Japanese Alphabet: A Simple Guide for Beginners (2023)

What is the Japanese alphabet?

how do you learn it

What are all these characters really?

If you ask yourself these questions, you will get the answers here. Learn all about the Japanese alphabet and writing systems in this simple guide. Then you will know what to learn and where to go next. you get tooworksheetsmiTutorials.

First of all, there are three main Japanese writing systems.

  1. Hiragana
  2. Katakana
  3. Kanji

And then there's Romaji...which isn't really a native Japanese writing system, but it's still widely used in Japan. So let's explain them all.

Japanese Alphabet: A Simple Guide for Beginners (1)

Would you like to learn to read and write Japanese? get yoursFree Japanese Hiragana/Katakana Workbook + 7-Day Writing Course.

1. Romaji. Romaji is English?

Romaji(Romaji)is a writing system that is a romanization of the Japanese language.

It's basically a way of expressing Japanese writing using the Latin alphabet. Yes, letters you are reading right now. Many English words can be viewed as Japanese words such as sushi, ramen, ninja, or samurai.Romaji.

For example, the following Japanese sentence can be convertedRomaji:

  • Normal Japanese writing:I went to school today and learned
  • Romaji-Version:Kyou wa gakkou ni itte, benkyou shimashita.
  • Normal Japanese writing:I really want to eat sushi in Japan.
  • Romaji-Version:Nihon de osushi o taberu no ga tanoshimi desu.

When is Japanese Romaji Used?

As you can see,Romajimakes the font easier to read for those unfamiliar with Japanese characters. Although all Japanese learn and know this writing system in school, that's how it isnoused as a substitute for traditional Japanese characters.

Who Uses Romaji?It is commonly used to allow foreigners to read the stops and signals of the trains. It is also used as a method of writing Japanese on the computer. Also use most Japanese textbooksRomajito accompany Japanese characters. This way the student doesn't have to question how words and sentences sound.

Should you learn Romaji?Technically, you already know the Romaji, so... no.

  • Analyze
  • Romaji is Japanese written in the Latin alphabet (the same letters you are reading right now).
  • Romaji is mainly used by foreigners and students to make reading easier. The Japanese do not have to write Japanese words in romaji.

Now let's move on to the rest of the Japanese writing systems.

2. O

What is Kanana?

Kana is simply a word for hiragana and katakana. So if anyone asks"Do you know all Kana?"They ask you if you know hiragana and katakana.

Called? Called.

Nun zu Hiragana.

3. Hiragana

Hiragana is a type of Japanese writing system.

How many hiragana are there? There are a total of 46 "letters" or characters. But unlike our alphabet, where a letter represents a sound, each hiragana character, or "letter," represents a syllable.

Most characters are a combination ofjapanese consonantsmiJapanese vowels.

Examples of these characters are:

  • か you (pronounced: you)
  • きki (se-Aussprache: kee)
  • くku (pronounced: koo)
  • Keke (se-Aussprache: keh)
  • koh (se-Aussprache: koh)

Think of the pattern Ah, Ee, Ooh, Eh, Oh. You will see this for all other characters.

Simple Hiragana Chart:

umyou cananprona nayou are meMother mothersAnd youRawa wa
I iaskiingwerThereforeHello HelloI i iRhode Island
sheabe histsunowfu-fuusyu yuru rula la
mike keI knowtheStrivefor himI iEras
oh ohIt is thatMore or lessIs forhe does nottovery mineStrivero-ronorth north

Hiragana is one of the most basic forms of Japanese characters.It was imported from Chinese cursive in the 9th century.These are some words that are only inscribedHiragana:

  • Hola (Konnichiwa) – Hola
  • Konbanwa – Boanoche
  • Douzo – bitte
  • ohayou-good morning

When is hiragana used?

Since you are an apprentice...

… You will mainly see the use of 100% hiragana in Japanese language textbooks for beginners.

Hiragana is also used in children's books and comics to make reading easier.

Secondly,HiraganaIt is usually used to complete Japanese grammar particles. It is used to make sentences easier to read and add nuance to speech.

What do I mean? Good here. Take the sentence...

  • i eat sushi
  • Hiragana-Version:i eat sushi
    • This is what you would find in a beginner's book before learning any kanji.
    • It's a bit inconvenient for native speakers to read, as Japanese doesn't have spaces and it can be difficult to tell when one word begins and the other ends. It would be like reading "Ieatsushi", which is not easy to read.
    • This is where kanji comes in and most of the time hiragana is used to fill in the particles. Then look at the next sentence.
  • MimdentureSushivonFoodbeimasu

Recently, he is also often viewed as a female character. Many female names are only written inHiragana.

when should you study

On the first day.

HiraganaIt is the first Japanese alphabet you should learn as it represents all Japanese syllables! And it will take you about a week or less to learn all 46 characters. At least college classes spend a week studying hiragana (and katakana).

Japanese children learn first in schoolsHiraganaso that they can put their words on paper and start reading books. Mangas (comics) or children's books are usually written out in fullHiraganaso that it can be read at an early age.

  • Analyze:
    • Hiragana is the first and most basic Japanese alphabet you need to learn.
    • There are 46 characters.
    • This should take a week or less to learn.

4. Katakana

Katakanais another type of Japanese alphabet representing Japanese syllables. The origin of these characters is said to come from fragmented versions of Chinese characters.

Katakana has exactly the same sounds as hiragana: 46.

Both hiragana and katakana are known as "kana".

Basic katakana table:

same asIsinta tana na naHahaMother mothersSimulatorraw rawwa wa
b yoki kiskiingwerinHello HelloI i iRhode Island
sheabe histsunowFuusStriveru ruWow
D eI amI know, I knowtheStriveElementI iEras
jko koMore or lessProNerdHallomy myStriveRonorth north

Now here are some examples of katakana.

  • coffee (koohii) – coffee (word of English origin)
  • business (bijinesu) – business (origin of the English word)
  • Ice Cream (Aisukuriimu) – ice cream (origin of the English word)
  • Ramen – Ramen (origin of the Chinese word)
  • Macaron – Macaron (word of French origin)
  • pan – bread (word of Spanish origin)

When is katakana used?

So what's the deal with katakana? Why is there katakana when you have hiragana with the exact same sounds?

Well, hiragana stands for Japanese words.

And katakana is mainly used to express words from other languages. Words like "ice cream" and "ramen". As you can see in the example words above, all of your word origins are from another language. sowofKatakana, it is possible to incorporate foreign words into Japanese. new words inKatakanaOther languages ​​are constantly being added and created!

Even if it were youTranslate your name into Japanese, you would have to write in katakana.

Katakana is also used to write onomatopoeia, scientific terms, and can also be seen in advertisements to attract attention.

when should you study

it is better to studyKatakanaonce knowHiragana.HiraganamiKatakanaboth represent Japanese syllables, so it should be relatively easy to learn.

once knowKatakanaYou can start using any kind of loanwords from a foreign language. Loan words make up almost one-fifth of the general Japanese language.

5. Hiragana x Katakana

Difference between hiragana and katakana

By now you know that hiragana and katakana sound the same. Same number of characters. So what's the problem? What is the difference between Hiragana and Katakana?

Yes, they both represent exactly the same sounds. They are different versions of the same thing.

So you're wondering why learn two different things when they mean the same thing? We will go…

The difference between hiragana and katakana is...

  • Use.As you have already learned, katakana is used for words borrowed from foreign languages, foreign names, scientific terms and advertising. For the sake of simplicity, remember that katakana is ONLY used for words of foreign origin.This is the main difference and why you need to learn both.

Now to help you understand the difference between hiragana and katakana...they differ in appearance.

  • Aspect.Hiragana and katakana look a little different. For simplicity, remember that katakana has a slightly more "edgy" look, while hiragana is more curvy.
umsame as
I ib yo
miD e
oh ohj

So now you know the difference between hiragana and katakana.

How long does it take to learn hiragana and katakana?

How Long Should You Learn Hiragana and Katakana?

In most university courses, students learn the 2 Japanese writing systems in the first week. So a week.

Could you learn them faster? Yes, but as with all learning, you must apply what you learn immediately in order to retain it. So if you memorize all the characters in 1 hour but don't practice them, you'll forget them just as quickly.

  • Learn hiragana here:How to learn Japanese hiragana in less than 1 hour. Part 1
  • Learn Katakana Here:How to learn Japanese katakana in less than 1 hour. Part 1

5. Kanji – Kanji

called Chinese charactersGansThey were adopted into the Japanese script to represent various Japanese words. This is one of the most beautiful ways to use the characters of the Japanese language. These characters usually represent objects, verbs, adjectives, or adverbs. They can be symbolic, representing the image of what they represent.

Here are some examples ofKanji:

  • tree (ki) — tree
  • Mountains - Mountains
  • Can (kuchi) – Can
  • love (ay) - love

When do you use kanji?

So when do you use kanji?

Kanjiused to make sentences easier to read. It is possible to write all sentencesHiraganaÖKatakana. Remember...in Japanese writing, there are no spaces to separate words in the sentence. This can make it difficult to distinguish between nouns, verbs, or other parts of speech.KanjiYou can solve this problem by grouping the words and adding structure to the sentence.

Do you remember this example?

  • i eat sushi
  • Hiragana-Version:i eat sushi
  • Version with kanji:MimdentureSushivonFoodbeimasu

When Should You Learn Kanji?

It's better to start studyingKanjias soon as you learnHiraganamiKatakana.

Once you start learningKanjiYou will find that learning them all is a long process. To be fluent in reading Japanese, you must know at least 2,000Kanji!Although it is difficult to learn many characters, each oneKanjirepresents a word or part of a word, so it's similar to learning vocabulary.

And don't worry if that sounds like a lot... even the Japanese fight with kanji.

How do Japanese learn kanji?They learn it in elementary school and learn hundreds of kanji a year. Since they use kanji all the time, they learn everything through daily practice.

Do you want to learn Japanese kanji? Download yours for freeJapanese Kanji Manual here.

Completion of the Japanese alphabet

Now you know that there are 3 official Japanese writing systems.

  • Hiragana: The most basic. Learn that first.
  • Katakana: Same sounds as hiragana. It is used for foreign words. Learn this by Hiragana.
  • Kanji: Used for Japanese words. Learn this after hiragana and katakana.

And then there are the Romaji, or Latin letters (like this one) used to write Japanese words.

What's next?

  • Learn hiragana here:How to learn Japanese hiragana in less than 1 hour. Part 1
  • Learn Katakana Here:How to learn Japanese katakana in less than 1 hour. Part 1

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