The starting point of learning Japanese is always Hiragana (ひらがな), the 46 letter system in which each letter stands for a syllable. Hiragana are the basics of Japanese and learning it is a big first step in your journey to mastering Japanese but sometimes it can also feel like an anti-climax when you have memorized all 46 letters and additional syllables because you can’t do anything with it yet.
The only thing I can say is don’t despair. It’s going to get better. 🙂 Learning Hiragana and eventually Katakana is the foundation for reading Japanese and as you progress in learning more vocabulary you will hardly remember the time when learning Hiragana was difficult. Here is the standard Hiragana-chart
You have probably noticed the pattern here. Almost every row is a combination of the starting consonant like k followed by a vowel of the column, so you get the sequence ka, ki, ku, ke and ko. There are a few exceptions, most notably the chi-, tsu- and fu-letters and some rows don’t have all combinations of all the consonants and vowels. Also the pronunciation is sometimes not straightforward.
- は (ha) is pronounced ‘wa’ when used as a particle.
- And を is pronounced like ‘o’
|きもの||(kimono)||= Japanese traditional clothing|
|つなみ||(tsunami)||= Tidal wave|
|せんせい||(sensei)||= Teacher, Master|
Ga, gi and gu. Modifying Hiragana with Dakuten
There are some modifications, dakuten (だくてん) in Japanese, for these standard hiragana-letters to make them sound a little different.
With the ” marker
Or with a little circle
With these modified hiragana-letters, it’s possible to make words like.
そば (soba) = A Japanese noodle-dish
ごはん (gohan) = A meal, cooked rice
じかん (jikan) = Time
げんき (genki) = Health, lively
こども (kodomo) = Child
Some more words that you probably already know spelled out in hiragana.
えもじ = Emoji
まんが = Manga
たいふう (taifuu) = Typhoon
さけ = Sake
すし = Sushi
にんじゃ = Ninja
Now if you look closely at the word にんじゃ (ninja) you may notice the ‘じゃ’ . A small や, ゆ or よ can alter the pronunciation of the hiragana ending in the vowel i. Using this you can make the following letters
The small っ (tsu)
Sometimes a small っ is used in the middle of a word to create a double consonant. This means that the letter after the small っ counts double. You can see how this works here:
Verbs without the っ
たべた (tabeta) = have eaten
みた (mita) = have looked
あげた (ageta) = have given (to others)
Verbs with a っ
おくった (okutta) = To have send.
かえった (kaetta) = To have returned
とった (totta) = To have taken (a picture)
All these verbs are in the past tense.
Below you can find exercises and the corresponding answers to practice your hiragana.
|Exercises 1||Answers 1|
|Exercises 2||Answers 2|
|Exercises 3||Answers 3|
Practicing Hiragana with games
Now that you know which hiragana there are, practice is key. Below you can find some games to practice your Hiragana memory.