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I am currently doing the beta course for Japaneses on duolingo. In one of the lessons, I was confronted with this question which I kept getting wrong:

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When I play the sound, the voice clearly says "naka", which I think is なか, but the answer is ちゅう, which I beleive is pronounced "chuu".

What is happening here?

  • It's ちゅう (note the small ゆ), not ちゆう. – Aeon Akechi May 12 '18 at 19:34
  • @AeonAkechi Thank you, but what is the difference? I haven't come across it yet – Aric May 12 '18 at 20:14
  • ちゆう is pronounced 'chiyuu'. ちゅう is pronounced 'chuu'. – Aeon Akechi May 12 '18 at 21:31
  • Ah, so the smaller version of ゆ is pronounced differently, thank you – Aric May 12 '18 at 21:39
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    You could probably report that as a bug on their website. – snailboat May 13 '18 at 1:00
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When standing alone, you would be right in saying that the character 中 makes the sound なか, but you need to remember that kanji can have multiple readings (訓読み and 音読み for Japanese readings and Chinese readings). When used in certain words, like 中学校 (read ちゅうがっこう, meaning middle school), the pronunciation can change, in this case being ちゅう. The other two options there, わたし and ごく are never going to be readings for 中.

Also, ちゅう sounds more like "chuu"

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    Note, 訓読み is not defined as a "Japanese reading" - rather, it is any established non-on'yomi reading corresponding to a word, and can be a foreign borrowing (e.g.「[頁]{ページ}」) or even an on'yomi for another character (e.g.「[尉]{じょう}」, where じょう is the on'yomi for「丞」). – droooze May 13 '18 at 7:54
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I came across the same issue on Duolingo. Originally I thought it was a bug and reported it as such, but having worked all the way to the end of their Japanese content (and as far as I'm aware this discrepancy still exists) I currently believe that this was deliberate by Duolingo to introduce users to the concept that a kanji may have more than one reading. That's a tricky thing to convey within their structure, so I think that was the best they could do in the circumstances. Certainly once I processed a bit further I started to realise it wasn't an unrelated sound but it actually reflected a feature of the language, and it did help me take that next step. I may be giving them too much credit, but that's my best answer to the 'why' in this case, having spent probably too much time fretting about it as I worked through the course.

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