What Is “k” In Japanese? [ka, ki, ku, ke, ko]

What is k in Japanese? And is it any different from the English k? Well, it’s very similar but it does have some important differences that I feel we should go over.

We’re going to go into it in this lesson and I’ll provide some audio that you can practice listening to.

As it turns out, there are a lot of consonants in Japanese. If you were to list them all out on paper they would pretty much be the same ones that we use in English. So this is the first in many short lessons on Japanese consonants. Let’s begin!

A Note On Japanese Consonants

Japanese is a pretty cool language because it is so different from English and when you study it, you get to learn a new way of thinking and communicating.

But we have to be really careful that our native language doesn’t mess us up!

At least in my own experience, I’ve found that when I started learning Japanese I kept coming at it from an English language point of view and it caused me some unnecessary confusion and difficulty.

The solution is to try to see things from the Japanese perspective, and that includes how consonants are used.

One of the biggest differences between English and Japanese consonant is that Japanese consonants have to be combined with a vowel and they can’t be used in isolation.

There is one exception to this rule, but we’ll get to that in a later lesson.

When it comes to the [k] sound in Japanese, we never use just the consonant alone. Instead, we always combine it with one of the five vowels that we covered in the last lesson.

From just that simple description, you can probably figure them all out in your head, but there’s no need to. We will cover them in just a minute.

One final thing that I want to make note of is the difference between the Japanese [k] sound and the English [k] sound.

Normally when we say something with [k] in English we have an explosive, percussive type sound to it. Go ahead and try saying words like “key, kick, and kiss.”

It’s almost as if the [k] if exploding out of our mouths!

In Japanese, it’s a bit different. It’s much more of a soft [k] sound. Pay attention to how it sounds in the audio recording below and try to mimic the low amount of force that is used.

The 5 [k] Sounds In Japanese

The [k] sound gets combined with each of the five Japanese vowels to form the below sounds.

か = ka

き = ki

く = ku

け = ke

こ = ko

Something else that should be noted is the order in which I’m having you learn both the vowels, and the consonants.

Just like how there is a correct order in the English alphabet (abc … xyz) there is also a correct order for each kana in the Japanese script.

You’ve been learning them in the correct order so far, but as we get further and further into the consonants it might become easy to forget that there is a specific order.

I don’t want you to worry about it too much, I just wanted to point it out to you in case you ever need to look something up in a Japanese dictionary.

By remembering the correct order that we are using, you will be better able to better navigate it when you are flipping through the pages searching for that one word you need to know.

How To Write Them

Another good reason to learn the kana in the correct order is so that when you go to practice writing them out, you can do so in the right sequence and help lock it in even further.

Here are the correct ways to write these kana:

か = ka

き = ki

く = ku

け = ke

こ = ko

I would definitely recommend that you not only try writing these new hiragana out several times on a piece of paper, but I would also encourage you to try to write out the vowels that we went over before.

Go ahead and look them up if you can’t quite remember them all. As you go over them again and again they should become easier until you can write them without any difficulty.

Also, you can do a couple of different “game like” things to help make the process a little more enjoyable. Try writing them out in the correct order. Then try writing out matching vowel kana (あ and か , お and こ, etc.).

You are only limited to your imagination, so try lots of things and let me know if you come up with any fun ones!

Example Words For [k]

Originally, I had both the [k] and [s] sounds tied together into one lesson. But since I am going back through this course and updating it, I’ve decided to separate them into individual lessons so that more time could be devoted to each.

Because of that, the example words won’t be in this lesson for [k], but once you go through the next lesson on [s] you will get them both in one audio file.

That’s going to be the pattern for all of the consonants going forward. Example words will be provided every other lesson.

Because of that, the action exercises will be a little easier for you this time since there are only two activities: listen to the individual sounds and practice writing the new hiragana.

Action Exercises

Although I’m not a big fan of giving quizzes or exercises, I have found them both to be helpful when done well. My objective with these are to help you to actually use new information right after you’ve learned it.

Since this type of thing has helped me in the past, I encourage you to give it a try as well. Here’s what I recommend for this lesson and the things we’ve covered.

  • Listen to and repeat each sound a minimum of three times.
  • Write out each hiragana on a piece of paper a minimum of five times.

Now that we are all done with [k] it is time to move on to [s]!

Questions? Comments? Let me know down below!

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