こんにちにゃあ～！Welcome to Kiki+Koko: Let’s NihonGO!! Online! We’re Kiki and Koko, your guides to Japanese language and culture, introducing the skills you need for your Japanese language learning journey and helping you every step of the way! We’re here to help you with the signs and the symbols you’ll see on the aisles of reading, writing, and communicating, so you don’t find yourself lost in the proverbial supermarket. And, this time, whilst it may not be too difficult for anyone who has been learning with us since the beginning; however this is one of the special cases where you not only have to look closely at the extra marks found on the character we’ll be introducing to you, but you’ll also have to pay attention to exactly which marking you’re looking at in future. For now, you’ll only have to worry about whether or not this character has 濁点, dakuten, however in future, this character will be wearing yet another disguise that will cause its pronunciation to change once more! So, be aware that when you see the original character from the 五十音, gojuuon, ‘s ハ行, ha-gyou, otherwise known as the 「は」column, they may bring with them an extra bit of fancy dress that may only slightly change their look, but will drastically change their voicing. But, not to worry, as we have with us, this lesson, our helpful computer robot friend and bilingual buddy, QUIZBO™, who will be there to assist you in the pronunciation of these somewhat familiar characters.
However, before we continue on, we can’t assume everyone who is reading this lesson has been here since 「あいうえお」or that everyone has an understanding of what this ‘hiragana‘ could possibly mean. Never fear, as we have an article just for you! In the lesson: How Do You Write in Japanese? | Japanese Writing System Demystified, we explain in simple terms just exactly how the Japanese writing system works in a way that should hopefully introduce you to the concepts and allow you to have a grasp on just what you need to know in order to learn Japanese. But, perhaps, you’re thinking that you don’t necessarily want to learn how to read, you simply want to learn how to speak. And, we’ll still be there to support you either way, but before you make a decision on whether or not reading is important to being able to speak, then maybe you’d benefit from having a read of our article on the dangers of romaji. Though relying on romanised scripts can be detrimental, we do also want to remind purists the practical uses of such a way of writing. And, once you’ve hopefully returned from a hopefully educational experience, we still definitely recommend you have a go of the first 五十音, gojuuon, hiragana before moving onto 濁点, dakuten, of which we explain in: 🔊 Let’s Read!! w/ QUIZBO™ 【がぎぐげご】| 濁点とは？| What is Dakuten? (+ Helpful Hints with Kiki+Koko!).
However, for anyone who has already learnt the first characters and is completely prepared for this lesson, good on you! This is going to be the beginning of an interesting chapter in reading, as you may already realise that this is based on one of the characters we foreshadowed as one that would serve two more jobs, therefore tripling your efforts when you began to learn to write and read it. This time, we’re focusing on 濁点, dakuten, ‘s effects on the ハ行, ha-gyou, or 「は」row. This is luckily one of the more consistent effects when it comes to 濁点, dakuten, as each one, including the 「ふ」 has the same voiced consonant. Just always be sure to look very closely and make sure that you see two dots: 「˝」and not a small circle「゜」when you apply this next rule.
As an easier rule than many other rows of hiragana that are affected by 濁点, dakuten, any time you see a「˝」above any of the characters of the ハ行, ha-gyou, or 「は」row, you’ll immediately change the 「H」sound to a 「B」sound. And, it’s as simple as that! But, again, be sure to be very careful and keep a sharp eye out especially when you’re first learning, as it can be easy to overlook or misconstrue 濁点, dakuten, and 半濁点, handakuten, at first glance. Luckily, though, when it comes to normal everyday reading, and not necessarily linguistics, comic book sound effects, or maybe Ainu script, you’ll really only have to worry about this distinction specifically in the ハ行, ha-gyou! So, normally, you won’t have to second guess yourself. And, even in these cases, context will be your guide to quicker reading after you become more comfortable with it.
ご注意：As a quick but important warning/helpful hint: We want to be sure to make a point that the B sound of Japanese isn’t quite as intense as an English B sound. When you think of B in English, there’s a lot more power behind it with more curling of the lip. This isn’t extremely important, as from person to person and from dialect to dialect, there’s differentiation, but generally, in Japanese, the B sound depends on an uncurled lip, simply tapping the inner lip together with the usual aspiration and tone from the throat to be mainly relied on. So, when practising your pronunciation, be sure that you’re not putting too much power into the B sound, rather a gentle tap of the tips together, stopping the air momentarily usually suffices to make a nice clean ばびぶべぼ. That isn’t to say people will naturally lean towards saying these with a lot of power, but it’s just something to think about to get more of a native pronouncation. Many languages do have a powerful B sound, but if you have that extra power behind it, it may be mistaken for 「っば」「っび」「っぶ」「っべ」「っぼ」. Proper pronunciation in a formal setting usually relies on clean pronunciations, and it’s important to start out with that, then you can start to adjust based on situation and context.
But, as another pleasant note, if you’ve been curious after our verb conjugation lessons, understanding and knowing these rows will help your conjugation of the dictionary forms of verbs tremendously! This is something we didn’t include in our initial reasons why learning hiragana and just generally how to read in Japanese is so important because it did seem to be a bit too far down the queue of topics that beginners may not be able to fully grasp this. But, after seeing the conjunctive form along with stems and how much it ties in with knowing hiragana, but also how hiragana works in the context of 五十音順, gojuuonjun, or 50 sound order, it should hopefully make those who have been putting in the effort to learn feel even that much more accomplished~!
Even still, whether you know five hiragana or fifty, we’re proud of you, and you’ve made quite the feat! You’ve gone out of your way to learn something totally different to your own language. And, every character you learn, no matter the time it takes, is still something you didn’t know before! And, knowing a bit more each day and celebrating to motivate yourself to your next goal is what your learning journey is all about. Though, there’s a definite emphasis on celebrating your accomplishments. It’s important to continue moving forward, but never let the mountain of Japanese language seem too high to climb. There will always be something new to learn. Even those deemed fluent find themselves learning new things, just like those who are native to any language. Goals are important, but it really is about the journey, because learning can last a lifetime, so make that journey an enjoyable one, and never let yourself get caught up in what you want to know without appreciating and using what you’ve already learned~!
Above are the tools that you’ll need to compare the original character and the modified character. But, without further ado, we should probably welcome back your computer friend and ours, QUIZBO™くん！(The ™ is silent)
If you remember from previous instalments, this is a portable version, QUIZBO™ Mini, who lives here on the site. He’ll be here to help sound out these hiragana for you. You can click the sound ‘bytes’ as many times as you’d like, QUIZBO™ won’t mind. ( Get it, bytes? … Computer? …We’ll stick to teaching Japanese. ) Afterwards, you’ll be able to take a quiz with QUIZBO™ to help you review them or test your knowledge!
Are you ready!?
Let’s NihonGO!! ばびぶべぼ!!
We’re going to show you the character, then you you can click the play button to hear QUIZBO™ sound it out for you. But, as a better visualisation of each sound, we also have the romanised pronunciation of each character so you have something in English to which you can compare it.
In romaji, 「ば」 is transliterated as「ba」which sounds sort of like 「bahh」**
Helpful Hints with Kiki+Koko:
As you may already recognise, 「ば」is a modification of 「は」. Now, these two may not seem like they have much in common when it comes to sound, but if you think of it, it technically does have some validity. The ‘H’ sound is unencumbered by anything except the breathy sound that is made. In this case, you’re technically using that same aspiration, but getting your lips involved, making that ‘H’ into a ‘B’.
In romaji, 「び」 is transliterated as 「bi」which sounds like the letter 「B」or 「bee」in more of an American accent.
Helpful Hints with Kiki+Koko:
Again, this character is a modification of its ハ行, hagyou, or 「は」row sibling, 「ひ」. So, instead of the generally unimpeded ‘H’ sound, one’s lips get involved to turn it into a ‘B’ sound. Oddly enough, the ‘B’ sound does have aspiration to it, or else it wouldn’t make a sound. When you repeat after QUIZBO™, try to say each character one after another so really get a kinaesthetic way of differentiating these sounds.
In romaji, 「ぶ」 is transliterated as 「bu」or 「du」which sounds sort of like someone trying to scare someone by saying, 「boo!」in more of an American accent.
Helpful Hints with Kiki+Koko:
If you remember the lengthy time we spent explaining 「ふ」in the 「はひふへほ」lesson, then you’ll have a better understanding of why despite the dual romanisations, the pronunciation still is found nearly unencumbered by the lips. In this case, it’s all thrown out the window, though, as it’s brought totally into the same sound category as 「ぶ」. Again, it’s just stopping air with your mouth and making a bit of the B tone with your throat which is the aspiration usually given to H that causes this new sound. It’s oddly very reliant on the tone from the throat, and has a very gentle B sound to it, just as the previous ones.
In romaji, 「べ」 is transliterated as 「be」which sounds sort of like the English word「bay」without the ‘y’ sound at the end.
Helpful Hints with Kiki+Koko:
Again, this is a modifcation of the ハ行’s 「へ」, taking the gentle 「へ」sound and replacing the ‘H’ with a gentle ‘B’ sound. Again, any time you pronounce these, always be reminded of the initial vowel sounds あいうえお which have no extra sounds, just clean vowels without the extra twang given to the vowels in English. This isn’t specific to this character, but just something always useful to keep in mind!
In romaji, 「ぼ」 is transliterated as 「bo」which sounds sort of like the English word 「bow」as in what one would wear in their hair or put on a gift, just without the extra diphthong.
Helpful Hints with Kiki+Koko:
「ぼ」is a modification of the ハ行’s 「ほ」. Again, if you have a good idea of the previous ones, just apply the same idea here~! Luckily, these have very consistent voicing as long as you remember your vowel sounds, and as for all of them, be sure to leave out any diphthongs that can happen for English speakers. Diphthongs are the sliding sound that is found in many vowels, even when spoke, like in ‘ABC’, do you notice how there’s more than one sound happening? Not just the consonant, but the sliding of the vowel. This is huge pitfall when people make the transition from English to Japanese, so if you’re already comfortable with leaving these out of your vowels, then you’re already doing very well! It’s just something to always keep in mind when you’re pronouncing new characters and words. Keep it clean and concise!
And, there we are! 「ばびぶべぼ」!! Whew! That was quite a milestone to be introduced and will be important in so many words and conjugations in future. We know it can be a lot to absorb as a beginner, but no worries! You have as much time as you need to not only understand the differentiation between the modified characters and their originals, but also for these to become natural. We’ll continue to assist you with multiple ways to learn for all learning styles. It’s important to engage as many senses as possible when it comes to learning new concepts and materials. But, also be sure to return, as it’s important to keep your pronunciation in check and of course, learning it all in one sitting can be a bit much. But, with time and effort, we know you can succeed! Just be patient and do your best whilst keeping it light and fun.
Overall, we hope we’ve provided you with a useful and unique experience that you may not get anywhere else. We’re always striving to do our best to teach Japanese in a way that’s informative with more context and proper building blocks towards your goals. Even if your goals are sky high, we’ll be there every step of the way! Reach for the stars, but be realistic and celebrate each stepping stone until you reach the clouds. Be sure to subscribe to the site in order to be the first to know when the latest lesson is available, getting an alert straight to your electronic mail box~! (The site can take up to a day until it wants to show up on the main page, and a bit longer to be organised into the homepage by category, so it’s very useful!)
We want to continue to ensure your steps to success in your Japanese language learning goals, whether you want to just learn a bit for fun or become fluent. You can make sure this content stays available to everyone who needs it as well as ensure the continuation of the creation of new and even better content by leaving a TIP in the TIP♡JAR to keep it going, or for long term contributions in increments, you can join our Patreon where our gracious host, Indigo East, usually posts behind-the-scenes, sneak-peeks, exclusive content, and more. And, we join in as well! Again, if you’d like to support our survival and the creation of more content to be made available to as many people as possible, you can also share the content! You can easily share via Twitter and Pinterest where you can retweet and repin respectively without even having to type! Gestures like that go a long way, and we appreciate it.
Thank you for joining us! We hope that you continue with us on this adventure, and we appreciate that you’ve chosen us to assist you on your Japanese learning journey.