Japanese Alphabet: A Simple Guide for Beginners (2023)

What is the Japanese alphabet?

how do you learn it

What are all these characters really about?

If you ask yourself these questions, you'll get your answers here. Learn all about the Japanese alphabet and writing systems in this simple guide. After that, you'll know what you need to learn and where to go next. you tooworksheetsetutorials.

Firstly, there are three main Japanese writing systems.

  1. hiragana
  2. Katakana
  3. Kanji

And then there's Romaji... this isn't really a native Japanese writing system, but it's still used quite a bit 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 in Japanese? take yourFree Japanese Hiragana/Katakana Workbook + 7 Day Writing Course.

1. Romaji. Is Romaji English?

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

It is basically a way of expressing Japanese writing using the Latin alphabet. Yes, letters you are reading right now. Many English words that represent Japanese words like sushi, ramen, ninja or samurai can be consideredRomaji.

For example, the following Japanese sentence can becomeromaji:

  • Normal Japanese writing:I went to school today and learned
  • Romaji-Version:Kyou wa gakkou ni itte, benkyou shimashita.
  • Normal Japanese writing:I'm looking forward to eating 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 script easier to read for those unfamiliar with Japanese characters. Although all Japanese learn and know this writing system in school, it is like thisNotused as a replacement for traditional Japanese characters.

Who uses Romaji?It is commonly used to allow foreigners to read charts and signs. It is also used as a Japanese typing method on computer. Also, most textbooks use the Japanese languageromajito accompany the Japanese characters. That way, the student doesn't have to question how the words and sentences sound.


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

  • review
  • Romaji is Japanese written in the Latin alphabet (the same letters you are reading now.
  • Romaji is mainly used by foreigners and students to make it easier to read. Japanese people don't need to write Japanese words in romaji.

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

2. Or

What is cane?

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

Cold? Cold.

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 consonantsejapanese vowels.

Examples of these characters are:

  • か you (pronounced: you)
  • き ki (pronounced: no)
  • くku (pronounced: koo)
  • けke (pronunciation-se: keh)
  • こ koh (pronunciation-se: koh)

Remember the Ah, Ee, Ooh, Eh, Oh pattern. You will see it for all other characters.

Simple Hiragana Table:

ahayou canさ saた taNa nayeah hamurmurYes it isら rawa wa
me meForskiingchichizu NiHello Hellome meera
youforSo-sotsunow nowfu fuweYu Yuru ruthe the
eke keI knowono, nofor himmyselfrelative
Wake upthis knockoutAlsois forthe noforfor youme mero ron n

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

  • Hello (Konnichiwa) – Hello
  • Konbanwa – Guten Abend
  • Douzo – Bitte
  • ohayou- good morning

When is hiragana used?

Since you are an apprentice...

…You'll mostly see 100% hiragana in beginner textbooks for Japanese learners.

(Video) How to Read and Write Hiragana Alphabet | Learn Japanese for Beginners

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

On the other hand,hiraganausually used to fill in Japanese grammar particles. It is used to make sentences more readable and add nuance to speech.

What I mean? Good here. Take the phrase...

  • I eat sushi
  • Hiragana-Version:I eat sushi
    • This is what you would find in a book for beginners before learning kanji.
    • It's a little inconvenient for native speakers to read, as Japanese doesn't have spaces and it can be hard to tell when one word starts and the other ends. It would be like reading "Ieatsushi", which is not easy to read.
    • So this is where kanji comes in and for the most part hiragana is used to fill in the particles. Then look at the next sentence.
  • MichteethSushivonfoodbeimasu

Recently, it is also often seen as a female character. Many female names are registered onlyHiragana.

When should you learn?

On the first day.

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

Japanese children learn first in schoolshiraganaso they can put their words on paper and start reading books. Manga (comics) or children's books are usually completely writtenhiraganaso that it can be read from an early age.

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

4. Katakana

Katakanais another type of Japanese alphabet that represents 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 referred to as "kana".

Basic Katakana Diagram:

anKa-kaemta tana na nahahaMa maAnd andRa Rawa wa
b meKikiskiingchicnotHello Hellome meri
youforparts partstsunow nowfum unsno noru ruLook at this
D eI'mI know I knowoNo, noismyselfrelative
Wake upko koin meforNo, noホhomo mome meroN n

Well, here are some katakana examples.

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

When is katakana used?

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

Well, hiragana means Japanese words.

(Video) Learn ALL Hiragana in 1 Hour - How to Write and Read Japanese

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

even if you wantedTranslate your name into Japanese, you would have to write in katakana.

Katakana is also used to write onomatopoeia, scientific terms, and you can also see it in advertisements – to get attention.

When should you learn?

learn betterKatakana, as soon as you knowhiragana.hiraganaeKatakanaboth represent Japanese syllables, so it should be relatively easy to learn.

as soon as you knowKatakanaYou can start using any type of foreign language loan. Loan words make up nearly a fifth of the common Japanese language.

5. Hiragana gegen 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 you should learn two different things if they mean the same thing? Good…

The difference between hiragana and katakana is…

  • Use.As you learned above, katakana is used for loanwords from foreign languages, foreign names, scientific terms, and advertising. For simplicity's sake, 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 see the difference between hiragana and katakana... they differ in terms of appearance.

  • Looks.Hiragana and katakana look a little different. For simplicity's sake, keep in mind that katakana is a bit "sharper" looking, while hiragana is curvier.
me meb me
eD e
Wake upWake up

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 college classes, students learn both Japanese writing systems in the first week. A week, then.

Could you learn them faster? Yes, but as with all learning, you must immediately apply what you learn 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.

(Video) ALL Japanese Alphabets You MUST study first - Japanese HIRAGANAs | Learn Japanese Online

  • 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 charactersGanswere adopted in the Japanese script to represent various Japanese words. This is one of the most beautiful ways to use Japanese language characters. 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
  • mountain - mountain
  • boca (kuchi) – Mund
  • love (ouch) - love

When do you use kanji?

So when do you use kanji?

Kanjiused to make sentences easier to read. Is it possible to write all the sentenceshiraganaorKatakana. Remember... in Japanese writing there are no spaces to separate words in the sentence. This can make it difficult to distinguish nouns, verbs, or other grammatical parts.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:MichteethSushivonfoodbeimasu

When should you learn Kanji?

Better start learningKanjias soon as you learnhiraganaeKatakana.

As soon as you start to learnKanjiYou will find that learning them all is a long process. To become fluent in reading Japanese, you must know at least 2,000Kanji!Although it is difficult to learn many charactersKanjirepresents a word or part of a word, so it is similar to vocabulary learning.

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

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

Do you want to learn Japanese kanji? Download your freeJapanese Kanji Book Here.

Japanese alphabet summary

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

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

And then there are romaji - or Latin letters (like this one) - used to write Japanese words.

(Video) Learn Hiragana ひらがな (Japanese alphabet)

What is the 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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