So you are new to Hiragana? It isn’t that hard to learn. If you study 15-30 minutes a day for 2 or 3 weeks you can learn all of the Hiragana! In fact you can begin to read REAL Japanese the first day! If you are new to Hiragana please read through the introduction here on this page before starting the chapters. If you need a book to learn with please take a look at the selection of books related to Hiragana and Katakana at our store.
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SUGGESTIONS: Tackle 2 or 3 hiragana a day (or as many as you feel comfortable with); Be sure to write each one down many times; Look for hiragana you have studied elsewhere while you study and try to recognize the ones you’ve already learned. This helps build your memory. You may want to hear all hiragana pronounced before beginning. Click on the chapter title or green button in any box below to jump directly to that chapter.
We also have some Hiragana Quizzes (Your browser needs to be able to see Japanese) Quiz #1 (the 46 characters covered in chapters 1 – 10) Quiz #2 (the “combo” characters covered in chapter 11)
Hiragana Randomizer Flash Cards (Only works with IE)
Let’s learn the first of the three Japanese ‘alphabets.’ (they aren’t really alphabets) Three?!! You mean there’s more!?! Yes, but before you run for the aspirin, know that hiragana is perhaps the most useful and it can be mastered (to a slow, but readable degree) in less than 2 weeks! Hiragana’s sister is Katakana. Once you learn Hiragana, you will notice how similar Katakana is. The third is kanji – characters originally from China. But more on that later…
Here is a comment from a very nice guy: I learned how to read and write hiragana almost exclusively through this site, and I think it’s a great learning tool. I did one lesson a day, and wrote each character several times until I had it memorized. Then I re-wrote all of the characters I had learned so far, up to that point. It was fairly easy and fun. I found the mnemonics a great help. It really didn’t seem to matter what they said (“Look ma, a dragonfly!), just the process of reading them helped me to remember. Thank you very much for your hard work on this site, and for making it available to everyone on the Internet. Good job.
Today all three ‘alphabets’ are used together. As a rule, most words (of Chinese or Japanese origin) are written with kanji + hiragana. And foreign loan words and names are written with katakana.
About the Sounds:
Most sounds in Japanese are found also in English. Unlike in English, the ‘letters’ in Japanese only have one sound each, with three exceptions that will be mentioned later on. Please click on the sound files to get a feel for the sounds. The most important to master are the vowels (the first row). The sounds are all found in English. Please repeat the sounds many times. If you spend a few moments looking at the chart, you should be able to see a clear pattern (each column has the same vowel sound and each row has the same consonant sound.) There are only a few that deviate from that pattern (in red) – But we will get to that later.
only used as a particle
These are all the basic hiragana letters. The rest are simply combinations of two hiragana. (For Example: to make the ‘sha‘ sound – add し(shi) + や(ya) = しゃ(sha) – Notice how the second letter is smaller; but we will look at this later.) We will look at about 5 ‘letters’ per page. Do one a day and in no time you will be reading real Japanese!
Some good advice from Amanda – a thejapanesepage.com member:
When I was first learning to make the “r” sound one tip that helped was to keep “l” in mind, but widen the tongue.
With a traditional English “l” the tongue is narrowed right behind the two front teeth. If you pay close attention to widening your tongue while you are first learning the sound what you get sounds more like the Japanese “r”. There may be a slight over-correction at first, but once you stop focusing on it entirely it will make the sound more natural and the practice makes it easier to master.
I thought sharing this would be of help to others who are learning on their own.
It was sort of funny when I first read that tip because after repeating the r’s over and over and over, I was really aware of how my tongue moved to make other sounds. It’s weird, but when you pay attention to the sounds you make you almost start to wonder if you’re doing it right. Kind of like saying one word several times- it stops sounding like that word even though you haven’t changed what you are saying!