The hiragana and katakana chart below is meant for a quick reference as you practice our online Hiragana and Katakana quizzes below!
If this is your first time seeing these type of charts, then we can provide a loose set of first step guidance! Most classes start by teaching Hiragana and then move on to Katakana after students are sufficiently confident in recognizing Hiragana. You'll notice that most Japanese letters are a consonent+vowel, i.e, the Japanese "ka" is, in latin letters, "k"+"a". Together they make a single letter in Japanese. After you're comfortable with Japanese letters loosely being a consonent+vowel, take a look at the vowels used. Find the vowels by looking at the top row. We've copied the top row here for convenience, but we suggest scrolling down and checking out the chart below for a spatial reference. The top row shows the common a, i, u, e, o vowels.
"a" is pronounced like the "a" in "talk". "i" is, perhaps confusingly, pronounced like the "ea" in "easy". "u" is pronounced like the "ue" in "glue". "e" is pronounced like the classic Canadian "eh" or the "e" in "everything". "o" is pronounced like the "oe" in "toe".
To enunciate Japanese words correctly, we believe it's pretty important to first obtain perfect pronunciation of these five vowels. Afterwards, simply start sticking some consonents before them. Well, not all consonents, just a few. Start by looking at the second row. It has a bunch of "k" sounds: ka, ki, ku, ke, ko. It's easy. You're simply sticking "k"+[vowel], i.e., k+a=ka; k+i=ki, etc. You'll see row three has an "s", four has "t", and so on.
We wouldn't get too far in Japanese if we were stubborn and demanded to read everything Japanese in the latin alphabet. So after you're familiar with all the Japanese sounds (remember they're all one syllable), it's time to attach the actual Japanese writing system to these sounds! Congrats! You're learning Japanese! Start by returning back to the first row of vowels again. We have a, i, u, e, o; or, in hiragana: あ, い, う, え, お, respectively. Here's where the memorization and quizzes come in. You simply need to memorize which sound goes with which hiragana letter.
The way most of us learned was to focus on one row at a time. At JPDrills, we're huge fans of learning by doing; so, take out a pad of scrap paper, grab a pen, and write the first five vowels in hiragana without looking. Yep, just start. More than likely you won't be able to, but don't worry! First, write as many as you can by memory, put your pen down, look at the chart for the ones you missed, put away the chart, pick up your pen and write the ones you missed. Still couldn't do it? Don't worry! Look at the chart again, put it away, and try writing the ones you missed again. Rinse repeat until you have the row finished! Congrats! If you're like the rest of us, your brain is probably hurting a bit. That's good, remember that brain-tired feeling. It means your brain is working overtime to remember, and it will with enough repetition over the next couple days. Once you've finished the row, erase it or hide it and try writing out the row of vowels by memory again. Got it this time? Great! Do it three more times with the same row before moving on. Didn't get it? No problem! Take a glance at the chart again, cover it up, write the remaining by memory.
If you do this method row by row, you'll be able to memorize all hiragana and katakana in as little as five days! It's important to spread out your learning over multiple days as your brain remembers things better this way. It's better to do one hour of study over five days rather than five hours of study in one day. This is called speed learning and your brain will remember it long term rather than forgetting something after cramming.
This is just a brief introduction to hiragana and katakana and there are many ways to memorize them. At JPDrills we favour active learning methods and learning by doing. This is a perfect time to jump into our hiragana and katakana quizzes we've linked below. Learn by doing, we know you can succeed. Good luck!!
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