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Japanese writing system for beginners

In the video, we will be making a big jump in the level of difficulty because these videos are meant for Japanese children and not meant for students who speak Japanese as a foreign language. (Welcome to the world of 'real' Japanese, not 'textbook' Japanese.) Listen to each word, then stop the video and write out each word (before you see the word on the screen). Or you can just listen to each word, not look at the screen, and write them down.

Here is the vocabulary in this video.

ひらがな を おぼえよう。Let's remember hiragana.

あんぱん 'bread roll' stuffed with sweet, red-bean paste
いちご strawberry
うどん noodles made of flour
えのぐ art supplies
おにぎり rice ball, often coming with a piece of flat 'nori' seaweed

からあげ fried chicken
きゅうきゅうしゃ ambulance
くるま car
けんだま child's toy; a ball on a string which you try to land on a small, concave surface
こいのぼり fish-shaped windsock

さくらんぼ cherries
しか deer
すいか watermelon
せんぷうき electric fan
そば buckwheat noodles

たこやき octopus, chopped up, fried in batter, and formed into balls
ちきゅう the earth
つみぎ blocks (children's toy)
てんとうむし ladybug
とうもろこし corn on the cob

なったおう fermented soybeans
にんじん carrot
ぬいぐるみ stuffed animal
ねずみ rat
のりまき sushi rolls, rolled with 'nori' seaweed

はちみつ honey
ひこうき airplane
ふうせん balloon
へび snake
ほうれんそう spinach

まぐろ tuna (sashimi)
みかん mandarin orange
むしめがね magnifying glass
めがね glasses
もも peach

やきそば fried soba noodles
ゆきだるま snowman
ようふく western-style clothes

らくだ camel
りんご apple
るすばん stay home from school/work
れもん lemon
ろば donkey

わたあめ cotton candy
じ を かく draw a picture
ごはん cooked rice (ready to eat)

おしまい finished; the end
ちゃんねる (YouTube) channel
とうろく registration; subscription

チャンネル (ちゃんねる) とうろく いい ね! It would be really great if you would subscribe to my channel!

おねがい します。 Please do me this favor.

 
Sorry, but I had a typo in my last post. Fermented soybeans should be なっとう.

Here is another video from the Hiragana Oboeyo! Series, this time giving us examples of ようおん (contracted syllables like きゃ, きゅ, きょ) and そくおん (syllables with small つ). Here is the vocabulary in the video.

あそぶ play
まなぶ learn
はぐくむ cultivate

きゃべつ cabbage
きゅうり cucumber
きょうりゅう dinosaur

ぎゃく reverse; opposite
せなか a person's back
おしり buttocks
(The boy in the picture has his shirt and pants on backwards.)
あれ? What?
ぎゅうどん bowl of rice topped with meat
ぎょうざ "pot-stickers"; Japanese 'ravioli' stuffed with meat, vegetables, etc.

しゃしょうさん train conductor
しゅうまい steamed Chinese pork 'ravioli'
しょうぎ Japanese board game similar to chess

じゃんけん rock, paper, scissors
じゅうえん ten yen
じょうろ watering can

おもちゃ child's toys
うちゅう outer space
ちょうちょ butterfly

ごはんぢゃわん rice bowl
せかいぢゅう the world
ほんぢょうちん Bon Festival lantern

こんにゃくjelly‐like food made from konjak flour
ぎゅうにゅう milk
にょろにょろ slither

ひゃくえん 100 yen
ひゅうがなつ bitter orange
ひょう leopard

さんびゃくえん 300 yen
びゅんびゅん with a whoosh
びょういん hospital

ろっぴゃくえん 600 yen
ぴゅーま (ぴゅうま)cougar; puma
ぴょんぴょん hop; hopping

さんみゃく mountain range
えみゅー (えみゅう)emu
みょうが Japanese ginger

りゃま llama
りゅう dragon
りょうり cuisine

ばった grasshopper
おんびき horizontal line to show a long syllable
はんばーがー hamburger

おしまい finished; the end

(written on the screen)
チャンネル (ちゃんねる)で、いっしょうに まなぼう!
Let's learn together on this channel!

(spoken)
チャンネル (ちゃんねる)とうろく よろしく おねがいします。
Please do me a favor and subscribe to my channel.

 
Another Hiragana Oboeyo! video, this time with examples of だくおん (two small strokes in the upper right, as in が, ぎ, ぐ, げ, ご) and はんだくおん (a small circle in the upper right, as in ぱ, ぴ, ぷ, ぺ, ぽ)

Vocabulary

あそぶ play
まなぶ learn
はぐくむ cultivate

がんばる try hard; make effort
のこぎり woodcutter's saw
うぐいす nightingale
げんこつ fist
ごはん cooked rice (ready to eat)

ざぶとんa small cushion to sit on, when sitting on the floor
じどうしゃ car
すずめ sparrow
かぜ (catch a) cold
ぞう elephant

だちょう ostrich
はなぢ nosebleed
みかずき crescent moon
でんしゃ (electric) train
どんぐり acorn

ばくはつ explosion
へび snake
ぶどう grapes
おべんとう box lunch
ぼうし cap; hat

ぱぱ Dad
ぴあの piano
ぷりん pudding
ぺんぎん penguin
さんぽ (go for a) walk

おしまい finished; the end

(written on the screen)
チャンネル (ちゃんねる)で、いっしょうに まなぼう!
Let's learn together on this channel!

(spoken)
チャンネル (ちゃんねる)とうろく よろしく おねがいします。
Please do me a favor and subscribe to my channel.

 
Tongue twisters

Ready for a challenge? Let's try some はやくち ことば (tongue twisters) and also use them for dictation practice. The first time you watch this, stop the video after tongue twister and write them out in hiragana. The second time you watch this, try to say them while looking at them on your paper. The third time you watch this, , try to say them without looking at them on your paper or on the screen. Please keep in mind you are doing these mainly for dictation practice and write the words down. (Don't do these only as speaking practice for tongue twisters.)

In this video, Risa Sensei gives us five tongue twisters.

 
This tongue twister video is great, just for its entertainment value alone!

 
It's time to begin learning the second Japanese script, which is called katakana.

When do we use katakana? Most people know we use katakana when we write, in Japanese, words that are borrowed from English. But it is most complicated than that. Take a look at this video, which explains from 0:17 to 2:51 when to use katakana.

 
Tomo Sensei's video takes us through the first five katakana characters (which have the same vowel sounds as the first five hiragana characters).

Click on the link inside the video box to watch the video.

 
Use this downloadable tracing page to practice writing katakana.

Notice how each katakana character has a corresponding hiragana character.

kakakana-tracing.png
 
Watch a video of CyberBunny writing out all of the katakana in a workbook. If you can, buy the workbook, write along with her and write out all of the katakana in the workbook.

WARNING. CyberBunny and Tomo Sensei disagree on the stroke direction for ヒ (hi). CyberBunny writes the central horizontal stroke right to left whereas Tomo Sensei writes it left to right. (Tomo Sensei is correct.)

Also, CyberBunny puts little hooks at the beginning of the last strokes in シ (shi), ツ (tsu), ソ (so), and ン (-n-). Do not do this.

 
This video introduces the next five katakana characters, ka ki ku ke ko. Follow along as Tomo Sensei shows you how to write each of these characters. Pause the video after each character, write the character ten times, then go on to the next character.


 
Here is Tomo Sensei's video for the katakana characters sa shi su se so.

Notice how the second character is romanized as shi, not si (just like hiragana).

I would like to make a small change in the way Tomo Sensei teaches how to write シ (shi). When I teach katakana to students, I have them write all three strokes from left to right, starting from the same vertical line (instead of starting the middle stroke a little to the left, as Tomo Sensei does). See the first image below. Compare my image below to the image in Tomo Sensei's video.

Another trick I used when I was learning シ (shi) was to visualize it as a sideways view of a car's dashboard and shift lever sticking up out of the floor. I would always say "Shift!" out loud when writing the third stroke upwards and to the right.

shi.png


In the same way, please write both strokes for hiragana ソ (so) hanging down from a horizontal line (instead of starting the left stroke a little lower, as Tomo Sensei does).

so.png



 
Here is Tomo Sensei's video for the katakana characters ta chi tsu te to.

Notice how the second character is romanized as chi, not ti (just like it is romanized in hiragana). In the same way, the third character is romanized as tsu, not tu. (The sounds ti and tu do not exist in native Japanese. When Japanese people try to pronounce "one, two, three", they often say, "wan, tsu, suree.")

It is important to use a horizontal line for orientation when writing ツ (tsu). Write the three strokes for hiragana ツ (tsu) starting down from a horizontal line (instead of starting the middle stroke a little higher, as Tomo Sensei does).

tsu.png



There is not much difference between ツ (tsu) and シ (shi), and it is very easy to confuse the two characters. To a beginning student, they may seem almost identical.

shi-tsu-1.png



A good way to differentiate the two characters in our heads is to use a vertical line for シ (shi) and a horizontal line for ツ (tsu). See how all three strokes line up on their respective horizontal or vertical line.


shi-tsu-2.png


Another way to remember the difference between ツ (tsu) and シ (shi) is that they follow the stroke order and direction of their hiragana counterparts, つ (tsu) and し (shi). Take a look at a screen shot at 3:50 from Yuko Sensei's YouTube video Japanese Katakana SHI シ & TSU ツ - Do you know the difference? She writes hiragana し on top of katakana シ, and hiragana つ on top of katakana ツ, and we can see how the strokes are essentially the same.

Yuko2.png


Here is Tomo Sensei's video.


 
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At the risk of sounding like I'm beating a dead horse, I want to discuss one more way to distinguish シ (shi) and ツ (tsu). Take a look at this katakana character. Is it シ (shi) or ツ (tsu)?

shi-tsu-4.png


The following image contains a vertical line that passes through both of the short strokes.

shi-tsu-5.png


This next image contains a horizontal line that does not pass through both of the short strokes.

shi-tsu-6.png


The fact that the two short strokes are oriented to a vertical line, that is to say, a vertical line passes through both of the short strokes, shows that the character is シ (shi).

shi-tsu-7.png
/
 
Here is Tomo Sensei's video for the katakana characters na ni nu ne no.


 
Here is Tomo Sensei's video for the katakana characters ha hi fu he ho.


 
Here is Tomo Sensei's video for the katakana characters ma mi mu me mo.

Be careful not to confuse katakana メ (me) with katakana ナ (na).

me-na.png



WARNING. Tomo Sensei and CyberBunny agree on the stroke order for katakana モ (mo), but they disagree on the stroke order for hiragana も (mo). (Tomo Sensei is correct.)


 
Here is Tomo Sensei's video for the katakana characters ya yu yo.

Be careful not to confuse the following katakana characters:

Katakana ヤ (ya) and katakana セ (se).

ya-se.png


Katakana ユ (yu) and katakana コ (ko).

yu-ko.png


Katakana ヨ (yo) and katakana コ (ko).

yo-ko.png


Here is Tomo Sensei's video.


 
Here is Tomo Sensei's video for the katakana characters ra ri ru re ro.

Be careful not to confuse the following katakana characters:

katakana ラ (ra), katakana ウ (u), and hiragana う (u)

ra-u-u.png
h

katakana ル (ru) and katakana レ (re)

ru-re.png


Here is Tomo Sensei's video.


 
Tomo Sensei doesn't have a video for katakana wa (ワ), katakana wo (ヲ) and katakana N (ン), so let's look at Moon-chan's video.

Be careful not to confuse these characters.

katakana ワ (wa) and katakana ウ (u).

wa-u.png


katakana ソ (so) and katakana ン (-n-). (Once again I have slightly modified two of Tomo Sensei's images, now showing ソ's strokes originating from the same horizontal line, and ン's strokes originating from the same vertical line.)

so-n.png


katakana ン (-n-) and katakana ノ (no). Notice how the main strokes in ン and ノ are written in opposite directions.

no-n.png


Take a look at how the name of the city Tucson, Arizona, USA is rendered into katakana as ツーソン.

tucson.png


One of the problems with learning katakana is that there are many 'anomalies', for example, notice how the English word "white" is rendered into katakana as ホワイト not ワイト, so the U. S. President's "White House" is rendered into katakana as ホワイト・ハウス not ワイト・ハウス.

Another example is how the English word "water" is rendered into katakana as ウォーター not ワーター, as we might expect. (I think this has to do with the pronunciation being taken from British English, not American English, back in the days when British English was much more popular in Japan than American English.)


Here is Moon-chan's video.


 
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Here is Moon-chan's video on how to write katakana シャ、シュ、ショ sha shu sho. Watch from 2:42 to 3:18 for example words containing these characters.

Moon-chan has an additional list of sample words at 4:03.

シャツ shirt
キッシュ quiche
ショーが ginger
ナターシャ Natasha
ジョージ George
ショーン Sean


 
Here is Moon-chan's video on how to write katakana チャ、チュ、チェ、チョ、cha chu che cho. Watch from 3:08 to 4:05 for example words containing these characters.


 
Here is Moon-chan's video for the katakana ニャ、ニュ、ニョ、(nya, nyu, nyo). Watch from 2:38 to 3:17 for example words containing these characters.

It is important to note that the English word "news" is not rendered into katakana as ヌーズ, it is rendered as ニュース. As a matter of fact, here is the icon for news that is used right here on our very own Jref.com forum.

news.png


Similarly, "New York" is rendered into katakana as ニューヨーク, using ニュ, not ヌ.

Here is Moon-chan's video.

 
Here is Moon-chan's video for the katakana character combinations ヒャ、ヒュ、ヒョ (hya, hyu, hyo). Watch from 2:38 to 3:17 for example words containing these characters.

At 4:17 Moon-chan says あたらしい ことば. (We also see it written on the screen, but without the space between words.)

あたらしい new

ことば word(s)

あたらしい ことば new words

Here is Moon-chan's video.


 
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