Should You Bring The Kitchen Sink?

okihaiBack in 2008 we had a regular contributor, Kaho, whose first language was Japanese.  She wrote many posts with helpful information about commonly used and needed Japanese expressions, often added to the ends of her posts about shoppingWe’re turning her “Japanese Corner” tidbits into posts of their own so that you can hopefully feel more comfortable beginning to use what is likely still a foreign language for many of you. 

ORIGINALLY CONTRIBUTED BY KAHO in February 2008

Kaho’s Japanese Corner:“Kawaii” and “Kowai”

Kawaii” means cute and “kowai” means scary.  They sound close to non-Japanese speakers and it seems that it’s hard to distinguish the pronunciation of the two.  You just have to enunciate correctly to make sure that you do not mix them up.  If you mean to say “cute” to someone’s baby and mispronounce it, you could be saying “your baby is so scary!”  No, you don’t want to do that.  Actually in some African countries, people say that a baby looks scary to be polite.  By saying that babies look scary, it is believed that bad spirits go away.  Anyways, get back to the subject…  Cute and Scary in Japanese are pronounced as below.

Kawaii
Ka is car pronounce with British accent
Wa is want without ‘nt’
Ii is ‘e’

Kowai
Ko is coal without ‘L’
Wai is why

Please feel free to correct the above pronunciation or put your way of explaining how to pronounce them in the comment section!

Want to read more of these helpful Japanese language posts?  Check them all out HERE.

3 COMMENTS

  1. OMG, I did THAT!!!
    My boss showed me one picture of his kids and when I tried to say “kawaii” he and his colleague made awkward faces…

  2. i’m laughing my ass off, because i tried saying “kawaii” as it was instructed, and ended up saying it like i was from Philadelphia. The way you described it is phonetically correct to some extent, but that explanation makes the “ka” a lot harder, so it leads to one saying “KAH waii”

  3. good to know how to pronunciate it! I have always pronounced it like “kowai” now i feel bad because I was telling them their kids are scary haha. oops

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