Well it has been a long time since my last post about anything to do with the Japanese language. This can be attributed to a combination of job search, cinema, anime and a little laziness.
My apologies (let us pretend you care).
That said, I have added quite a few things to my おもしろい です ね (Omoshiroi desu ne) page so check that out for some bizarre and cool stuff.
Anyway we shall tarry no more! Back to Japanese! I have gone over a list of websites that would be beneficial for any student at any level (look at my blog roll) and I have gone over the basics. With this post I introduce a shorter and snappier lesson that is easier to swallow. Starting frooooooom…
This is a list of Hiragana you should try learning.
Hiragana is where everybody, nihonjin (Japanese) and gaijin (foreigners), start off and it is vital to understanding the language. It is simple and based on the ‘a, i, u, e, o’ sounds that your teacher will inevitably get you to sound out in those fun (embarrassing) first lessons.
Hiragana and kanji are the basis for most sentences in Japanese. Observe:
これ は 飲み物 です。
The red characters are hiragana, black are kanji. Look scary? It isn’t.
If you plan to start a course in September then my advice is to buy a book that teaches you the hiragana writing system including the stroke order and learn from it. Failing that you could use this list.
Learning hiragana before starting a course will help improve your comprehension skills. It will also help you avoid situations where you are desperately sounding out the words hoping to strike lucky or for your teacher to put you out of your misery.
How to Practice?
My own study technique was to take a row of five characters and spend certain portions of the day practicing. Say, start off with five in the morning and practice them at lunch, during a lecture, just before going to sleep. The next day I would test myself in the morning and add another five to my practice sessions and another five the next day. It worked for me. It’s simply learning by rote.
Surely there’s more.
The use of hiragana is a little more complex than actually learning it. Basically there are some rules for the use of certain characters and the make-up of words. Let’s look at an example.
こ れ は の み も の で す。
Try sounding it out with the chart above.
Here’s a translation:
Hiragana: こ れ は の み も の で す。
Romaji: Kore wa no mi mo no de su.
English: This is a drink
Wait… What on earth is は (ha) doing masquerading as wa? Shouldn’t it be わ?
Yeah, logically you’d be right but sometimes logic is overrated (religion gets along fine without it). In this sentence は has changed into a particle which acts as a topic marker. Actually, it’s a topic marker in most sentences. For example:
わたし は がくせい です。
Watashi wa gakusei desu.
I am a student.
So, watashi means I and kore means this. Both are the subject or topic. The は or wa acts as the topic marker and the rest of the sentence is the predicate (affirming a property of the topic).
This source of madness also strikes words. A famous example:
Hello. (used from 10 a.m. until sunset).
Just stay alert.
You said this would be short! Anything Else?
There’s more to hiragana but I’ll leave that for part 2 simply because you’ll have enough to memorise with what’s here.