Are you ready for your first lesson in Japanese?
Let's start with some hiragana1!
The Japanese hiragana alphabet is similar to our alphabet, I'm sure you all know that A comes before B and B comes before C. In hiragana (and katakana) the characters also have an order.
For this lesson, we'll be learning the first row: a, i, u, e, o
The first row consists of stand-alone vowels...meaning they aren't connected to consonants (with the exception of n). These are the only ones that don't follow the consonant-vowel order.
As you can see from the picture above, we're showing you how they look when written by hand (first row), how they look when typed (second row) and what they are in romaji.
As you know when typing with Latin characters, it looks different than if you write words by hand.
For example, an 'a' can look like this when typed:
or like this when written:
You still know it's an 'a' though.
Many Japanese books and sites want you to learn the characters as they are typed, but here you'll be learning to write them as they are usually written by hand.
IMPORTANT: When writing the characters, there is a system to writing each of them. Let's take the hand-written 'book' example below:
This word has been written backwards and looks a bit awkward, but it's still legible. You can tell that it's 'book.'
It's the same when you write hiragana. Try to write them in the correct stroke order because although it may not look any different to you, Japanese people will pick up on the fact that your handwriting looks funky.
Let's start with あ：
When you pronounce あ, you have to say it like this:
ah → as in, “ah yeah”
NOT 'ay' as in 'ABC' in English
The あ is always pronounced as 'ah,' which makes speaking in Japanese a lot easier than in English. That's a plus!
IMPORTANT: In Japanese, consonants and vowels are usually pronounced in only 1 way. The exceptions to this rule are, occasionally, the vowels at the end, or near the end of a word.
Pronounced: yo-ro-sh-ku o-ne-gai-shi-mas
Next character is い:
TIP: If you visualize a small circle in the middle, it will probably help you write this character.
When you pronounce い, you have to say it like this:
ee → as in, “sweet”
NOT like 'I' when you refer to yourself in English.
The い is always pronounced as 'ee.'
Next character is う:
When you pronounce う, you have to say it like this:
uh → as in, “put”
NOTE: when pronouncing , refrain from rounding your lips (pull the corners of your mouth back slightly as well)
The う is always pronounced as 'uh.'
Next character is え:
When you pronounce え, you have to say it like this:
eh → as in, “get”
NOTE: 'e' is never silent in Japanese, like it is in English (Example: note)
The え is always pronounced as 'eh.'
Next character is お:
When you pronounce お, you have to say it like this:
o → as in, “macaroni”
NOT like the o in hot, when it really sounds like 'hawt'
The お is always pronounced as 'o.'
Congratulations! You've learned the first row of hiragana! Now to make sure that you remember, practice practice practice.
Look at the end of the lesson for the homework regarding the hiragana!