Welcome to your first ever Japanese lesson! Get out a sheet of paper and a pencil, because we are going to dive right in! Since this is your first lesson, you may need to repeat it several times until you get the hang of it. If you do need to repeat, don’t worry! It isn’t a bad thing. You need to be thorough in order to learn a language.
In this Lesson
In this opening lesson, you will learn:
– What hiragana and kana are
– What romaji is
– What transliteration is
– How to transliterate (also known as “Romanize”) Japanese hiragana
– How to read and write hiragana
– Homework assignment and answer key
What are Hiragana and Kana
Japanese has three writing systems, two of which are syllabic. These two writing systems are collectively called kana. The first one you will learn (here in this lesson) is called hiragana. The second one, which you will learn later, is called katakana.
The symbols of hiragana are fairly simple to read and write. All you have to do is memorize the symbols, kind of like an alphabet. Hiragana is a little bit different from an alphabet, though, because each character can stand for one to three letters. Each character will always stand for a syllable, regardless of if it stands for one, two, or three letters.
All Japanese words can be written with hiragana alone. This makes it easy for beginning students to read even the most complex Japanese sentences. You will be able to read the sentences even if you do not know what they translate to!
Romaji simply refers to the letters used to write English (and many European) words. The alphabet A-Z is romaji. All Japanese words can be turn into romaji. The only real purpose for this is to help non-Japanese speakers (as well as beginner students) read complicated Japanese symbols. All three of Japan’s writing systems can be turned into romaji.
You can use romaji while you are a beginner student, but it is not recommended that you keep using it. Don’t get hooked on the romaji! Japanese people do not write with romaji—it is only there as a crutch until you can read hiragana and katakana!
Even though you should not get attached to romaji, it is still important to learn how to turn Japanese text into romaji. This skill will aide you greatly as you begin to learn Japanese!
Transliteration (or Romanization) is what we call the change of Japanese text to romaji. This means that you take a set of Japanese characters and write them in the A-Z alphabet, mimicking the sounds that the Japanese syllables make.
How to Transliterate Hiragana to Romaji
Below you will learn how to read and write hiragana. To do this, you will be shown an image of the hiragana symbol as well as the romaji letters that correspond to that symbol. To transliterate a passage of text, you must replace the Japanese hiragana symbol with the romaji letters. You will get to practice this below.
Reading and Writing Hiragana
Look at the sets of hiragana below. Practice writing them while paying attention to the stroke order and the romaji symbols that correspond to each hiragana. After you have a good grasp on the first set, move on to the next set, and so on until you have worked through each set. There are homework problems with an answer key after this lesson!
|Set 1||Set 2||Set 3||Set 4||Set 5|
|Set 6||Set 7||Set 8||Set 9||Set 10|
After you have all of these sets down, it is time to move on to the modified hiragana. Some of the rows can be modified with a small circle or two small lines placed at the top right corner beside the symbol. Study the chart below to understand these symbols and their romaji equivalents.
After you have mastered these, move on to the double hiragana symbols. These hiragana combine two symbols, one written as the normal size and one written smaller beside it, to make new sounds.
Finally, once you have mastered this chart as well, you have learned all of the hiragana symbols and combinations. You will need to keep writing and reading these over and over again until you commit them to memory. If it helps, play hiragana games online to help you remember them!
＊Note for transliteration and hiragana pronunciation
When you see a small つ character beside another syllable, all that means is you double the consonant that comes after the つ symbol. For example, in the word がっきょう you would write gakkou as the romaji. In the word いっしょに, you would write isshoni for the romaji. During pronunciation, you leave a very small, slight pause when this symbol occurs.
The symbol は is sometimes pronounced as “wa.” This occurs when you use は as a subject particle in a sentence and when you say the words こんにちは (Pronounced konnichiwa, and can be Romanized either way) and こんばんは(pronounced konbanwa and Romanized either way).
Section 1: Practice writing all of the hiragana symbols until you have them memorized! You can use the worksheets on this website to help you learn! Click Here!
Section 2: Transliterate the following hiragana into the correct romaji. Answers are in the answer key at the end of this lesson.
Section 3: Transliterate the following romaji symbols into the correct hiragana symbols. Answers are in the answer key at the end of this lesson.
- Itte imasu