What Is “h” In Japanese? [ha, hi, fu, he, ho]

How are things going for you? Are you enjoying the course so far? I hope so because you are now half-way through the basic hiragana and their corresponding sounds. Today we’re going to focus on a new letter. What is “h” in Japanese?

Actually, before we get into that, let me say that you are now half-way through the basic hiragana characters.

There are some more modified ones that we will also be covering, but they are built off of the ones you’ve been learning so far, so when we get to them they will actually be even easier to learn than these.

Okay, without further ado, let’s begin!

The 5 [h] Sounds In Japanese

The [h] sounds are pretty simple and you will probably pick them up right away without really having to put much effort into them.

That being said, there is one weird character. I’m talking about the [fu] ふ right in the middle.

For now, just try it out and listen to the recording to hear what it should sound like. I will go more in depth on it in the next section so that you can get a better understanding of it.

は = ha

ひ = hi

ふ = fu

へ = he

ほ = ho

One little thing to keep in mind with these, is that は [ha] and ほ [ho] look pretty close to one another. We talked about how to differentiate similar looking characters in the last lesson, so I won’t go into a lot of details on it here.

For me personally, I’ve never had a problem keeping these two apart. I’m not really sure why, but talking to other people it seems like sometimes one person will struggle with a pair like this, and another person won’t.

I guess I got lucky this time.

If you know of any good tricks to keeping them apart, let me know down in the comments section so that other people who read it can also benefit from it. Thanks!

What’s Up With ふ?

Alright, now we get to the interesting character in the [h] bunch. What’s the deal with this one? Why an “f” letter in the group?

Well, I think it’s a similar situation to when there was a [c] sound in the [t] group. We start with how natives are actually making the sound and then when it comes to the English transcription we use the lettering that is closest to recreating that sound.

In this case, writing it as [fu] is more accurate so that’s what we use.

That being said, we have to be really careful with this one because when English speakers read that [f], we naturally try to make the English [f] sound which is done by slightly biting your lower lip and blowing air out through your teeth.

Try to notice it now by saying the following words out loud:

  • Fun
  • Fact
  • Four

Unfortunately this isn’t quite the same sound that Japanese people make with ふ when they speak.

One thing that you can do is simply listen to the native recording over and over again and then try to replicate the sound yourself by “feeling it out.”

If you record yourself, you can then compare your recording with the native speaker to see how close you are.

Another option that I’m going to give you is a basic guide to making this sound which might help you to visualize it.

Basic Guide To Making The ふ Sound

Start off by making a [huu] sound, but keep your lips relaxed as you don’t want them to be completely rounded like we normally would do in English.

Then once your mouth is in that position and can blow air out with a [huu] sound, try switching that [h] to an [f] and make the ふ sound.

This ought to create just a little bit of wind resistance against the tips of your teeth, and it ought to round the lips just a tad, but not nearly as much as we do in English.

Try doing that in combination with listening to the recording of the ふ sound several times.

It should get you close enough to where you can hear and then recreate what the native Japanese person is doing.

Drawing The Lines

Did your parents or teachers ever tell you to draw inside the lines? I certainly head it when I was a kid. Probably because I was such a bad artist!

With our hiragana practice, you get to actually draw the lines themselves!

I know, I’m getting a little too excited about writing. (>.<)

I don’t know how you personally feel about it, but for me I can remember that I thought it was so cool to be able to write in Japanese.

Not just because it was a foreign language, but also because the script is so alien to what we are used to seeing in English.

Even if you learn a romance language like Spanish or French, you still use the Latin alphabet with only a few new looking letters.

は = ha

ひ = hi

ふ = fu

へ = he

ほ = ho

I don’t know, maybe I’m just nerding out again here. You can tell me to be quiet, I won’t be too sad. :'(

An Alternative To Writing

I’ve been asking you to write out these characters for a while now (and I will continue to do so) but the truth is that practicing them in any format is much more important than the specific act of writing.

What I’m getting at here is that there are other options that you can choose to explore if you would like to.

Today I want to talk about one of them: using flashcards.

What I have found is that using flashcards is really great when you just want to review information, and especially when you are out and about. This might be when you’re riding the bus, chilling at a friend’s place, or just enjoying the day at the park.

There are tons of options for you to choose from when it comes to using flashcards to learn Japanese, but I think for the purposes of just learning hiragana, I am only going to recommend one.

I’m sure that you already know about Duolingo, right?

Well, they actually have another app called “Tinycards” that is a flashcard approach to learning new information (not just languages).

And they have a course specifically for learning hiragana!

Unfortunately, the course didn’t have native audio for the sounds when I tried it, but if you would rather learn the hiragana this way instead of writing it down, then that’s something you can check out by clicking the link below.

Click Here To Learn Hiragana With Tinycards

It’s pretty cool, totally free, and something that you can do on your phone. So, give it a look if you are interested.

Practice For Today

By now you should be pretty familiar with the kinds of practice I ask you to do, and also the amount.

Every now and then I will throw in something additional when I feel that it deserves extra attention. For today, that has to do with the ふ [fu] sound that we went over.

  • Practice every sound three or more times.
  • Practice the ふ sound six or more times based off the instructions and audio samples in this lesson.
  • Write out each kana five or more times.

Once you’ve done the job, you can feel free to move on. No need to get it perfect, just put in a good effort and be proud that you are making a lot of progress.

If you ever have a question on a sound, hiragana, or just something about the course, please let me know by leaving a comment down below.

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