dialects

Only one out of five Japanese people can pronounce these hiragana — can you?

Wait, what? These weren’t in chapter one of Genki….

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Five words that sound completely different across Japanese regional dialects

If you’re American, do you usually drink at the “water fountain,” the “drinking fountain,” or (my personal favorite, all you Rhode Islanders) the “bubbler”? And how about that fizzy fountain beverage–what do you call it in your neck of the woods?

In the same way that the above-mentioned drink is known variously to American speakers of English as soda, pop, or coke, Japanese speakers also use different terms for the same thing depending on where they live. In fact, Japanese regional dialects, known as hōgen (方言), can differ so much from the standard Japanese (hyōjungo [標準語]) spoken in the Tokyo area and national media, that subtitles are often necessary when someone speaks with a thick local accent on TV. It’s not just the pronunciation that differs; often the form of words and syntactical structures are completely distinct.

To show you what we’re talking about, we’d like to introduce five examples of words that look and sound completely different from standard Japanese when said in regional dialects. If you’re a speaker of Japanese and you use one of these words when speaking to someone from a different part of the country, you may be met with a blank stare if your terms for the same thing are mutually unintelligible.

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