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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Lessons 2.1: Hiragana and Katakana

Imagine this scenario: you come into a country and can speak the language well enough to get around town. However when you need to read some of the signs, warnings, or various other important writings strewn around, you find you can't make out even the simplest of it's writing and find yourself confused and lost, trying to make heads or tails of what's in front of you. (take it from me: it's never a fun experience when you're actually looking for something)

Presumably you don't want this is happen to you, so you'll need to arm yourself with the building blocks of the written language; you need to learn how to properly read and write Hiragana and Katakana. A good place to start this process would be here- which will teach you how to install Japanese characters onto Windows, assuming you're using Vista or something like it- and here-which will show you the proper stroke order for each character. Practice writing them until you comfortable enough to do it from memory and be able to tell similar looking Hiragana and Katakana from one another, for that knowledge will come in handy when you get deeper into the language.

My personal recommendation? Get some grid paper and practice on it until it starts to resemble the examples. If it's a bit off, don't worry too much, as many Japanese natives have their own way to write them out, the same way people have different styles of handwriting in English. One way to help you remember them, outside of repeated writings until it becomes as natural as breathing, is associating them with their resemblance to every objects, such as in the cultural phenomenon Henohenomoheji

HOT TIP: the Katakana and Hiragana for Wi and We are pretty much irrelevant in modern Japanese society, so I wouldn't recommend putting too much effort into learning them unless you want to impress your Japanese speaking friends with obscure Japanese knowledge.

As for why one would need two different sets of the basic building blocks... (to be continued next lesson)

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