Hiragana and Katakana

Before I start, I'll have you refer back to this post, or otherwise this may not appear as it should. It has come to my attention, however, that there have been some troubles installing this feature, involving needing the Windows disk. If people don't have the disk, like with my mom's laptop, the feature won't be able to be installed. As soon as I find a solution for this, I will post it.

Also, as a disclaimer, I have to say that this guide will be only for printed Japanese. Handwritten has a slightly different style and specific stroke order which are hard to describe without an actual demonstration. Take this as an aid to read some basic Japanese, such as on Youtube on in animes.

So during my first semester of Japanese in college, I learned to read and write both basic alphabets, and I'm here to teach my readers a bit too. Hiragana is the first one I learned, and the most useful. It is used mostly as filler in sentences, such as in particles, endings for verbs and other words, and can be used to show the pronunciation of the harder Kanji characters. Katakana is the second alphabet, used to write Japanese adaptations of foreign words, or for onomatopoeia, like "wan wan" (woof, woof), as well as certain other things.

Here is a simple chart of both of the alphabets. As you can see, they are made up of 47 characters, composed up of vowel sounds, or a vowel sound combined with a consonant sound. The reason I say sound is because traditional Japanese doesn't use any Roman letters (Romaji, what you are probably reading this in), and the pronunciations shown are simply the closest phonetic spelling to the syllables used in Japanese speaking. The vowels in Japanese are the same as in English, and the consonants are K, S, T, N, H, M, Y, R, and W (as well as some others, described below).

Because the chart is pretty drab, I'll put this wallpaper up for your enjoyment.
Set it as your wallpaper or Google background, and study without knowing it. Note it is read from up-down and right-left.

On top of the 47 characters, there are more sounds which can be made with the use of accent marks. If you add a ゛ (pronounced "ten-ten", or dot dot) to the K, S, T, or H columns, the consonant sounds becomes G, Z, D, or B, respectively. For Instance, か(ka), with the ten ten added, becomes が(ga). In addition to this, the H row can also have a ゜(Chisai-maru, literaly, little circle), Making it into a P sound. へ(hi)becomes ぺ(pi). The same marks work for both hiragana and katakana.

Glides are another way of changing the sound. Basically, one pairs something from the い(i) row with something from the Y column. The Ya, Yu, or Yo is written smaller, and the vowel from the first character is replaced. For instance, ち(chi) plus や(ya) becomes ちゃ(cha), which can go to make up ちゃん, or chan, like in Onee-chan(little sister), or even 4chan.

Anther interesting thing is the double consonant. Because there are no unpaired consonants in Japanese, excluding the n/m sound, to create a double syllable in a word requires a ちさいつ, or a chisai(small) tsu. It becomes smaller just like the ya, yu, or yo in the glide, but it copies the consonant from the next syllable to the previous syllable. It also creates a spoken break between the consonants. For example, し(shi) plus the chisai tsu (っ) and ぽ(po) becomes しっぽ (Ship*po) meaning tail. All of these also apply to katakana as well.

While Japanese extends a long way beyond just these two alphabets, this is more than enough to be able to read basic writing. It took me several months to learn both alphabets by heart, and it definitely takes practice and plenty of exposure. I don't expect a lot of learning to come out of this, but it will work as a nice reference. In order to input these into a computer, without having special software or a keyboard, I used this. It isn't fast or pretty, but it gets the job done. From here on, good luck with your Japanese. Gambbare, Yokudekimashita, to Oyasuminasai. (Good luck, good job, and good night.)

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