The Best Way to Learn the Japanese Alphabet On Your Own
Trying to learn a new language on your own and figuring out the best way to go about it can be a real challenge, especially for an East Asian language like Japanese. Whether you’re lacking in motivation, falling behind schedule, or losing momentum, there are a number of issues to tackle before reaching your final goal. If you've ever found the Japanese language to be difficult or intimidating, you'll soon see that Japanese is actually much easier than you think. In this article, we'll show you the best way to learn Japanese with our effective learning tips and guide you through the process step by step.
Japan is known for certain unique traits that most people from many different countries have probably heard of: anime, video games, sushi, ninjas and samurais, to name a few. Of course, conventional practices like the tea ceremony or the historical heritage of shrines are fascinating traditions to foreigners. For these reasons, Japanese is one of the top studied languages in the world. In spite of what your impression of Japan may be, there's actually much more to Japan and the Japanese language as a whole than meets the eye.
Japan is considered by many as one of the most culturally rich countries, as it has preserved and kept its history and identity intact to this day. If you ever have the chance to visit Japan, you'll be in awe of Japan's unique culture, beautiful architecture, amazing scenery, as well as the polite and friendly interaction between people. So for your next trip to Japan, consider picking up some survival phrases that will give you a better grasp of basic conversation in the Japanese language! Glossika's Japanese Alphabet Game will provide you with the best and fastest way to learn Japanese on your own so that you can achieve fluency in a relatively short period of time at a pace that you feel comfortable with.
As Japanese uses an entirely different writing system from English, you might be thinking that learning the Japanese language will be a very difficult task. Although the writing system may seem completely "foreign" or even intimidating to you, you'll be pleased to know that you can actually learn how to read, write, and speak Japanese naturally with much less difficulty than you initially thought. The Japanese Alphabet Game takes advantage of method that has worked for thousands of language learners all over the world, to give you the best and most effective way to go about learning Japanese on your own. Once you have an idea of how the Japanese alphabet works, you can then proceed to further your knowledge of the language by acquiring essential words and phrases for practical application.
Overview of the Japanese Language
Japanese is an East Asian language from the Japonic language family with approximately 126 million speakers worldwide. As the large majority of Japanese speakers are from Japan, this falls perfectly in line with Japan's population of just over 126 million. The origin and history of how the Japanese language came to be is actually quite a controversial topic among many linguistic experts, historians, and scholars. Although the Japanese writing system is greatly influenced by that of Chinese, the roots of Japanese's spoken language is a complete enigma. In addition, the fact that the Japonic language family has no clear relation with any other language family also leaves its background an unsolved mystery to many linguists.
The Japanese had no real writing system of their own prior to the 5th century, which was when they first began writing using Chinese characters, known as Kanji in Japanese. This was a major turning point in the advancement of the Japanese language as it allowed for the rise of Japanese's two major writing systems, Hiragana and Katakana. Modern Japanese is a combination of quite a few different elements including Hiragana, Katakana, Kanji, and even words adapted from Indo-European languages such as English along with some Romance languages. If you're just starting to learn Japanese, the best way would definitely be to start with Hiragana then Katakana before getting into Kanji.
At first, learning Japanese might not be very intuitive to you because of how different it is from the English language. For starters, Japanese was originally written very similarly to the traditional Chinese writing system in that characters are written in columns and go from right to left instead of the standard left to right direction that you're probably more used to. Modern Japanese however, uses a different writing format that goes from left to right just like English. The Japanese writing system includes two different syllabaries, which we rather loosely refer to as the Japanese alphabet, each of which contain around 48 syllables. In addition, there are thousands of Chinese characters, or Kanji, that are commonly used in Japanese writing, of which over 2,000 are actually taught in schools.
This may sound a little too much for you, but don't be alarmed! The key to achieving Japanese fluency is to first master the basics starting from the alphabet. Our Japanese Alphabet Game offers the best way for you to do this and also learn pronunciation and vocabulary while you're at it. Once you become familiar with the Japanese alphabet and writing system, you'll have a better sense for how the language works. This will result in you having a much easier time throughout the rest of your Japanese language learning journey.
Japanese Survival Phrases
To many, traveling to Japan can be quite the culture shock. The majority of Japanese people do not speak English and there are so many unique aspects of Japan that are in stark contrast to Western countries. The best way to prepare before traveling to Japan is to learn these must-know Japanese survival phrases and take them with you so you can speak with the locals, carry out your daily needs and enjoy your stay, whether short or long.
|How are you?||お元気ですか||ogenki desu ka?|
|Good morning||おはようございます||ohayō gozaimasu|
|Nice to meet you||始めまして（どうぞ宜しく)||hajimemashite (Dōzo yoroshiku)|
|Happy to meet you||あなたと出会えてよかった||anata to deaete yokatta|
|How have you been?||お変わりありませんか||okawari arimasen ka?|
|See you later||また後で||mata ato de|
|Bye then!||それじゃ / じゃね||sore ja (Ja ne!)|
|Take care||お大事に||odaiji ni|
|Good!||いいですよ||ii desu yo!|
|Thank you||ありがとうございます||arígatō gozaimasu|
|You're welcome||どういたしまして||dou itashimashite|
|Where?||どこですか||doko desu ka?|
|How much does it cost?||いくら||ikura?|
|What time is it now?||いま何時||ima nanji?|
|Please wait a moment||ちょっと待ってください||chotto matte kudasai|
|I can speak a little||少しだけ話せます||sukoshi dake hanasemasu|
|I don't speak it very well||あまり話せません||amari hanasemasen|
|I don't speak it at all||まったくできません||mattaku dekimasen|
|It's all right||大丈夫||daijōbu|
|It's no problem||問題ありません||mondai arimasen|
|Really?!||本当ですか||hontō desu ka?!|
|(Words of encouragement)||頑張って||ganbatte!|
These are just some phrases to help you get by while you're traveling in Japan. After you complete the Japanese Alphabet Game and take our free fluency trial course, you'll be equipped with many more survival phrases that are sure to come in handy. As an added bonus, you’ll also receive a free Ebook guide to basic Japanese words, grammar, and pronunciation. As you are able to pick up the sentence patterns and internalize grammar rules much faster than you would with traditional learning styles, our proven method is without a doubt the best way to learn Japanese on your own. So don't be too surprised when you find yourself able to read Japanese fluently after just a few days!
Below, you can find some samples of the spaced repetition method from our Daily Life, Travel, and Business Intro modules. These modules provide an effective and comprehensive approach to picking up easy, basic, and useful phrases you can use in actual conversation for all kinds of situations. By alternating between the English and Japanese versions of each sentence using our science-backed method, you can form a strong connection with the meanings, grammatical structures, and pronunciations of numerous essential Japanese phrases.
Exploring the Japanese Alphabet: Hiragana vs. Katakana Usage
With our Japanese Alphabet Game, you now have a way to learn both Hiragana and Katakana in an amazingly short period of time. What would usually take weeks if not months using conventional methods can be achieved within a matter of days! Now let's take a closer look and find out the key distinctions of these writing systems.
Hiragana, originally derived from Chinese characters, translates directly to ordinary or simple kana, the syllabic scripts for the Japanese language. Syllabic scripts, which both Hiragana and Katakana are, refer to written symbols that are used to represent each of the syllables that come together to make up a word.
Below, you'll find an infographic of all the Hiragana syllables in the Japanese alphabet. The chart is organized vertically into corresponding columns for each of the vowels of the English language -- a, i, u, e, and o. These columns are then further broken down into sub-columns with Hiragana syllables occupying the left side and their respective romanizations on the right.
In total, there are 48 different Hiragana syllables, two of which are no longer being used in modern Japanese. These syllables consist of ゐ (wi) derived from the Chinese character 為 and ゑ (we) from the Chinese character 惠. So in reality, there are actually only about 46 unique syllables in Hiragana. But you'll probably notice that there are way more than 46 different syllables in the infographic! That's because in addition to separate, individual Hiragana syllables, each of their unique combinations are also included to make up a total of over 100 syllables and combinations. You can find Hiragana being used in okurigana or word endings in Japanese and in furigana, which refers to the text above or alongside kanji to indicate pronunciation. If you're already familiar with the Japanese alphabet, check out our guide to the best way to learn Japanese pronunciation and grammar rules.
Also derived from Chinese characters, Katakana is used primarily to indicate proper pronunciation. In the Katakana infographic below, you can see that the Katakana syllables are organized very similarly to the Hiragana syllables. Yet again, there are columns for every English vowel and below them are Katakana syllables and combinations along with their corresponding romanizations.
Just like Hiragana, Katakana also has a total of 48 syllables with two ancient syllables that do not see any use in modern Japanese. These ancient characters are ヰ (wi) which comes from the Chinese character 井 and ヱ (we) from the Chinese character 惠. Katakana is primarily used to transcribe foreign words into Japanese. Katakana is also used to write loanwords or gairaigo, which refers to words that were adopted from another language.
Start Reading Japanese Right Away
You now have a fairly good understanding of the Japanese language, alphabet, writing systems, and essential phrases that you can use in actual conversation. But this is only the beginning! After you've played the entire Japanese Alphabet Game, you will have acquired all the skills required to read Hiragana and Katakana. The best way to truly learn Japanese on your own is to internalize everything you've learned via repetition, whether it be the alphabet, writing system, sentences, vocabulary, or pronunciation.
Maintain a consistent schedule and put in just 20 minutes a day in order to reach a conversational level of fluency in as little as three months. By setting measurable, achievable goals for yourself on a daily basis, you will see a significant improvement in your Japanese ability over time. With hundreds of levels and thousands of vocabulary words, you can continue utilizing the Japanese Alphabet Game even after playing it through the first time. This way, you will develop a solid foundation and keep building onto it as you grow. Play now and start reading Japanese! Upon completion of the game, you will receive your free Japanese trial fluency course.