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Feb 122012
 
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Three Japanese Alphabets

Learn Japanese Alphabet – The Three Japanese Alphabets

Learn Japanese Alphabet consists of three different Alphabets that are used in different circumstances or sometimes used together to form words and phrases. The Japanese alphabet is overall known as Kana, consisting of three alphabets: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. The Japanese alphabet overall is a phonetic alphabet where each symbol is a spoken syllable that represents a single sound. Essentially every Japanese word is written exactly how they are pronounced. It is best to learn Japanese Alphabet in the order presented in this article.

Japanese Alphabet Hiragana

Learn Japanese Alphabet Hiragana is a phonetic alphabet that contains 48 syllables that be sounded out to pronounce the word. Hiragana has characteristic cursive characters.

When to Use Hiragana Alphabet
• Hiragana expresses the grammatical relationship between them (endings of adjectives and verbs)
• Hiragana is used to represent native Japanese words.

Japanese Alphabet Katakana

Learn Japanese Alphabet Katakana is also a syllabic alphabet. There are 48 Katakana symbols that have similar sounds to Hiragana.

When to Use Katakana Alphabet
• Foreign names and words of foreign origin.
• Foreign places
• Words of Foreign origins.

It is no coincidence that there are the same number of characters in both the Hiragana and Katakana alphabets as they both represent exactly the same sounds (some of them even look quite similar).

Japanese Alphabet Kanji

There is a third form of Japanese Alphabet that borrows or modifies Chinese Characters called Kanji. Kanji was borrowed from Chinese writing at a time when there was no written Japanese language and it is still around. Japanese Kanji has different meanings than Chinese characters today.

There are over 8000 Kanji(Just a small sample shown above). Kanji are not syllabic and are used to represent abstract concepts as well as names and everyday words. An average adult Japanese speaker must know at least 2000 off by heart. Although you don’t need to memorizes all of the Kanji. Each Kanji has several different meanings and pronunciations.

Japanese Alphabet Example

Example of how to read and learn Japanese Alphabet. As you can see it is pretty straight forward. Japanese words are pronounced exactly as the symbols show but one thing to pay attention to is if the character has a diacritic mark above it or not.

Japanese Diacritics

Learn Japanese Alphabet is very important when it comes to learning to write and read the Japanese Language. So make sure to practice pronouncing and writing the Japanese Alphabet whenever you can. As many times as you can.

Related Articles: Japanese Number System – How to Write Japanese Numbers

Interested in further study into Japanese or confused on where to start? I recommend reading our Japanese Beginners Guide or check out the Importance of Languages Store!

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