Hiragana HU or FU?

I came across this video by Michichan in my Twitter feed this morning.

Great to find another Japanese enthusiast!

One correction for Japanese learners though, the ふ, though it is often romanized as either “fu” or “hu,” is not necessarily pronounced more like FU than it is HU.

Mount Fuji is always written with a FU and it likely sounds like FUji to Westerners.

Mount Fuji is a fabulous mountain and all, but I think it’s the source of ふ confusion for foreigners everywhere. Fuji sounds like FU-ji to me to this day! Really though, it is pronounce more like Huji. It’s a sound sort of between F and H.

Take a listen to this audio file from our Hiragana and Katakana apps spoken by a native speaker.

See how it is different than FU?

You can really get a handle on whether it’s FU or HU by thinking about other words that start with ふ. Most of them would sound strange if pronounced “FU.”

Think about these:
不思議 “hushigi” mysterious
風呂 “huro” bath
降る “huru” to fall (like rain)

Here’s one more example sentence from the Kansai-ben application pronounced slowly and at normal speed.

「普通が一番やで!」
“Futsuuga ichiban ya de!”
(Sort of like, ‘normal’ is best!, as in, I don’t need anything fancy.)

Here it is slower.

Got it?

The best way to get a feel for this is to listen to lots of Japanese! Eventually you’ll see that ふ isn’t quite FU, and similarly the ら、り、る、れ、ろ lines is not really RA RI RU RE RO, but it’s closer to an “L” – perhaps somewhere in between.

Once you get these things straight Japanese pronunciation isn’t so tough!

The ふ thing is really border line though – sometimes I feel that when Japanese get really excited and scream things like ふざけるな!They are really saying something closer to FU and not HU.

Anyone else have a take on this FU-HU dilemma?

– Harvey