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Japanese Symbol Writing

There are 3 different ways of writing Japanese characters. They are namely the Hiragana, Katakana as well as Kanji. Hiragana and Katakana are two distinct types of the Japanese phonetic script known as kana. The basic vocabulary of Japanese is written in a mixture of kanji and hiragana. Kanji are Chinese loanwords that are borrowed (and modified) to suit Japanese grammar. The

number of Kanji range from about 5000 to 10,000. Kanji is known as han zi or 漢字 in Chinese.

Learning Japanese Hiragana Characters

The Hiragana script has 46 basic kana characters. Each of them represents one syllable. They can be combined to form more complex syllable to form approximately 100 syllables. Learning of hiragana characters is normally done by memorisation. Here is a hiragana list for your reference:

 

a

i

 

u e

o

 

 

う え

K+vowel

 

く け

 

す せ

 

つ て

 

ぬ ね

 

ふ へ

 

む め

-

-

 

r

 

る れ

w

-

 

- -

-

 

- -

-

Learning Japanese Katakana characters

Katakana characters are used to express foreign characters in Japanese. Most of these words have an English origin. Some of them originate from German, Spanish or other languages. For instance, the

Japanese Katakana ベッド(beddo) is derived from the English word- bed. Another good example

will be コーヒー (kohi), which is derived from the English word – coffee. Here is a list of Japanese Katakana (consisting of the 46 basic syllables) for your reference. They are normally memorized by hard just like the list of hiragana above.

   

a i

u e

o

 

ア イ

 

ウ エ

K+vowel

 

カ キ

ク ケ

 

セ ソ

 

テ ト

ネ ノ

 

 

ヒ フ

 

ヘ オ

 

ミ ム

 

メ モ

 

-

-

r

 

リ ル

w

 

- -

-

 

- -

-

-

In recent years, new variations of katakana have been added. This is because the Japanese has been under influence from foreign languages which are “borrowed”. This new syllables exist only in katakana and not hiragana. They include “ti”, “tu”, “di” and “du”. Here is the list of modern katakana additions:

 

a

i

u

e

o

t

 

テイ

トウ

   

d

 

デイ

ドウ

   

f

フア

フィ

 

フェ

フォ

v

ヴァ

ヴィ

 

ヴェ

ヴォ

These modern katakana can be used to express certain foreign words such as “duet”, “vest” or tuner.

Learning Japanese Kanji

Kanji is used to write uninflected words such as nouns or inflected words such as verbs and adjectives. Kanji are used to substitute some hiragana terms. For example, watashi (I) can be written

as わたし or 私。The choice is normally a matter of usage. Kanji is normally used in magazines, newspapers and other formal publications. Below are the 20 most popular kanji for beginners.

S/N

Kanji

Japanese Pronunciation

English Meaning

1.

野望

yabou

 Ambition

2.

sora

Sky

3.

ai

Love

4.

信念

shinnen

Belief

5.

ryuu

Dragon

6.

kami

God

7.

自由

jiyuu

Freedom

8.

名誉

meiyo

Honour

9.

hoshi

Star

10.

精神

seishin

Spirit

11.

宇宙

Uchuu

Universe

12.

欲望

yokubo

Desire/wish

13.

bi

Beauty/Beautiful

14.

友情

yuujou

Friendship

15.

shio

Salt

16.

砂糖

satou

Sugar

17.

部屋

heya

Room

18.

ki

Tree

19.

neko

Cat

20.

kasa

Umbrella

Other Resources:

These lists of resources are suitable for beginners learning Japanese:

Learn Japanese Podcast - This website provides basic beginning Japanese podcasts. Rocket Japanese - This website provides software resources for Japanese learners. Anki – This freeware allows flash card uploading for studying on the go. Suitable for Palm OS.