We will learn how the written Japanese language works and learn the two basic languages, the Hiragana and Katakana.
The language has many formal levels depending on the context, age, relationship status, social status, etc. The one we will be using is the polite keigo with some explanations for the plain/dictionary form.
There are three distinct characters in Japanese:
- Hiragana: ひらがな
- Katakana: カタカナ
- Kanji: 漢字
The hiragana and katakana are similar systems. They represent sounds in syllables and you should become fluent in both of them in writing and reading. There are many resources for learning how to write hiragana and how to write katakana.
Here is a hiragana table:
And here is a katakana table:
The Kanji has thousands upon thousands of characters, but with just learning few hundreds you can start reading in Japanese. Kanjis are an ideographic character set, where each character has one or many meanings. Some examples:
一二三四五六七八九十 (one to ten)
月火水木金土日 (Monday through Sunday)
春夏秋冬 (Spring to Winter)
Kanjis can also contain Furigana, which is just small Hiragana characters written besides them to help with the more complex pronunciations for rare Kanjis. What is considered rare depends on the context, so kid's books are full of furigana while adult novels don't have many of them.
You need to know hiragana and katana pretty well to progress in Japanese, so let's try writing them down. Grab a sheet of paper and start writing them:
ka か - example: paper かみ (紙, kami)
ki き - example: kimono きもの (着物, kimono)
ku く - example: black くろい (黒い, kuroi)
ka カ - example: karaoke カラオケ
ki キ - example: kimchi キムチ (kimuchi)
ku ク - example: cookie クッキ (kukki)