Japanese Characters Hiragana and Katakana | Motivist Japan


When you are planning to start something, always start with the basic and build a  strong foundation. In learning a new language, usual questions we get is where and how to begin? With Japanese language, it's easy to get lost and get information overload. When learning Japanese, it is always recommended to start with the alphabets. In this article, we will guide you on how to master Japanese characters Hiragana and Katakana in no time. 

Hiragana has 46 symbols and the easiest one to learn. Normally written in cursive forms in contrast to Katakana which usually has sharp edges. You can use hiragana when writing Japanese words that you can't write in Kanji. 

When writing hiragana, it is recommended to study the strokes so it is easier to remember. In Japanese language schools, students are given a trace paper with blank fields to practice the characters repeatedly. This is a good way to practice the character stroke order especially for beginners as some characters look similar to each other like あ and お as well as さ and き. 

Japanese Characters Hiragana and Katakana

Hiragana “a” (photo from Wikipedia)

Here are sample words you can write in Hiragana

Pronunciation English Meaning Hiragana 
Watashi I わたし
Haha Mother はは
Chichi Father ちち

The tricky part when learning hiragana is how they become a completely different word when tenten mark ( ) is added to the characters.  Columns ka, sa, ta and ha are the only columns that you can add a tenten mark. This is called Dakuten

BEFORE:(column  na  not included)

AFTER (with tenten mark):

For all the characters under ha column, they can be turned to Handakuten to produce the p sound. Handakuten are characters with a little  circle (°) on top right side.Only the  characters under column ha can be turned to Handakuten characters

Now you know hiragana, what about Katakana? Katakana is used when you need to write a loaned word in Japanese. Some words, especially English words have no direct Japanese translation or doesn't require one so the pronunciation stayed as is but spelled using the Katakana characters. They are usually written with sharp linear edges. 

Credits to www.maikeru.cc

Katakana “a” (photo from Wikipedia)

Pronunciation English Meaning Katakana
Banana Banana バナナ
Ke-ki Cake ケーキ
Takushi Taxi タクシー

Dakuten and Handakuten rules also apply to Katakana characters. Hiragana and Katakana are both important in Japanese language. If you are living in Japan or planning to move to Japan, these two go hand in hand and it is not possible to learn just one and leave the other. Take note that this part will be the easiest part of learning Japanese and it will be harder once you move towards learning Kanji, vocabulary and sentence structures. 

If you need guidance in starting your journey in Japanese, our team is ready to help you anytime! We can help in choosing the best school for you and we can also help in finding your accommodation. Don't forget to send us an email at info@motivistjapan.com or send inquiry using this link. またね!