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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Hiroko here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher where I’ll answer some of *your* most common Japanese questions.
The question for this lesson is…
Why is the hiragana HA sometimes read as WA?
So when I introduce myself, I say ‘Watashi wa Hiroko desu.’ meaning “I’m Hiroko.” The sentence has two ‘wa’ sounds. The first one is written as ‘wa/わ' but the second one uses the hiragana ‘ha/は.'
So what’s going on with this?
The hiragana ‘ha/は’ is usually read as "ha." For example, ‘hai’ meaning “yes” and ‘hajimemashite’ meaning “Nice to meet you.”
However, when it's used as a particle, it's read as "wa." The hiragana ‘ha’ in the sentence ‘Watashi *WA* Hiroko desu.’ is used as the topic marking particle. So you need to read this as ‘wa’ not ‘ha.’
It’s because the sound made by this character has shifted over time. The ancient Japanese people pronounced it as “fa” but, around the 9th century, it began to be said as “wa”. Even though the sound changed, people continued to use the character in the same way when writing. However, after the war, the government decided to renew the spelling rules, so that all ‘ha/は’ letters read as “wa” sounds were replaced to ‘wa/わ,’ except the particles. So the particles keep their traditional spellings until now.
So this letter is pronounced as “wa” when it’s a particle, but also in one other common situation: when it’s used as the last letter of the greeting phrases. Such as ‘Kon’nichiwa meaning “Good afternoon,” and ‘konbanwa meaning “Good evening.” Those two use the hiragana ‘ha/は’ at the end but the sounds are ‘wa’ because this ‘wa’ was originally a particle.
Other than the particle 'wa,' the sound of 'wa' is spelled as 'wa/わ' in hiragana. For example, ‘wakarimashita’ meaning “I understood.”
Got it?
I’ll show you one sentence in English and Japanese. Try to read it! Are you ready?
(Show the sentences)
"I like spring."
わたしははるがすきです。
(私は春が好きです。)
The answer is…(show the sentences in romanization)
‘Watashi wa haru ga suki desu.’ meaning “I like spring.”
How was it? Not that bad right?
I hope this makes sense to you and you’re not confused the multiple reading of hiragana ‘ha’ from now on!
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!
またね!

192 Comments

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JapanesePod101.com Verified
April 7th, 2015 at 06:30 PM
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What Japanese learning question do you have?

 

JapanesePod101.com Verified
September 7th, 2021 at 03:52 PM
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Tanmayiさん


Thank you so much for your comment😄


Please let us know if you have any questions :)


Sincerely

Ryoma

Team JapanesePod101.com

Tanmayi
September 3rd, 2021 at 04:42 PM
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Thank you !😄😄

JapanesePod101.com Verified
August 26th, 2021 at 03:26 PM
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Hi Tanmayi,


Thank you for your comments!

We are so sorry for the late reply.


You can say "Watashi wa Nihon-go o benkyō shite imasu", this is "I am learning Japanese" in Japanese😊


Please let us know if you have any further question:)


Sincerely,

Miho

Team JapanesePod101.com

Tanmayi
July 24th, 2021 at 08:36 PM
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ありがとうございます😄



Tanmayi 9 years old from India

Tanmayi
July 24th, 2021 at 08:33 PM
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Where I have to answer Hiroko ? Ok I will answer hear only I think she will see . 😇😇



Hiroko is Good teacher ..


My answer is 😇


Hiroko teacher I am not getting pronunciation for ( I am learning Japanese ) in Japanese. Can you tell me who to tell ( I am learning Japanese ) in Japanese ?


Thank you Teacher

JapanesePod101.com Verified
May 28th, 2021 at 08:15 PM
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Miakaさん


Thank you so much for your comment😄

Please let us know if you have any questions :)


Sincerely

Ryoma

Team JapanesePod101.com

Miaka
May 26th, 2021 at 06:57 AM
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❤️️

JapanesePod101.com Verified
October 17th, 2020 at 06:46 AM
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Hi Sumit,

Thank you for your comment😄

Basically, we use the hiragana わ for "wa" sound,

but sometimes we use the hiragana は for "wa" sound and there's a rule.

It might be easier for you to learn other lessons and get used to it.


Thank you for studying with us!


Sincerely,

Erica

Team JapanesePod101.com

JapanesePod101.com Verified
October 15th, 2020 at 05:28 AM
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Hi Musaab,


Thank you for your comment!😄

I think it's just a different accent or the way other people say it sometimes.

Same with English. Some people say "mountain" very clearly, but some others say "moun-n" without "t" sound.😁

Please let us know if you have any other questions!👍


Best regards,

Izumi

Team JapanesePod101.com

Musaab
October 7th, 2020 at 08:59 PM
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I have a question

Why does こんばんは sometimes sound like こんばうっわ (or at least it sounds like that to me)

ありがとうございます in advance!