Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Photo source: TextFugu, with editing for formatting

Hey everyone, I'm finally back with a new lesson after a long period of inactivity, and this time it's all about Hiragana! I'm sure you have an idea of what Hiragana is by now, but if you've forgotten, it's mainly the alphabet for Japanese words.

First, I want you to take a look at the chart posted above. Focusing on just the bigger chart on the top-left, notice that there are a total of 46 characters. These are the characters that make up Hiragana. This chart is read from right to left (I know, I know... but trust me, it's not that bad looking at it this way). Look at the column on the right side, and notice that it's just the vowels: A I U E O. If you've forgotten how to pronounce them, there are little bubbles on the right that will give you an example of what it sounds like. Now, keeping in mind that reading the column goes like "ah, ee, oo, eh, oh," move over to the next column to the left.

Notice that the next characters all start with the consonant K? So read down that column: "kah, key, koo, keh, koh." Easy, right? With the alphabet in this format, all of a sudden Japanese doesn't seem so difficult anymore yeah?

Go to the next column, and this time the consonant is S: "sah, shee, soo, seh, soh." Whoa, wait- what? "Shee?" That's right, the character し (shi) is pronounced "shee" instead of "see." Why is that? Well, simply put, the Japanese language doesn't have a sound for "see," and usually, Japanese people can't pronounce these characters that are either modified in sound or taken out (more on that in a bit). Just keep in mind that it's pronounced "shee."

As you can see, the next columns just replace the consonants with other ones: T, N, H, M, R, Y, and W. If you look in the T column, "tee" is pronounced "chi" and "too" is pronounced "tsu." Again, this is how they are pronounced, and it's usually difficult for Japanese people to pronounce "tee" and "too." Also, you might have noticed that there are some blank spots in the Y column, and most of the W column. Yes, that's right. The Japanese language doesn't have characters and sounds for "yee, yeh, wee, woo, and weh." Now, you'll probably understanding why learning Japanese is a lot easier for English speakers and not for the other way around. We can pronounce all of their characters, even the missing ones that we think should be there.

Lastly, some notes about these characters: を (wo) is generally pronounced the same as お (o), although some dialects retain it as "wo." Whenever you see it though (trust me, you will), just pronounce it the same as お (o), or "oh."

And as stated earlier in one of my posts, is just "nn." Clench your teeth together when you say it, it should sound like "mm" (you know, when you eat something good), except with an N instead of M. This will probably seem like a strange character, but it isn't and is pretty common in a lot of words. For example: きん "kin," = gold.

If there are any questions or comments, please post them below! I was going to include dakuten in this lesson but I think this post is long enough. Until then, print out the chart and start memorizing your Hiragana!

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