So, how does one go about memorizing all 142 basic written characters and some of the kanji characters used in Japanese. The answer is to simply practice. This may be a bit disappointing for the majority of you, but it truly is the best way to learn how to memorize the characters. As far as the actual memorization, it is best to physically repeat writing them until it gets stuck in your head. As a suggestion, it would be best to continuously practice writing them for at least half an hour a day. Once you get the general feel for how the characters look, you can break whatever study pattern you had by making flashcards for each character and shuffle the cards to randomly say what each one is.
As far as easily remembering some of the characters, let’s take a look at them and discuss them. The characters that appear to slightly resemble English letters are う(u) which looks like the letter “u” turned sideways、か(ka) which looks like the letter “k”that is a little warped at the top、そ(so) which looks like the letter “s” with a tail attached、た(ta)which looks like the letter “t”with こ underneath the horizontal line、の(no) which looks kind of like a big “o” with an upside down “n”attached、は(ha) which looks like a broken “H”、め(me) which looks similar to “M” without connecting the tops of the pieces、よ(yo) which looks like a warped “y”、ん(n) which looks similar to the letter “n”with an extended top line、らand り which both look similar to a lowercase “r”.
As for the other characters it is a matter of not confusing the similar looking ones. あand お、はand ほ、まand も、ひand み、さand ち、たand な、うandつ、めand ぬ、わろれand る have strong similarities among their own groups. Learning Japanese as a second language takes patience and dedication to get it right since we already have a mindset that tries to relate things to what we already know.
Returning to what was said last post, the Japanese language does not use the “r” sound, so why did I say that the way to pronounce some characters is spelled that way (for example, ら → ra)? Simply put, that is the way it is written in romaji. The actual pronunciation is very much that of an “L”, but kind of a soft “L” if that makes sense. It is a sound made at the tip of the tongue that gently comes out when you speak.
When making a double consonant sound in Japanese, the writing is a bit different depending on what writing system you are using. Hiragana uses a small form of the character つ to extend a sound, while katakana uses a dash to extend the sound. For example いらしゃいまっせ (irashaimasse) is used by shop employees to greet the customers when they enter the store. Not only does it use the small つ, it also uses another combination character involving a small や. In general, the characters that use the “i”vowel can be combined with one of the characters involving a “y” sound to produce a quicker pronounced sound.
For now, this looks like a good place to stop. We will talk about other topics in the future, so be sure to come back!