Hiragana and Katakana are collectively called Kana. Katakana is from manuscript and Hiragana, the most important, is from cursive script. This explains why they look so different. Kana stand for either a consonant + vowel (CV) or a vowel (V), with exception to n'.
Pronunciation Note: It is /hi.ra.ga.na/ not /hi.ri.ga.na/!
Curriculum Note: Pitch will be represented with bold spelling in Kana.
Kana are organized with the Gojuuonzu (table of 50 sounds), though there aren't exactly 50 basic sounds, which are labeled with 清. The rest are extensions. Explanations follow.
|あ A||い I||う U||え E||お O|| ゃ YA|| ゅ YU|| ょ YO|
|か KA||き KI||く KU||け KE||こ KO||きゃ KYA||きゅ KYU||きょ KYO|
|さ SA||し SHI||す SU||せ SE||そ SO||しゃ SHA||しゅ SHU||しょ SHO|
|た TA||ち CHI||つ TSU||て TE||と TO||ちゃ CHA||ちゅ CHU||ちょ CHO|
|な NA||に NI||ぬ NU||ね NE||の NO||にゃ NYA||にゅ NYU||にょ NYO|
|は HA||ひ HI||ふ FU||へ HE||ほ HO||ひゃ HYA||ひゅ HYU||ひょ HYO|
|ま MA||み MI||む MU||め ME||も MO||みゃ MYA||みゅ MYU||みょ MYO|
|や YA||X||ゆ YU||X||よ YO|| |
|ら RA||り RI||る RU||れ RE||ろ RO||りゃ RYA||りゅ RYU||りょ RYO|
|わ WA||ゐ* (W)I||X||ゑ* (W)E||を (W)O|
|が GA||ぎ GI||ぐ GU||げ GE||ご GO||ぎゃ GYA||ぎゅ GYU||ぎょ GYO|
|ざ ZA||じ^ JI||ず^ ZU||ぜ ZE||ぞ ZO||じゃ JA||じゅ JU||じょ JO|
|だ DA||ぢ^ DJI||づ^ DZU||で DE||ど DO||ぢゃ DJA||ぢゅ DJU||ぢょ DJO|
|ば BA||び BI||ぶ BU||べ BE||ぼ BO||びゃ BYA||びゅ BYU||びょ BYO|
|ぱ PA||ぴ PI||ぷ PU||ぺ PE||ぽ PO|| ぴゃ PYA ||ぴゅ PYU||ぴょ PYO|
1. ぢゃ, ぢゅ, & ぢょ are normally pronounced as ja, ju, and jo and are usually replaced with じゃ, じゅ, & じょ. They still occasionally show up, so you still need to know what they are.
2. を is usually pronounced as "o". Some speakers in certain regions of Japan still pronounce it as "wo". This is also very common in singing and dramas. The character を is practically only used to write the particle wo.
3. ん cannot begin a word in Standard Japanese and is the only consonant that can end words. One exception that is not Standard Japanese but is so widely known that you will certainly come across is the response phrase んだ (そうだね in Standard Japanese) which means, "yeah, that's so".
4. っ marks a double consonant. You will learn more about it and other usages later in this lesson.
1. せいおん・せいおん (清音) are basic sounds.
2. だくおん (濁音) are voiced sounds (sounds made by vibrating the vocal folds of the larynx (voice box)), せいおん + ゛(the だくてん・にごり↓) or ゜(the はんだくてん).
3. ようおん (拗音) are palatalized sounds (sounds that become articulated at the palate (roof) of the mouth), voiced or non-voiced, and are written with small ャ, ュ, or ョ after an i-column かな.
Pitch Note: だくてん may also be だくてん
Practice (1): You need to do these by hand. Use the charts to help you.
Part I: Change the following words in Roomaji into ひらがな.
1. Kemuri (smoke) 2. Amagumo (rain cloud)
3. Uta (song) 4. Daitouryou (president)
5. Hakken (discovery) 6. Sekai (world)
7. Toukyou (Tokyo) 8. Karate
9. Fujisan (Mt. Fuji) 10. Hajimemashite (Nice to meet you)
Part II: Change the following words in ひらがな into Roomaji.
1. かのじょ （She) 2. しょだな (Bookshelf)
3. にほんご (Japanese language) 4. さかな （Fish)
5. りゅう (Dragon) 6. だいがく (College)
7. ひと (Person) 8. こんにちは (Good afternoon)
9. あした (Tomorrow) 10. がっこう (School)
Note: The は in #8 is actually pronounced as わ.
ひらがな is especially used for words not or normally not written in かんじ, except loanwords. It's used to write out grammatical items. かな that show conjugation is called おくりがな. ふりがな or ルビ (rubi) are かな used to show how かんじ are read.
This doesn't mean you don't need かんじ because the lack of かんじ in your writing can show lack of confidence or capability in your Japanese skills.
しわ Wrinkle 皺 is complicated and uncommon.
今日は As for today The particle は, pronounced as わ, means "as for".
変わらない - To not change
Note: When to add おくりがな is not always straightforward. Sometimes there are options, and these options usually have certain instances when they are used. So, be careful to make sure you understand when to use particular spellings.
1. Get a dictionary and give the readings of the following words in ひらがな.
顔 (Face) 英語 (English) 鳥 (Bird) 友達 (Friend)
2. Find the word that shouldn't be in ひらがな. Spaces are inserted to make this easier.
わたし は けーき を たべました。
I ate cake.
Punctuation Note: There are no spaces because the mixed script and grammar make word boundaries obvious. The period is 。, the comma is 、, and the quotation marks are 「」.
1. Make flashcards with the ひらがな on the front and the Roomaji on the back.
2. Find something in Japanese and see if you can read all the ひらがな!
3. しりとり is a word game where the next word starts with the last mora (かな) of the last word. Try it.
4. Consider using the following resources: http://www.csus.edu/indiv/s/
カタカナ is mainly used to write words from other languages. The sounds are not different than with ひらがな! We'll learn more about when to use it after seeing them.
|ア A||イ I||ウ U||エ E||オ O|| ャ YA|| ュ YU|| ョ YO|
|K||カ KA||キ KI||ク KU||ケ KE||コ KO|| キャ KYA||キュ KYU|| キョ KYO|
|S||サ SA||シ SHI||ス SU||セ SE||ソ SO|| シャ SHA|| シュ SHU|| ショ SHO|
|T||タ TA||チ CHI||ツ TSU||テ TE||ト TO|| チャ CHA|| チュ CHU|| チョ CHO|
|N||ナ NA||ニ NI||ヌ NU||ネ NE||ノ NO|| ニャ NYA|| ニュ NYU|| ニョ NYO|
|H||ハ HA||ヒ HI||フ FU||ヘ HE||ホ HO|| ヒャ HYA|| ヒュ HYU|| ヒョ HYO|
|M||マ MA||ミ MI||ム MU||メ ME||モ MO|| ミャ MYA|| ミュ MYU|| ミョ MYO|
|Y||ヤ YA||ユ YU||ヨ YO|
|R||ラ RA||リ RI||ル RU||レ RE||ロ RO|| リャ RYA|| リュ RYU|| リョ RYO|
|W||ワ WA||ヰ (W)I *||ヱ (W)E *||ヲ (W)O|
|G||ガ GA||ギ GI||グ GU||ゲ GE||ゴ GO|| ギャ GYA|| ギュ GYU|| ギョ GYO|
|Z||ザ ZA||ジ^ JI||ズ^ ZU||ゼ ZE||ゾ ZO|| ジャ JA|| ジュ JU|| ジョ JO|
|D||ダ DA||ヂ^ DJI||ヅ^ DZU||デ DE||ド DO|| ヂャ DJA|| ヂュ DJU|| ヂョ DJO|
|B||バ BA||ビ BI||ブ BU||ベ BE||ボ BO|| ビャ BYA|| ビュ BYU|| ビョ BYO|
|P||パ PA||ピ PI||プ PU||ペ PE||ポ PO|| ピャ PYA|| ピュ PYU||ピョ PYO|
1. ヲ・を is only used as a particle whereas ウォ is used only in loan words.
2. Wa may be written as ウァ in loan words.
3. ー marks a long vowel in loan words.
4. The Sokuon is ッ.
*. ヱ・ゑ and ヰ・ゐ are obsolete. When used, they're pronounced as "e" and "i" respectively. An example is ヱビス, which is a beer company.
Part I: Change the following words in Roomaji into カタカナ.
1. Piano 2. Tesuto (Test)
3. Gorufu (Golf) 4. Miruku (Milk)
5. Taimingu (Timing) 6. Kamera (Camera)
7. Terebi (TV) 8. Supein (Spain)
9. Furontogarasu (Windshield) 10. Beddo (Bed)
Note: #9 is an example of English taking on new meaning in Japanese.
Part II: Change the following words in カタカナ into Roomaji.
1. ロボット (Robot) 2. アイスクリーム (Ice cream)
3. スリル （Thrill) 4. チーズ (Cheese)
5. システム (System) 6. ダウンロード (Download)
7. マスコミ (The media) 8. インターネット (Internet)
9. オレンジジュース (Orange juice) 10. サッカー (Soccer)
Additional カタカナ for Foreign Phrases
Although ひらがな isn't normally used for foreign words, the same methods can be used.
Curriculum Note: Visit Extra Katakana to see a much larger list. Many are just hypothetical.
Pronunciation Note: Consonants that don't exist in Japanese are normally pronounced with approximations. Ex. v → b.
Practice (3): Change the following words into カタカナ.
1. Kafe (Cafe) 2. （Y)erusaremu (Jerusalem)
3. Aisutii (Ice tea) 4. Vaajinia (Virginia)
5. Jetto (Jet) 6. Shefu (Chef)
7. Kariforunia (California) 8. Weeruzu (Wales)
9. Chesu (Chess) 10. Finaare (Finale)
ApplicationsAgain, Katakana is primarily used to write foreign expressions as well as science terms with complicated Kanji. As Japanese doesn't allow final consonants or consonant clusters, with exception to ン, vowels are inserted. So, u is often inserted, but o is used after t and d. There are exceptions like スーツ (suit) and older loans with i after k like ケーキ (cake).
Note: コーヒー is an older loan word, so フィ is not used.
カタカナ is also used to write the names of some Japanese companies. カタカナ is also used to write onomatopoeia (sound effects) and stylistically by authors to essentially italicize words. This can also be seen on billboards highlighting certain words.
Practice (4): Transcribe (write out) the following words to the best of your abilities into カタカナ. Loans are simply pronounced with approximations of the original pronunciation from the source.
1. Wikipedia 2. America 3. France
4. Mexico 5. Computer 6. Seoul
1. The company Mizuho's name is written in ひらがな. Write it in カタカナ anyways.
2. Sentences can be stylistically written in カタカナ. Change the following sentence into ひらがな.
3. What would be the difference between writing the word neko (cat) in ひらがな and カタカナ?
When characters are used phonetically, づ and ぢ are never used. For example, lightning is いなずま (稲妻) even though 妻 is read as つま. They're typically only used as voiced elements of a larger word or as the voiced doubling of a sound.
| 鼻血|| はなぢ||Nosebleed|
| 鈴|| すず||Bell|
Words normally don't begin with ぢ or づ, but some do. For example, づら (wig). Of all words, hemorrhoids 痔 is often written as ぢ. Also, ぢ and づ are typically only used with native words. There are, of course, those rare exceptions.
1. The verb tsuzuru means "to spell". How would it be spelled in ひらがな?
2. Write the family name Suzuki in カタカナ.
ッ・っ doubles a consonant and is placed before a given consonant. Never double n and m. G, z, d, h, f, b, r, w and y could be seen doubled, but they are almost always either used in loan words or in exaggerated spellings. Audible stops may be written with っ too.
1. Find an incorrect usage of っ.
バッハ カッナ ピッチ カッフェラッテ
Most long vowels are written by doubling a vowel, but えい can represent ええ in Sino-Japanese words and おう can represent おお except when the end of a verb or when individually readings of かんじ next to each other.
In loanwords long vowels may be marked with (ー), which also represents trailing. Small かな--ぁ、ぃ、ぅ、ぇ、ぉ--can also show trailing. ー may also be used colloquially in words such as cell-phone, ケータイ. In vertical text, ー must be written vertically.
1. Spell teepu (tape), a loanword, in Kana correctly.
2. Spell saikyou (strongest), a Sino-Japanese word, in Kana correctly.
3. Spell omou (to think), a verb, in Kana correctly.
Though we haven't begun covering particles, there are two irregular spellings.
|1.||The particle wa is written as は instead of as わ.|
|2.||The particle e is written as へ instead of as エ・え.|
Kana Duplication → Lesson 140
なまえ is name. Japanese names are normally in かんじ, but some have かな in their names. Foreign names are transliterated phonetically into カタカナ with the ordering of first and last name based on the original language. Chinese names can be left in かんじ and read with Chinese/ON readings. It is more common to Katakanize them for pronunciation.
Consider the sounds closest to those in your name. Transliteration is normally based on pronunciation, not spelling. So, there can be several ways to render your name.
Note: Comes from Portuguese.
Note: カズオ・イシグロ is a famous Japanese English writer. His name is often written in カタカナ with a Western order.
Cultural Note: -さん after a name is like Mr. or Mrs. in English. -さま shows more respect, and -ちゃん is a childish version of -さん. Don't use these after your own name. In something like スミスさんはこちらです where you're referring to oneself in third person, it's OK. These endings can have unintended consequences. For example, using -さま would be rude when said to a friend.
Titles such as president だいとうりょう and せんせい come after one's surname or first name in informal settings. When being respectful, you should always use the person's actual title.
1. Try writing your full name in カタカナ.
2. Find a Japanese name online and write it out in ひらがな.
3. Practice endings like -さま in the real world. If you hear the president on the news, start calling him オバマだいとうりょう.
4. If you have a pet, start calling your pet ....-ちゃん.
5. If you haven't been calling your teacher with their surname + せんせい, start.
|Good morning||おはようございます||Good afternoon||こんにちは||Good evening||こんばんは|
|Good night||おやすみなさい||Farewell||さようなら||How are you?||おげんきですか|
|You're welcome||どういたしまして||Your name is?||おなまえは?||Excuse me/sorry||すみません|
|Thank you||ありがとうございます||Hello (phone)||もしもし||Nice to meet you||はじめまして|
Note: In a typical introduction, you end by saying どうぞよろしくおねがいします, which shows that you hope to be kept in mind for potential help in the future.
1. Introduce yourself to your classmates.
2. Greet people with おはようございます, こんにちは， and こんばんは.
Next Lesson → 第3課: 漢字
1. けむり 2. あまぐも 3. うた 4. だいとうりょう 5. はっけん 6. せかい 7. とうきょう 8. からて 9. ふじさん
Part II: If you have been taught to use other conventions in romanization, go by what you're teacher says to do. There are plenty of correct ways to romanize Japanese.
1. Kanojo 2. Shodana 3. Nihongo 4. Sakana 5. Ryuu 6. Daigaku 7. Hito 8. Kon'nichi wa
9. Ashita 10. Gakkou
1. かお えいご とり ともだち
2. けーき → ケーキ
1. ピアノ 2. テスト 3. ゴルフ 4. ミルク 5. タイミング 6. カメラ 7. テレビ 8. スペイン 9. フロントガラス
1. Robotto 2. Aisukuriimu 3. Suriru 4. Chiizu 5. Shisutemu 6. Daunroodo 7. Masukomi
8. Intaanetto 9. Orenjijuusu 10. Sakkaa
1. カフェ 2. イェルサレム・エルサレム 3. アイスティー 4. ヴァージニア 5. ジェット 6. シェフ 7. カリフォルニア
8. ウェールズ 9. チェス 10. フィナーレ
1. ウィキペディア 2. アメリカ 3. フランス 4. メキシコ 5. コンピュータ（ー） 6. ソウル
#3 is free-response.
3. ねこ would be used on a normal basis, but ネコ would be used in scientific situations.
1. つづる 2. スズキ
1. テープ 2. さいきょう 3. おもう