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They sound exactly the same to me

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2 Answers 2

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When you pronounce し, your tongue should be toward the back of your mouth, not touching anything. When you pronounce ち, your tongue should briefly touch the roof of your mouth, right behind your teeth.

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ち is pronounced as /tɕi/ which is similar to the English itchy. し is pronounced /ɕi/, similar to English sheep.

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    I appreciate the IPA but there are several issues. Those two pairs of phones (sounds) are not identical and they only sound similar in a context that assumes English is the only frame of reference. In some other frames of reference they are actually far away from each other. For example there are languages where both the voiceless postalveolar affricate [tʃ] and the voiceless alveolo-palatal affricate [tɕ] occur, and there would be completely different consonants in that phonological space. In fact substitution of those English consonants for the Japanese ones is the source of foreign accents.
    – Eddie Kal
    Jul 25, 2022 at 19:19
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    @EddieKal I definitely agree that they are certainly not the same - I just assumed that OP's native language was English and tried to give a frame of reference, but that was probably a mistake to do. Thanks for the comment!
    – Basil
    Jul 26, 2022 at 9:12
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    @EddieKal - Generally speaking, English speakers don’t seem to have any difficulty distinguishing し and ち precisely because their language, unlike Spanish for example, also has a similar pair, albeit with a different fricative. If they still find it difficult, that’s probably because the plosive part of the affricate is weaker in Japanese, rather than because the place of articulation is slightly shifted forward.
    – aguijonazo
    Jul 26, 2022 at 14:14
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    @aguijonazo Yeah, but I was talking not about distinguishing し and ち, but rather within the two pairs that the answerer suggests as learning aids. Robin suggests that the OP look to [tʃ] as the consonant in itchy for the pronunciation of [tɕ] as in ち, so I commented maybe that was a bit Anglo-centric. I guess my comment sort of stemmed from my experience hanging out with Japanese young people who like making fun of foreign accents and saying things like /konnichiwarrr/. My point was maybe accuracy of pronunciation is as important as being able to tell し and ち apart.
    – Eddie Kal
    Jul 26, 2022 at 23:33
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    @EddieKal - I understand you, but the problem with that /konnichiwarrr/ is not so much in the pronunciation of /ch/ as in pitch, unnecessary stress, centralized unstressed vowels, and this seems the hardest, the length of /nn/. If all those things were perfect and only /ch/ was pronounced like English, most Japanese speakers wouldn’t even notice.
    – aguijonazo
    Jul 27, 2022 at 0:07

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