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Goin’ Japanesque!

Basics of Japanese: Hiragana

Hiragana is known as a “syllabary” because it’s made of syllable sounds rather than letters. This means Japanese is relatively easy to pronounce because it’s said the way it looks, much like Spanish. Not sure about the pronunciation? Click here to study that first!

Once you known hiragana, you can begin to read and write basic sentences so it’s very important to learn! It’s also not that difficult, but expect it to still take time. There are 46 hiragana characters to learn, along with sound combinations using those previous 46 characters.

 

Hiragana Syllabus

Use this syllabus as a guide to mastering the hiragana syllables. You should expect to study reading and writing of the characters from 30 minutes to 1 hour every day. Following this guide, it should take you about three weeks. Of course, you can always go faster or slower to suit your needs!

hiragana

 

Week 1: A – SO

Day 1

Write the characters for A, I, U, E, O a total of 10 times each. As you write each character, be sure to repeat the sound over and over again either out loud or in your head. This will help you to associate the sound to the hiragana. Focus on writing and mastering one character at a time.

Day 2

Review A, I, U, E, O with flashcards, then try writing these words:
ai (love), ue (up), oi (hey), au (to meet), aou (let’s meet), ii (good), aoi (blue), ie (house)

Check your answers by highlighting below, then circle any characters you struggled to write and write those 5 times more.

Check your answers
あい (love), うえ (up), おい (hey), あう (to meet), あおう (let’s meet), いい (good), あおい (blue), いえ (house)

 

Day 3

Test yourself on writing A, I, U, E, O. Once you pass, begin on KA, KI, KU, KE, KO, writing them 10 times each.

Day 4

Review all 10 characters with flashcards and then try to write these words: aki (autumn), koe (voice), koi (carp), ookii (big), iku (to go), eki (train station), kaku (write; draw), Keiko (a girl’s name), ike (pond), akai (red), kau (to buy), kiku (to listen)

Check your answers by highlighting below, then circle any characters you struggled to write and write those 5 times more.

Check your answers
あき (autumn), こえ (voice), こい (carp), おおきい (big), いく (to go), えき (train station), かく (write; draw), けいこ (a girl’s name), いけ (pond), あかい (red), かう (to buy), きく (to listen)

 

Day 5

Test yourself on writing all 10. Review reading and writing the new vocabulary words. Then move on to writing SA, SHI, SU, SE, SO 10 times each.

Day 6

Review all 15 characters with flashcards. Then practice writing these words: sushi, suki (like), oishii (yummy), Oosaka (a place in Japan), ashi (leg; foot), shika (deer), sake, sasu (to point)

Check your answers by highlighting below, then circle any characters you struggled to write and write those 5 times more.

Check your answers
すし, すき (like), おいしい (yummy), おおさか (a place in Japan), あし (leg; foot), しか (deer), さけ, さす (to point)

 

Week 2: TA – HO

Day 7

Try writing all 15, rewriting any you miss 5 times. Then begin on TA, CHI, TSU, TE, TO.

Day 8

Review all 20 characters with flashcards, then write these words: tatsu (to stand), chiisai (small), toshi (year), toki (time), take (bamboo), takai (tall; expensive), chikatetsu (subway), Tatsuo (a boy’s name), ito (thread), otoko (man), ichi (1), shichi (7), otouto (little brother), chichi (dad), uchi (home)

Check your answers by highlighting below, then circle any characters you struggled to write and write those 5 times more.

Check your answers
たつ (to stand), ちいさい (small), とし (year), とき (time), たけ (bamboo), たかい (tall; expensive), ちかてつ (subway), たつお (a boy’s name), いと (thread), おとこ (man), いち (1), しち (7), おとうと (little brother), ちち (dad), うち (home)

 

Day 9

Test yourself on writing all 20. Review reading and writing the new vocabulary words given. Then move on to writing NA, NI, NU, NE, NO 10 times each.

Day 10

Review all 25 characters with flashcards. Then practice writing these words: sakana (fish), nana (7 – alt. pronunciation), neko (cat), inu (dog), shinu (to die), shibainu (shiba dog), akitainu (akita dog), kani (crab), nikoniko (grin), nani (what), nashi (pear), nasu (eggplant), ani (older brother), ane (older sister), Tanaka (a surname), natsu (summer)

Check your answers by highlighting below, then circle any characters you struggled to write and write those 5 times more.

Check your answers
さかな (fish), なな (7 – alt. pronunciation), ねこ (cat), いぬ (dog), しぬ (to die), しばいぬ (shiba dog), あきたいぬ (akita dog), かに (crab), にこにこ (grin), なに (what), なし (pear), なす (eggplant), あに (older brother), あね (older sister), たなか (a surname), なつ (summer)

 

Day 11

Try writing all 25, rewriting any you miss 5 times. Then begin on HA, HI, FU, HE, HO.

Day 12

Review all 30 characters with flashcards then write these words: hako (box), hachi (8), hana (flower), ohashi (chopsticks), haha (mom), fue (flute), heso (belly button), hoshi (star), hoshii (want), houou (phoenix), hime (princess), Hanako (a girl’s name)

Check your answers by highlighting below, then circle any characters you struggled to write and write those 5 times more.

Check your answers
はこ (box), はち(8), はな (flower), おはし (chopsticks), はは (mom), ふえ (flute), へそ (belly button), ほし (star), ほしい (want), ほうおう (phoenix), ひめ (princess), はなこ (a girl’s name)

 

Week 3: MA – N

Day 13

Test yourself on writing all 30. Review reading and writing the new vocabulary words given. Then write MA, MI, MU, ME, MO 10 times each.

Day 14

Review all 35 characters with flashcards. Then practice writing these words: mimi (ear), momo (peach), sumomo (plum), sumu (to live in a place), kimono, imouto (little sister), marui (round), maamaa (so-so), musume (daughter), musuko (son), mainichi (every day), mukashi (long ago)

Check your answers by highlighting below, then circle any characters you struggled to write and write those 5 times more.

Check your answers
みみ (ear), もも (peach), すもも (plum), すむ (to live in a place), きもの, いもうと (little sister), まるい (round), まあまあ (so-so), むすめ (daughter), むすこ (son), まいにち (every day), むかし (long ago)

 

Day 15

Try writing all 35, rewriting any you miss 5 times. Then begin on RA, RI, RU, RE, RO.

Day 16

Review all 40 characters with flashcards then write these words: suru (to do), shiroi (white), kuroi (black), rousoku (candle), shiriai (acquaintance), oshieru (to teach), narau (to learn), ramune (Japanese soda), haru (spring), hare (sunny), kare (he), kareshi (boyfriend)

Check your answers by highlighting below, then circle any characters you struggled to write and write those 5 times more.

Check your answers
する(to do), しろい (white), くろい (black), ろうそく (candle), しりあい (acquaintance), おしえる (to teach), ならう (to learn), らむね (Japanese soda), はる (spring), はれ (sunny), かれ (he), かれし (boyfriend)

 

Day 17

Complete the final set: YA, YU, YO, WA, WO, N (don’t worry about “we” or “wi”–they’re not used anymore) and write the following words: yukata (summer kimono), fuyu (winter), tenki (weather), okaasan (mother), otousan (father), kawa (river), watashi (I; me), yasumi (vacation), Yusuke (a name), Yoichi (a name), sumimasen (excuse me), warui (bad)

Check your answers by highlighting below, then circle any characters you struggled to write and write those 5 times more.

Check your answers
ゆかた (summer kimono), ふゆ (winter), てんき (weather), おかあさん (mother), おとうさん (father), かわ (river), わたし (I; me), やすみ (vacation), ゆうすけ (a name), よういち(a name), すみません (excuse me), わるい (bad)

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Congratulations(おめでとう)! You have completed all 46 basic ひらがな!

 

Week 3: Tenten, maru, stops and combination sounds

Day 18

Adding tenten (゛) to certain consonants changes them slightly. It makes the consonant into a “hard” sound. Only certain characters can do this, however.

K゛ = G, S゛ = Z (SHI゛ only becomes JI), T゛ = D, H゛ = B

So, for example, if I wanted to write denki (light) it would look like でんき (TE゛ N  KI).

Write the following words using tenten: niji (rainbow), naze (why), doko (where), dare (who), arigatou (thanks), douitashimashite (you’re welcome), gomen (sorry), gogo (PM), gozen (AM), egaku (to draw), tamago (egg), tomodachi (friend), boku (masc. I; me), binbou (poor), obaasan (grandma), ojiisan (grandpa), nihonjin (Japanese person), nihongo (Japanese language)

Check your answers by highlighting below, then circle any characters you struggled to write and write those 5 times more.

Check your answers
にじ (rainbow), なぜ (why), どこ (where), だれ (who), ありがとう (thanks), どういたしまして (you’re welcome), ごめん (sorry), ごご (PM), ごぜん (AM), えがく (to draw), たまご (egg), ともだち (friend), ぼく (masc. I; me), びんぼう (poor), おばあさん (grandma), おじいさん (grandpa), にほんじん (Japanese person), にほんご (Japanese language)

 

Day 19

Adding maru (°) to the H sounds changes them to P sounds.

So, for example, to write pekopeko (hungry) it would look like ぺこぺこ (PE°KO PE°KO)

Write the following words using maru: pikapika (sparkling), enpitsu (pencil), perapera (fluent)

Check your answers by highlighting below, then circle any characters you struggled to write and write those 5 times more.

Check your answers
ぴかぴか (sparkling), えんぴつ (pencil), ぺらぺら (fluent)

 

Day 20

つ (tsu) is used in many words but it is often used as ちいさいつ (chiisai tsu – little ‘tsu’), which doesn’t make a tsu sound at all! The little ‘tsu’ is written smaller than the regular tsu (compare つ and っ) and it doubles the consonant sound of whatever comes AFTER it. When you say it, it ends up creating a little “stop” in your voice. For example, the word kissaten (coffee shop) is written as きっさてん (KI little tsu SA TE N) and pronounced like “kis.saten.”

Although it seems insignificant, using or not using little ‘tsu’ can often change a whole word. きて (kite) means “come here” but きって (kitte) means “cut”!

Write the following words using little tsu: ikkagetsu (1 month), mikka (3rd day),  Nippon (Japan),  yatta (yay!), kocchi (here), socchi (there), acchi (way over there), ippun (1 min), matte (wait)

Check your answers by highlighting below, then circle any characters you struggled to write and write those 5 times more.

Check your answers
いっかげつ (1 month), みっか (3rd day),  にっぽん (Japan),  やった (yay!), こっち (here), そっち (there), あっち (way over there), いっぷん (1 min), まって (wait)

 

Day 21

Japanese can use littleや (ya), ゆ (yu) and よ (yo) to create combination sounds with syllables that already have an “i” sound (like shi, ki, mi or chi). These combination sounds take the consonant sound (sh, k, m, ch) and combine it with the “vowel” sound of ya, yu or yo. For example, the word oshougatsu (New Year’s) is written as おしょうがつ. To write “sho” I have to combine し (shi) with a little よ(yo). Similarly, “shu” would be しゅ and “sha” would be しゃ.

Write these words with combinations: chuu (onomatopoeia for kiss), chou (butterfly), toukyo (Tokyo), kyouto (Kyoto), isshoni (together), ojousan (young woman), joudan (joke), nyuugaku (start school), sotsugyou (graduate), densha (train), denshi jisho (electronic dictionary), chuugoku (China), chuugakkou (middle school), shougakkou (elementary school), shouyu (soy sauce).

Check your answers by highlighting below, then circle any characters you struggled to write and write those 5 times more.

Check your answers
ちゅう (onomatopoeia for kiss), ちょう (butterfly), とうきょう (Tokyo), きょうと (Kyoto), いっしょに (together), おじょうさん (young woman), じょうだん (joke), にゅうがく (start school), そつぎょう (graduate), でんしゃ (train), でんしじしょ (electronic dictionary), ちゅうごく (China), ちゅうがっこう (middle school), しょうがっこう (elementary school), しょうゆ (soy sauce)

 

The Final Test

Try to read the following aloud. Don’t worry about not understanding all (or even some) of it. Just focus on knowing how to say each character for now.

おはよう。 こうこうせい です。 ねこ と いぬ が すき です。 ともだち も だいすき です。 ともだち も こうこうせい です。 わたしたち は いつも えいが を みます。 すき な えいが は にほん の えいが です。 みやざき の えいが が とても いい です ね。 きょう、 ともだち と いっしょ に えいが を み に いきます。 わたし と いっしょ に いきません か。

Check your answers
Ohayou. Koukousei desu. Neko to inu ga suki desu. Tomodachi mo daisuki desu. Tomodachi mo koukousei desu. Watashitachi ha itsumo eiga wo mimasu. Suki na eiga ha nihon no eiga desu. Miyazaki no eiga ga totemo ii desu ne. Kyou, tomodachi to issho ni eiga wo mi ni ikimasu. Watashi to issho ni ikimasen ka?

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Katrina

About the author

Katrina has worked as a Japanese language teacher and freelance translator for several years. She loves traveling and has been all over Japan. Click here --> Free Japanese Lessons Practical Japanese Lessons

View all articles by Katrina
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