally trained people who record the materials, so the nasal 'g' is heard everywhere. They often don't learn about it at all in Japanese courses, hence, the big confusion.
    – user4032
    Nov 16, 2017 at 8:46
  • Are there any other rules for different pronounciation than nasal g? Or is it the only consonant that gets changed in pronounciation
    – Human
    Nov 16, 2017 at 8:54

1 Answer 1


Probably you were hearing "velar nasal g" [ŋ], which is an allophone of [g] mainly heard in eastern parts of Japan. In Japanese, [ŋ] and [g] in がぎぐげご are variants (allophones) of the same sound (phoneme), and most people are totally unaware of the difference. If you're not sure what I'm talking about, please read these first:

Many professional announcers, actors and vocalists still actively distinguish them depending on the place of がぎぐげご in a sentence. This fact confuses some foreigners because they can easily notice different native Japanese speakers pronounce がぎぐげご differently. However, they are the same sounds to many average, untrained Japanese speakers like me. Even though you feel "m" or "n" sounds in が/ご, they're が/ご to Japanese ears. (Is your mother language English, by the way?) You'll have to get to used to them.

For more information, read this section on Wikipedia.

When you speak Japanese, it's totally fine to always stick to [g]. Some sources say 80% of the Japanese people do not use [ŋ] at all when they pronounce がぎぐげご in sentences. However, if you seriously want to be a professional announcer of Japanese, there are some rules you have to respect. See the linked article above.

Another example of consonant variation is yotsugana. But remember that most Japanese people are totally unaware of this fact.

  • 2
    Such a neat answer, and no my native language is Croatian
    – Human
    Nov 18, 2017 at 17:29
  • It's probably worth mentioning (even though it is in the linked info) that the [ŋ] allophone is not usually used in the word-initial position. It usually only appears in the middle of words.
    – kandyman
    Jul 8, 2020 at 10:53

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .