You may not like it, but hiragana is the perfect place to start your Japanese learning. By picking up this extensive alphabet you will also learn pronunciation and will even be able to read in Japanese.
If you don’t already know, the written form of Japanese comprises of three parts; Kanji, Katakana, and Hiragana. Kanji, or the Chinese characters, is far and away the most difficult part of Japanese and consists of thousands upon thousands of characters. Hiragana and Katakana are two alphabets that are made up of roughly 45 basic letters each. Seeing how Katakana is primarily used for pronunciation of foreign words, you can push learning this alphabet off a couple of weeks.
For now lets take a look at Hiragana.
The Hiragana Chart
As you may have noticed, the majority of our Hiragana do not have English letters underneath. This was on purpose. Simply combine the letter on the far left with the letter at the top of the chart. So where “K” and “A” meet will make the letter か or “KA.” Simple right?
Now this chart means nothing if you do not know the sounds that Japanese letters make. The Japanese consonants make similar sounds to that of the English counterparts, however the vowels are a little different. Watch this video to hear the pronunciations.
Got it? Great! Now let’s move on to the advanced course.
Now that you under stand that the k + a makes a か sound, let’s talk about the や、ゆ、and よ. These three letters can be combined with other letters to make a completely different sound. For example ki (き) + yo (よ) = kyo (きょ). Shi (し) + ya (や) = sya (しゃ). Ri (り) + yu (ゆ) = ryu (りゅ).
Notice that the ya, yu, and yo all get slightly smaller when combined with another hiragana. It may seem like a complicated addition, but you will learn these combinations soon enough.
The last thing to be aware of when learning hiragana is the small tsu (つ). This small tsu shows up in words when there is supposed to be a slight pause in the word. You do not actually say the tsu, but rather take a short break from speaking. For example はしっている. Do you see how the tsu is slightly smaller than the rest of the letters? Take a very short pause there.
That’s it. That is all you need to know about hiragana for now. Study up and we will try to have some quizzes for you later this week.