Minna-san Konnichiwa! (みなさんこんにちは)

Thanks for stumbling onto our page! We dedicate this blog to Japan and all the great stuff that comes out of it.

This blog is here for those interested in seeing what the ACMT Japanese Club has been up to and what we're learning step-by-step. It's a self-study club to enrich our lives and give us better opportunities for our future.

If you decide to follow this blog and learn alongside us, don't hesitate to send us questions. We may only officially have members who are a part of ACMT Zagreb, but unofficially the amount, who want to be a part of this, is limitless.

Thanks for your time and effort.


Japanese Club


New to the site? Click here to get started.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Lesson 1 - Kanji


A Bit about Kanji 
First let's talk a little about Kanji. At first Kanji may look difficult, mysterious and even a bit scary. I mean, how can someone read a sentence filled with a bunch of squares, lines, dashes, curves, and dots? I mean seriously, look at this sentence:


It's a bit intimidating isn't it?

Let's scare you a bit more. Did you know that there are nearly 50,000 kanji? Can you imagine learning all of them? Neither can Japanese teenagers, that's why, the good news is that you only have to learn 2,000.

Some more good news is that you only need to know about half to read a typical Japanese newspaper and even better news to those that enjoy reading manga, it takes less to read the books in original Japanese.

Of course you're probably thinking, “2000 kanji is still a lot...” 
and you'd be right if you compare those to the 26 letters of the English alphabet. Don't worry, we'll take everything one step at a time and gradually, you'll learn the kanji. Do you remember when learning multiplication and long division was hard? You grasped the concept, but to be able to remember you had to practice a lot. I advise you to practice whenever you can.


Hopefully within 1 year we'll be able to learn 80 kanji, which is Level 4 (the most basic level) of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. The characters we'll be learning are the same characters studied in Japan by first- and second-graders and they are some of the most common and most important kanji that you need to know.



kun-yomi: ひと、ひと(つ)
romaji: hito, hito(tsu)
on-yomi: イチ、イッ
romaji: ichi, itsu
一(いち)[ichi] - one, the number one
一つ(ひとつ)[hitotsu] - one (object)
一月(いちがつ)[ichi gatsu] - January (1st month)
一番 (いちばん)[ichi ban] - #1, the best
一人(ひとり)[hitori] -–one person, alone
世界一(せいかいいち)[sei kai ichi] -–the best in the world

How is it written?:

kun-yomi: ふた、ふた(つ)
romaji: futa, futa(tsu)
romaji: ni
二(に)[ni] - two
二つ(ふとつ)[futotsu] - two (objects)
二月(にがつ)[ni gatsu] - February (2nd month)
第二 (だいに)[dai ni] -–the second

How is it written?:

kun-yomi: み、み(つ)、みっ(つ)
romaji: mi, mi(tsu), mit(tsu)
on-yomi: サン
romaji: san
三(さん)[san] - three
三つ(みっつ)[mittsu] - three (objects)
三月(さんがつ)[san gatsu] - March (3rd month)
三角 (さんかく)[san kaku] -–triangle

How is it written?:

Confused by some of the terms?
There are at least two common pronunciations: kun-yomi (purely Japanese pronunciation) and on-yomi (pronunciation based on the original Chinese). (For a more in-depth explanation.)

You may have noticed that each character seems to have at least two pronunciations. Some have even more, but many of those are obscure and rarely used, so we won't be writing them down for you to learn. Don't worry! Since they're rare you won't miss them!

Trying to figure out whether to use the on-yomi or kun-yomi can be a bit tricky at first because it may seem random and unstructured. In some ways it can be, but soon you'll begin to notice a pattern:
  • Compound words (words made up of multiple kanji) are usually read using the on-yomi pronunciation
  • Kanji that stands alone or next to only kana characters usually use the kun-yomi pronunciation
  • Japanese place names and family names also usually use the kun-yomi pronunciations
There are, of course, exceptions, but we'll worry about them as they come along.

Lesson 1 - First Row of Hiragana

Lesson 1

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 , you have to say it like this:
ah → as in, “ah yeah”
NOT 'ay' as in 'ABC' in English
The 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.

Yoroshiku onegaishimasu
Pronounced: yo-ro-sh-ku o-ne-gai-shi-mas

Pronounced: ich
Pronounced: tak-shi

Next character is :

TIP: If you visualize a small circle in the middle, it will probably help you write this character.

When you pronounce , you have to say it like this:
ee → as in, “sweet”
NOT like 'I' when you refer to yourself in English.
The is always pronounced as 'ee.'


Next character is :

When you pronounce , 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 is always pronounced as 'uh.'


Next character is :
When you pronounce , 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 is always pronounced as 'eh.'


Next character is :

When you pronounce , you have to say it like this:
o → as in, “macaroni”
NOT like the o in hot, when it really sounds like 'hawt'
The 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!