The Art of Japanese Writing Part 2

 

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 (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 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 which both look similar to a lowercase “r”.

As for the other characters it is a matter of not confusing the similar looking ones. 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 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 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 , it also uses another combination character involving a small . 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!

 

The Art of Japanese Writing

We sincerely apologize for the delay since our last post. We have been having trouble trying to decide on what would be the best approach for this blog, and I think it is safe to say we still have no idea how to appropriately put it together. With that out of the way, we would like to spend some time today to talk to you about the written language system and for next time there will be some helpful ways for those of us who are American to try to memorize it more easily.

So, to get started, the Japanese writing system has 3 major different styles that are used: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. The Kanji writing system is based on the Chinese writing system (as to which dialect, I have no idea), and Hiragana and Katakana stem from that original system. So, the meanings of the symbols are the same for Japanese people as they are for Chinese people, but the way it is read is quite different.

Hiragana is the main form of writing that is shared with Kanji. Kanji’s main purpose in Japanese is to give a clear meaning to what the writer wants to say as there are multiple words with the same pronunciation with completely different meanings, much like some words in English. When not using Kanji, Hiragana is the main form of writing. Kanji is a special writing system that is reserved mainly for foreign words that have been adapted into the Japanese language. There are of course other uses for it, but that is the main way it is seen (It is also used to write a foreigner’s name).

 

Young Japanese children are taught to read Hiragana and Katakana at first and they must master it at a young age so that they may begin learning Kanji once they are in school and move up through their grade schools. In total, there are 71 different characters for writing in hiragana and 71 for katakana. However, as you will see below 20 of these characters are just variations of other writings, so for counting purposes it can be possible to count the total characters per writing system as 51. However, it is important to remember how that variation is applied to the character, and how the sound changes, so they probably should be considered as separate characters for learning purposes.

 

However, it is also important to remember that the Japanese language has something called Romaji, which uses the same characters as the English alphabet. However, reading it feels really weird after you are used to reading any of the other writing systems, so it is strictly useful for foreigners who are not accustomed to the Japanese characters yet. So, let’s talk about how to read the alphabet.

The consonant sounds are almost always associated with a vowel, the lone exception being (n). I’ll write out the alphabet below in romaji, hiragana, and katakana. Keep in mind that the sounds for a letter stay consistent and do not change, unlike English in which the letters around it may change the sound. So, for the vowels (a) is always read as “ahh”, like the “o” in “on”. (i) is always read as “ee”, like in “cheese”. (u) is always read as “oo”, like in “loop”. (e) is always read as “eh”, like in “met”. (o) is always “oh”, like in “open”. These sounds always stay the same in pronunciation, making the language a tad bit easier than English. So, let’s get to that alphabet.

Romaji

A I U E O

Ka Ki Ku Ke Ko      Ga Gi Gu Ge Go

Sa Shi Su Se So      Za Zi Zu Ze Zo

Ta Chi Tsu Te To      Da Di Du De Do

Na Ni Nu Ne No

Ha Hi Fu He Ho      Ba Bi Bu Be Bo      Pa Pi Pu Pe Po

Ma Mi Mu Me Mo

Ya Yu Yo

Wa Wo N

Ra Ri Ru Re Ro

 

Hiragana

あいうえお ← 5

かきくけこ がぎぐげご ← 10

さしすせそ ざじずぜぞ ← 10

たちつてと だぢづでど ← 10

なにぬねの ← 5

はひふへほ ばびぶべぼ ぱぴぷぺぽ ← 15

まみむめも ← 5

や ゆ よ ← 3

わ を ん ← 3

らりるれろ ← 5

 

Katakana

アイウえオ

カキクケコ ガギグゲゴ

サシスセソ ザじズゼゾ

タチツテト ダヂヅデド

ナ二ヌネノ

ハヒフへホ バびブベボ パピプペポ

マ三ムメモ

ヤ ユ ヨ

ワ ヲ ン

ラリルレロ

 

One very interesting point to note is that the Japanese language does not have the sound for “R”, “V”, and “Th” (like in “the”). Therefore, pronunciation of these sounds for Japanese people is very difficult and only those practiced in English well enough will be able to speak them. Likewise, if you are attempting to speak Japanese, or even to a Japanese person, using one of those sounds may cause confusion. Those 71 different characters and sounds are what consist of the entire alphabet. Even Kanji characters will have the same sounds involved, but they are much more difficult to read. Altogether, there are over 6000 kanji characters, and most average Japanese people will know roughly between 2000-3000 of those characters depending on their jobs or educational level.

 

With all that said, it looks like this is a good place to stop for today. Thank you so much for reading, we look forward to hearing what you feel or have to say about this topic in the comments! Also, for those of you who are interested in learning some basic words in Japanese, check us out on Youtube. We are FELJAC, the Fun Easy Learning Japanese And Culture channel. Let us know anything that interests you and we’ll do our best to cover your topic.

A Brief Introduction to FELJAC- What Does that Even Mean???

Hello Everyone,

We are Fun Easy Learning Japanese And Culture, or FELJAC for short. We are graduate students who share life and interests in all things Japanese. We thought this would be a great opportunity to share what we know with the rest of the world, so come join us whenever you have the time to stop by. We are also making videos to help teach Japanese language to those interested, so check us out on Youtube. You can find us by looking up FELJAC in the search bar. Once we find out what our URL is for our channel, we’ll begin posting right away. Until then, we hope you enjoy the language as much as we do, and look forward to talking with all of you.
Have an Awesome Weekend!