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Japanese Lessons: Basics

By @cocophony

Japanese Alphabets, PT 2

Okay, so by now you should have read the Hiragana and Katakana charts. If not, please save them to your computer, or your phone, or somewhere else easily accessible. I try to use Hiragana and Katakana as much as possible, so from this point on there will be no Romanji MWAHAHAHHAAA!!!

But in all seriousness, a lot of people who are just beginning, or claim to be intermediate Japanese speakers use Romanji as a clutch. いいえ!That is very bad! You know why? Because then it will take you MUCH longer to memorize Hiragana and Katakana. Once I was taught Hiragana and Katakana (thanks to Nihongo Shark, a great resource for learning Japanese although the best courses do cost money… although they are much cheaper than most places), the teacher stopped using Romanji. It forced me to memorize the first two scripts, and I am grateful for that!

Now, on to the second part of the Japanese Alphabets chapters… Kanji.

Prepare for the worst headache of your life… at least, if you have a horrible memory.

It’s hard to explain, so let me show you…

Here is the Kanji character 本. It is pronounced ほん. So… why another character if there is already an alphabet for it? Well first it saves space. So… why is it so bad?



Now before you give up, it is not necessary to learn all 2000 kanji. And in the beginning, when typing or writing, using just ひらがな and カタカナ is just fine. And there are PLENTY of words that are just spelled with them, so learning Kanji is required right away. But eventually, to officially be fluent and to be able to read Japanese books, signs, and the like, you will need to learn basic Kanji, which is not 2,000 by the way. It is a more manageable number, although what the manageable number is varies by source.

Let’s go back to 本. It is used to say 日本 (Japan), which is pronounced にほん (no, not pronounced “Japan”… remember your ひらがな!). A name that means, with this Kanji, “the land of the rising sun”. Cool, right? The character 本 is one of those Kanij that have multiple meanings… it means “origins”, “root”… and “book”… and a few other words.

If you have a great memory, than you will do well! Kanji shouldn’t be that hard, right?

Well, that is true. But you could read a sentence and not remember all of the meanings… and it won’t make any sense. For example, read a book that has no pictures on the cover, just text that reads 本の日本, and it read it as “Japanese origins”, or “Japanese roots”, and hope that I will be just as interested as a book about the roots of a tree as I would be the history of Japan if I decide to read said book.

When it comes to the Japanese language, context is incredibly important. Otherwise, Kanji wouldn’t make sense. And when I say context is everything, I mean it is EVERYTHING. Japanese make a very big point to not use any unnecessary words. Here are a couple sentences in English.

Hi! My name is Stormie! I love coffee, Harry Potter, and my cats so much! Do you want to be friends?

In Japanese:


Now a literal translation:

Hello! I’m Stormie. Coffee, Harry Potter, my cats I really love. Friends want?

That’s the closest I can get to a literal translation don’t kill me I’m not being mean I’m going for a word by word translation


Unless it is necessary, that will NOT be there. Also the grammar is formatted differently, but that will be discussed in a different chapter in this book. Thankfully, if there are other words around the Kanji, you can usually understand what they mean. Same thing as when someone is speaking! So it will make reading/learning kanji easy.

Right now, flashcards will be your friend. There are plenty of apps and programs JUST for kanji flashcards, so go crazy, haha! There is too many for me to teach here. Go and work on your kanji, it will take you forever to learn so don’t even worry about starting just yet. Whenever you are ready, go get studying!



-Kanji is scary… but manageable.

-You learned how to say ‘book’, ‘root’, and ‘origins’, and that they are all the same word (本)

-We are not going to touch grammar for a few more lessons, I want to work on teaching some basic phrases and such first.


VOCAB (try to translate yourself and look up meanings… all written without kanji):






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