Japanese Tips! : を is NOT pronounced as “wo”!

This thing, here.

This thing, here.

First things first: Time to get my aspiring linguist hat on! ┗(`ー´)┓

All right, here’s my story:

Since I’ve been studying a lot about phonology, and preparing Japanese-speech related things, I’ve come across this strange thing I’ve been doing when I speak Japanese. I actually pronounce the grammatical particle “を” as “wo”.

Undoubtedly, many of you have seen manga titles, such as Takaya Natsuki’s Tsubasa wo Motsu Mono, and probably thought that this mysterious thingy-I-don’t-know-what was pronounced as “wo”. I mean, it is romanized that way with some romanization systems, right?


This particle is actually read as “o”. NOT “WO”. IT’S “O”.
(Note that this only applies for STANDARD JAPANESE. Some dialects still pronounce this as “wo”. However, if you go to Tokyo and speak in this way, people are going to correct you while thinking you sound a bit odd at the same time.)

Now, I’ve been aware of this for most of the time that I’ve been studying Japanese. And despite this, I’ve still been pronouncing it wrong. Why, you ask? I BLAME ANISONG ROMANIZATIONS.

You see, the way I learned a lot of my Japanese in my formative years was through anime…and through anime songs. In the interest of learning my favorite songs, I would go to sites like animelyrics.com, and the romaji provided would usually use the romanization “wo”. During this time, I was in the camp that said “object particle wo NEEDS to be be romanized with a “w” to differentiate it from everything else!”, and I was pretty gung-ho about this.

And then just recently, I came to realize that this was having a drastic effect on my spoken Japanese. A rather negative one, at that.

I was doing some spoken practice with my Japanese teacher recently, until one day, she said, “STOP.” I asked her what was the matter, and she said, “You’re pronouncing particle “o” as “wo”. Did you realize that?” And then I realized – OH CRAP, SHE’S RIGHT.

I really am embarrassed about this, since I take my accent, and the act of improving it very seriously. In order for you, the reader, not to make this mistake, heed my cautionary tale.

を is not “wo”, it’s “o”. Never forget. Never make this mistake again. Tell all your friends. Be smarter and more observant than I was.

Well, that’s that. I’m going to go read the Wikipedia article about Japanese phonology and depress myself about voiceless bilabial fricatives and other sounds I can’t produce with my vocal tract. GAHH.