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Japanese Lessons

Posted December 15th, 2011 at 02:45 PM by Esper
Tags japanese

Hi, peoples. I thought I would bring back the Japanese lessons I was sort of doing off and on earlier this year, only this time in blog format so that every 'lesson' is nice and contained.

Without really knowing what would be a good place to start (since I can't really know what level anyone is at) I'm falling back on a basic lesson in how to recognize and read Japanese. So today's topic is going to be hiragana.

Hiragana is one of the syllabaries of Japanese. (They don't have an alphabet in quite the same way English does. More on that below.) It's quite common in Japanese and being able to read it is pretty foundational. What you need to know first is that everything in Japanese, unlike English, is composed of units of sound, called kana. This means that you can have one discrete piece of language that has a vowel sound (a,e,i,o,u) and a consonant (p,m,f,s,t, etc.) in it and it can't be broken down any further. So there can be a "sa" kana and a "gi" kana, but there aren't any ways to write a solitary "s" or "g" or similar sounds without an accompanying vowel, although a vowel can stand on its own such as "e" or "a" (and so can one special consonant, but don't worry about that now).

That's enough talk. Let me (re)introduce you to some actual hiragana:

aiueo
kakikukeko
gagigugego
sashisuseso
zajizuzezo
tachitsuteto
dajizudedo
naninuneno
hahifuheho
babibubebo
papipupepo
mamimumemo
--
ya-yu-yo
rarirurero
---
wa---wo/o
----
n----


You'll notice some patterns in how they're organized and there's reason for that. Each column has a repeating vowel and each row has a repeating consonant (mostly). To find the kana that you would use for "su" you can just look in that middle column where all the "u" sounds are and find the row with the "s" sounds and voilà! you have found "su":



You'll probably notice that not all the consonants you're familiar with are represented, and that there are some gaps in the chart. In those cases there just isn't a normal native way in Japanese to represent those sounds since they presumably never had a need to.

You'll also see that I did some fun things with the colors. These gold and turquoise kana indicate that they are written the exact same way as other kana (the ones above them), but with special additions. All the ones in gold have two little dashes (゛) and the row of turquoise have little circles ( ゜) instead of dashes.

There's one special kana at the bottom, the "n" sound. This is always going to stand alone as its own kana and never combine with one of the vowel kana (although they could stand side-by-side).


~*~

So then, if anyone's got questions let me hear them and I'll do what I can to answer things. In the meantime I have a little quiz for anyone who wants to try it.

~*~


Oh, no! A quiz!
Pick out the correct kana from a list of incorrect ones.

1. sakura

a. らくさ
b. さくら
c. さくろ
d. ちくら


2. pokemon

a. ぽげもん
b. ぼけもん
c. ほげもん
d.
けもん

3. sushi

a.
b.
c. すじ
d. ずじ


4. manga

a. ばんが
b. まんが
c. ほんが
d. はんが


Answers below. (Don't cheat!)
Spoiler:
1. sakura

a. らくさ
b. さくら
c. さくろ
d. ちくら


2. pokemon

a. ぽげもん
b. ぼけもん
c. ほげもん
d.
けもん

3. sushi

a.
b.
c. すじ
d. ずじ


4. manga

a. ばんが
b. まんが
c. ほんが
d. はんが
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Comments

  1. Old Comment
    Mr Cat Dog's Avatar
    I need to revise katakana so badly... forgotten most of it completely! But yay for having these back, Scarfy!
    Posted December 15th, 2011 at 03:04 PM by Mr Cat Dog Mr Cat Dog is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Eucliffe's Avatar
    Pokémon in Hiragana looks so weird. /then again I've gotten used to seeing it in Katakana enough times
    Posted December 15th, 2011 at 03:55 PM by Eucliffe Eucliffe is offline
  3. Old Comment
    Hiidoran's Avatar
    Pretty cute idea.

    Love the formatting of your hiragana chart. So colorful. :]
    Posted December 15th, 2011 at 06:13 PM by Hiidoran Hiidoran is offline
  4. Old Comment
    jpp8's Avatar
    Whee! Can't wait to get see what lies beyond かな this time.
    Posted December 15th, 2011 at 09:42 PM by jpp8 jpp8 is offline
  5. Old Comment
    Esper's Avatar
    @ Roswell: Therein lies the challenge.

    @ jpp8: What lies beyond can be decided by you! No, seriously, suggestions would be great.
    Posted December 16th, 2011 at 08:05 AM by Esper Esper is offline
  6. Old Comment
    That's so awesome, and appreciated. Thank you!
    Posted December 16th, 2011 at 10:27 AM by Truality Truality is offline
 

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