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Learning the Kana

  • #1
    Registered Users Posts: 5,336 Cake Fiend


    I've been meaning to put up a sticky about what would be a good first step for anyone who's serious about learning Japanese: learning the 'kana'. For those who don't know what they are, they are two syllabaries (a sort of alphabet made only of single syllables) which make up part of the Japanese writing system.

    The kana are seperated into two lists - 'hiragana', which is used to spell basic Japanese words (and sometimes used in conjunction with kanji, the 'main' Japanese writing system), and 'katakana' which is used mainly for words of foreign origin (e.g. Taxi (ta-ku-shi): タクシ). Both syllabaries contain exactly the same sounds, each syllabary using different characters to represent the sounds. It's probably best to learn hiragana first, as you can easily find Japanese text books with a lot of hiragana (especially children's school books) and you can get stuck into reading Japanese right away. The kana each contain 46 basic syllables, with a further 23 sounds made with slight modifications, another 21 sounds made of combinations and yet another 12 sounds made of combinations of modified kana. Phew! Don't worry, it's a lot less complicated than it sounds.

    The great thing about the kana being (relatively) simple is that most people who start to learn Japanese learn them early on. The great thing about most people learning them early on is that there are tons of great online resources for them! Below are a list of sites which will provide you with all you need to learn the kana (and make a start on kanji).

    If anyone has any useful sites that have some handy features not in any of the sites above, post a link up here.


Comments



  • Forgot to mention, a good next step for someone who has gained a basic grasp of the kana would be to start learning Japanese through kana. I've used Japanese for Busy People in the past, and I thought it was a nice, easy introduction to basic Japanese vocabulary and grammar, while giving an opportunity to solidify your kana learning. The only way to really be able to read Japanese fluently is (obviously) to read as much as you can and get used to it. With JFBP, you achieve two things at once.

    The later JFBP books are a nice introduction to kanji and more advanced grammar, but the vocab can be a bit too business-specific sometimes.

    Also, if you get a chance to visit Japan, try to read as much as you can over there, even if it's just katakana shop and restaurant names, or hiragana subway station names. I read everything I came across in Tokyo, and it helped my reading skills immensely.




  • I would reccommend the follow for beginers learning Japanese:

    Japanese For Busy People (Kana Version)
    http://www.powells.com/biblio?isbn=4770030096

    Japanese For Young People (Kana Workbook)
    http://www.amazon.com/Japanese-Young-People-I-Workbook/dp/4770021801

    Japanese for Young People (Kanji Workbook)
    http://books.google.ie/books?hl=en&id=xFm_KeBNKrAC&dq=japanese+for+young+people+kanji+workbook&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=rS2R2ZM5T0&sig=an9tYFzYfk9L3mUJ2AgxBxNmPVQ


    They can all be bought in Dublin City Centre in 'International Books' and 'Modern Languages'




  • http://www.csus.edu/indiv/s/sheaa/projects/genki/index.html

    The Katakana, Hiragana, and Kanji sections contain stroke order QuickTime movies, drag-n-drop exercises, worksheets, and flashcards. (Thank you to Mr. Masayoshi Kanai for giving us permission to use his stroke order Quicktime movies.)




  • When I was doing Japanese for the leaving cert, I found the best way to remember the kana and some kanji was to make up little flashcards. I used them every day and they were simply the easiest way to learn to my mind. Handy enough if you spend any prolonged time on trains :)




  • I will reccommend a different method to buying books which is completely free.. go to the wiki page for katakana and hiragana, and find the chart. Start writing themout, fifty times each, 5 or 10 new ones a day. Whatever suits.

    Or you can watch Namasensei videos on youtube which is pretty much just that, but a bit of fun too.

    Then to get them really into you, just stop reading romanji. Its the only way!


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  • I used the Heisig Remembering the Kana and it is honestly amazing, within about an hour and a half total for each the Hiragana and Katakana I knew the vast majority of them all. I then printed out some worksheets from different books like the Practising the Kana book by Tunnell, I think it is, to firm up the knowledge.

    I don't know if I'm allowed to post links to e-books here?
    If I am allowed, then I have at least 13 of the major books that you can download online for free, including all of the ones I just mentioned and a good few of the ones mentioned earlier in this thread! ...




  • just-joe wrote: »
    I will reccommend a different method to buying books which is completely free.. go to the wiki page for katakana and hiragana, and find the chart. Start writing themout, fifty times each, 5 or 10 new ones a day. Whatever suits.

    Or you can watch Namasensei videos on youtube which is pretty much just that, but a bit of fun too.

    Then to get them really into you, just stop reading romanji. Its the only way!



    I basically learnt Japanese from his videos Ailey, namasensei is a genius.




  • Updated this sticky by removing all links that no longer work :)




  • I recommend checking out 'Anki'

    It's a flashcard program that you can use to learn languages, but they have Japanese Kana and Kanji on it and it's a great tool to use. You download Anki as an app for your phone too so you can learn while on the go :)




  • +1 for the Anki recommendation. I use it anytime I'm preparing for JLPT or reviewing kanji. Great little programme!


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  • KanaCrush is a great little webgame, you have to type in the kana as they fall.




  • Memrise seems like a good App.

    I've been using it lately and it is sticking. It's free (for iOS anyway, dont know about Android) and does them in chunks of 5 or 10 so as not to overload you. It does it's best to help you associate the characters with an image or something similar to help you remember.

    Maybe someone who knows the language can have a look and see what they think of it for learning?




  • Memrise is pretty good alright, and it's free for Android too


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