How do you pronounce さ and ざ in Japanese? I understand that they are voiced and voiceless but how do you say them? I am currently learning Japanese.

I am English, I can say "bus" and "buzz". However, it's very hard to say the differences between Sa and Za in Japanese.

How do I produce the sounds before I articulate them all?

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    – Flaw
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 16:36
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1 Answer 1


How about this? In English, you can say, "he saw a ghost" ("saw" sounds roughly like さ, at least if we're just starting to get a feel for it), and you can say, "he's a ghost" ("he's a" is close to being like ざ).

  • Thank you so much, Ned Ralf! How would you say something like Ohayo Gozaimasu or Zassan for example? Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 10:04
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    If you go to Jim Breen's website and type in おはようございます, there is a black arrow to the left of the entry that lets you listen to the pronunciation. Try here edrdg.org/cgi-bin/wwwjdic/wwwjdic?1C
    – Ned Reif
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 17:34
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    Maybe it's just me, but this answer leaves a lot to be desired. The 'sa' in 'saw' sounds closer to そ than さ for me. The "he's a" example is entirely dependent on how fast/clearly a person is pronouncing it.
    – yushi
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 6:56
  • Dear Yushi, if the speaker is following standard American or British phonological rules, the letter <s> in English is pronounced either as a /s/ or a /z/, depending on the voicing of the following sound. Consequently, since the indefinite article <a> is voiced in the phrase <he's a ghost>, the preceding letter <s> should be pronounced as the phone [z]. This phenomenon is called regressive assimilation. Whether a person actually pronounces the <s> as a [z] depends, of course, on how much importance that person attaches to standard pronunciation.
    – Ned Reif
    Commented Sep 15, 2018 at 8:34

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