I am currently trying to learn Japanese and I've done really well in my opinion (IMO). I am trying to learn about voiced consonants with Hiragana.

What I need to know

I know you must have a vibration in your throat when doing these voiced consonants but is sa (さ) and za ambiguous? How do I pronounce za?

  • 3
    If your native language does not distinguish /s/ and /z/, you may have difficulty hearing and producing the difference. English distinguishes them - a minimal pair is 'Sue' and 'zoo'.
    – Sjiveru
    Jun 21, 2018 at 14:40

3 Answers 3


"sa" is pronounced like the "sa" in "salami" or "salsa" and "za" is pronounced with the same "z" sound at the beginning of "Zoo", "Zipper" or "Zebra" plus "ah"

it's possible that one thing that might be confusing you is the way that some Japanese words that start with an "s" sound are changed to a "z" sound when combined with other words... for exmaple "sushi" and "inarizushi" or "sen" (thousand) and "nanzennen" (thousands of years) "saru" and "nihonzaru".

You should be able to hear the differences between sa/za se/ze su/zu if you listen carefully, but if you still have trouble, just remember that 'z' sounds cause your throat to vibrate, and 's' sounds do not... you can place your hand on your throat to feel the difference.

  • 2
    Could you kindly give us a couple of actual examples of those "exceptions"?
    – user4032
    Jun 21, 2018 at 13:27
  • 1
    You changed your answer after reading my comment, but rendaku has little to nothing with this question.
    – user4032
    Jun 21, 2018 at 14:31
  • 1
    I just wanted to be sure that the questioner's problem about z's and s's was not a confusion in that regard. But yes, I couldn't find examples of "different dialects" that I thought was one possible cause of confusion, so I removed that part of my answer. Jun 21, 2018 at 14:51

TL;DR The combination is secretly hidden in the word 'buzz'. Yes, buzzing for vibration. in the nutshell.

You want voiced instead of voiceless, right? Then, you've got it, my friend! All you have to do is this. The following.

The z sound can be pronounced with practice. Trust me. Please read.

You should find that it works when you copy the "zz" sounds in words like 'buzz'. That's what helped me better than just saying "zoo".

As for the s sound, obviously you can try it out with bus.


This website might be helpful to you: https://forvo.com/ You can listen to audio tracks by native speakers and submit words you want to hear the pronunciation of.

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