Learn Japanese Homonyms

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Japanese Language

Learn Japanese Homonyms

Learn Japanese Homonyms – Have you ever confused the bird crane with the lifting machine at construction sites? The word “crane” is a homonym; it is spelled the same but can mean different things. In Japanese,
homonyms exist too, and they can be hard to distinguish at the beginning. Let’s master them
by paying attention to the three clues: kanji, context, and intonation!

Learn Japanese Homonyms
Learn Japanese Homonyms


Looking at the kanji tells you right away what the homonym is referring to.
For example, both medicine and coin are written as こうか in Hiragana, but differently in kanji:
Mr. Tanaka likes collecting coins from various countries.
The effect for this medicine appears after three hours.


If glancing at the kanji doesn’t help, the next thing you should do is concentrate on the surrounding context. The following statement should be read in its entirety:

The monkey took permission from a tree.
Yesterday, I ate oysters at a seafood restaurant.
かき can mean two things: persimmon or oyster. Because the first sentence refers to an object
on a tree, persimmon is likely to be the right choice over oysters. Similarly, you would expect
oysters at a seafood restaurant more than persimmon.


When engaging in discussions with people that employ homonyms, it is important to pay attention to the intonation that they use. Please read the following exchange in its entirety:
Mr. Tanaka “What do you like?”
Mr. Yamada “I like あめ!”
Here, あめ can mean two things: rain or candy.
あめ(rain) places an emphasis on the あ sound, while あめ(candy) places an emphasis on the め
sound. Watch this video to hear the difference, and practice saying them out loud.

Here are some more examples:

ISHI: 石(rock) and 医師(doctor)

KOUEN: 公園(Park) and 公演(Performance)

SINCHOU: 身長(Height) and 慎重(Careful)

KISHA: 記者(Journalist) and 汽車(train)

KANSHOU: 干渉(interfere) and 鑑賞(View, appreciate)

Homonyms are difficult to differentiate at first glance, and even those who are fluent in both languages may get them confused on occasion. When you are unsure about anything, you shouldn’t be hesitant to ask questions that will help clear things up. Keep in mind that a discussion is a two-way street, and you may determine the meaning from the speaker by asking them follow-up questions and looking for hints in the context.

Best of luck with the homophones! And if you have any questions or comments on them, If you wish to learn Japanese online or offline and live in Mumbai or Navi Mumbai, India, then you must check out’s Japanese courses, which are highly recommended. You can download the app from the Play Store or App Store

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