What Japanese symbol is “m” + do we need the extra “u”

Q:  You know words like ‘kampai’ and ‘tempura’ in Japanese? How would you write them in the Japanese alphabet? Would you put an ‘n’ character where the ‘m’ is? I’ve been wondering for a while now.

Also, do you always have to put and ‘u’ after words like Arigato, and does it matter if you put a ‘u’ or not in the word Sayo’u’nara? The way it says in some Japanese learning books I have, there is no ‘u’ in and after those words. Does it matter when your writing a letter to a friend?

Thanks,
-Ashurii

A:  Good questions!  Yes you’re totally right with putting the ん n” symbol for the single “m” sound,  kampai is かんぱい (or 乾杯)  and tempura is てんぷら 。

With the “u” you definitely need to keep it in when you speak.  Miss it off and the whole meaning is changed.  This is one of the main reasons new learners think they are saying something correctly but the Japanese listener has no idea – it’s usually a missed off “u” or “o” or something.   In written Japanese you also definitely have to include it for the same reason.

But in some types of romaji they don’t include it,  this is yet another reason why you never really see romaji outside of product names or Japanese textbooks!

2 Responses to “What Japanese symbol is “m” + do we need the extra “u””

  1. Makoto says:

    How come those words are spelled with a single “m” anyway? I know that konbanwa is almost pronounced like kombanwa, does it have anything to do with that? Or are those words spelled with that “m” just because it was Americanized or something?

  2. Richard says:

    The ん sound is sort of inbetween “n” and “m” anyway, but before a “b” sound it becomes more like an “m”. Yes, as you say the problem only comes when you use the Roman letters to write things out. Another reason the ditch the romaji and learn the Japanese alphabets!

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