Steps To Master Japanese 13 minute read · Mon 27 September
Steps To Master Japanese 1
Master Hiragana and Katakana
It’s essential to learn all the characters as soon as possible to master Japanese.
You might think “Wait a minute, what about the English pronunciation?” Well, to begin with there’s no such thing as “the English pronunciation” because it’s Japanese, not English. What we have instead is a writing (typing) system called Romaji (ローマ字). You might think this is similar to Pinyin in Chinese, but it’s completely different. Chinese people learn Pinyin first to understand the sounds as they learn how to write their characters.
Japanese people, on the other hand, learn Hiragana first to understand the sounds as they learn how to write kanji.
Yes, that’s right. Hiragana is actually the phonetic symbols in Japanese. Japanese people learn Romaji much later when they learn how to type on a keyboard. Romaji is used to write their names on their passport, but sometimes it doesn’t represent the pronunciation correctly. For example, the name Yuki can be written as ゆき or ゆうき. The former is a female name and the latter is gender neutral. However, it’s Yuki for both.
Also, Romaji doesn’t have much use in Japan. Even if you know some Japanese, and write your sentences on a piece of paper. When you give it to a taxi driver, you might hear them say “Oh sorry, not English.”
They can probably read it if they spend some time, but it’s difficult for Japanese people to read Japanese in Romaji. It’s useful at the very beginning of learning Japanese, but you have to get away from it as soon as possible. It’s like writing English in Japanese:
アイ ドント ノウ (I don’t know.)
You can’t really get the right pronunciation either as long as you rely on Romaji.
I have seen quite a lot of people suffering from this wrong step to keep learning Japanese in Romaji. This is when we decided to develop our own app for people to learn all the hiragana and katakana characters for free. Download it here.
One thing for you to remember is don’t work on Hiragana and Katakana at the same time because you get them mixed up.
Work on Hiragana first. It’ll take you about 2-3 weeks to master all of them. Once you’re 80% or more confident, move on to Katakana... Quite a few people think this is a barrier to learn Japanese. It might be for you too, but this is a new language for you. You have to get yourself off to a good start.
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