How to Say "Beautiful" in Japanese

Japanese language instructor
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While very complex in grammar and sentence structure, basic vocabulary in Japanese is easy to pick up. Certain words can get you into trouble, but one word will not — the word that means beautiful, "kirei." Compliments are highly regarded in Japanese culture. Adding "kirei" to your vocabulary can only work to your benefit.

Try saying the word "kirei" a couple of times to get used to the feel of it as you say it. Pronounce it "kee-ray." Place the accent on the second syllable, draw out the vowel slightly and use a lightly flipped (not rolled) "r."

Begin adding the the more subtle nuances of the word. When you are saying the first syllable, stretch your mouth into a smile, and say "kee." The sound you hear is the sound you want to produce when you say it without the odd facial gesture. Japanese, like Italian, uses pure vowels with no dipthongs.

Say the second syllable, "rei" as "ray" with a slight extra "ee" at the end. Stretch your mouth into a smile again to get the right sound for the "ee" at the end. That is the sound you want to make when you are pronouncing the full word.

Focus now on the "r" in "kirei." The Japanese "r" sound is a mix of "r," "d" and "l." Soften your "r" to more of a "d" sound to make it sound more authentic.

Put the syllables together. Practice until the word rolls smoothly out of your mouth and you are comfortable saying it without needing any odd facial gestures. You don't need to put the word in a sentence; Japanese people often just use it alone as an exclamation for anything from a stunning sunset to a flattering new haircut.