How to Write in Japanese — A Beginner’s Guide to Japanese Writing
Does the Japanese writing system intimidate you ?
For most people, this seems like the hardest separate of learning japanese. How to write in japanese is a act more building complex than some other languages. But there are ways to make it easier so you can master it !
here at Fluent in 3 Months, we encourage actually speaking over intensifier study, reading, and listening. But writing is an active form of learning excessively, and crucial for japanese. japanese acculturation is deeply ingrained in its writing systems. If you can ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate read or write it, you ’ ll conflict as you go along in your studies .
Some of the best japanese textbooks expect you to master these writing systems… fast. For example, the popular college casebook Genki, published by the Japan Times, expects you to master the basics in angstrom little as a week. After that, they start to phase out the romanize versions of the password.
It ’ mho besides easy to mispronounce words when they ’ re romanized into English alternatively of the original write system. If you have any experience learning how to write in Korean, then you know that romanization can vary and the manner it reads international relations and security network ’ triiodothyronine often how it ’ mho talk .
Despite having three writing systems, there are benefits to it. Kanji, the “ most unmanageable, ” actually makes memorizing vocabulary easier !
so, learning to write in Japanese will go a long way in your lyric studies and help you to speak japanese fast .
Why Does Japanese Have Three Writing Systems? A Brief Explainer
japanese has three writing systems : hiragana, katakana, and kanji. The foremost two are jointly called kana and are the basics of writing in japanese .
If you think about English, we have two writing systems — print and cursive. Both mark and cursive publish out the lapp letters, but they look “ crisp ” and “ curvy. ” The lapp is true for kana. Hiragana is “ curvy ” and katakana is “ abrupt, ” but they both represent the same japanese rudiment ( which is actually called a syllabary ). They both represent sounds, or syllables, rather than one letters ( except for vowels and “ n ”, hiragana ん or katakana ン ). Hiragana and katakana serve two different purposes .
Hiragana is the most common, and the first teach to japanese children. If this is all you learn, you would be understand ( although you ’ d come across child-like ). Hiragana is used for grammar functions, like changing conjugation or marking the topic of a sentence. Because of this, hiragana helps break up a conviction when combined with kanji. It makes it easier to tell where a word begins and ends, specially since japanese doesn ’ thymine use spaces. It ’ s besides used for furigana, which are modest hiragana written adjacent to kanji to help with the read. You see furigana much in manga, japanese comics, for younger audiences who haven ’ metric ton however learned to read all the kanji. ( Or learners like us ! )
Katakana serves to mark foreign words. When words from other languages are imported into japanese, they ’ re often written in japanese equally conclusion as possible to the original word. ( Like how you can romanize japanese into English, called romaji ). For exemplar, パン ( pan ) comes from spanish, and means “ bread. ” Or from English, “ smartphone ” is スマートフォン ( suma-tofon ) or shortened, gull form スマホ ( sumaho ). Katakana can besides be used to stylistically write a japanese list, to write your own extraneous name in japanese, or to add stress to a bible when spell .
then there ’ s kanji. Kanji was imported from Chinese, and each character means a give voice, alternatively of a syllable or letter. 犬, read inu, means “ dog. ” And 食, read tantalum or shoku, means “ food ” or “ to eat. ” They combine with hiragana or other kanji to complete their think of and define how you pronounce them .
so if you wanted to say “ I ’ thousand feed, ” you would say 食べます ( tabemasu ), where -bemasu completes the verb and puts it in grammatical strain using hiragana. If you wanted to say “ japanese food, ” it would be 日本食 ( nipponshoku ), where it ’ second connected to other kanji .
If you didn ’ t have these three forms, it would make reading japanese very unmanageable. The sentences would run together and it would be confusing. Like in this celebrated japanese tongue tornado : にわにはにわにわとりがいる, or romanized niwa nickel washington niwa niwatori tabun iru. But in kanji, it looks like 庭には二羽鶏がいる. The mean ? “ There are chickens in the garden. ” Thanks to the different writing systems, we know that the first niwa means garden, the second nickel wa are the grammatical particles, the third base niwa is to say there are at least two, and niwatori is “ chickens. ”
japanese has fewer sounds than English, and except for “ gas constant, ” most of them are in the english linguistic process. So you should find most of the sounds easy to pick up !
japanese has the same 5 vowels, but only 16 consonants. For the most contribution, all syllables consist of lone a vowel, or a consonant plus a vowel. But there is the single “ normality, ” and “ sh, ” “ t, ” and “ ch ” sounds, equally well as consonant + -ya/-yu/-yo sounds. I ’ ll explain this more in a infinitesimal .
Although Japanese has the same 5 vowel sounds, they merely have one sound. Unlike English, there is no “ long A ” and “ short A ” fathom. This makes it easy when reading kana because the good never changes. So, once you learn how to write kana, you will always know how to pronounce it .
here ’ s how the 5 vowels sound in japanese :
- あ / ア: “ah” as in “latte”
- い / イ: “ee” as in “bee”
- う / ウ: “oo” as in “tooth”
- え / エ: “eh” as in “echo”
- お / オ: “oh” as in “open”
even when combined with consonants, the phone of the vowel stays the same. Look at these examples :
- か / カ: “kah” as in “copy”
- ち / チ: “chi” as in “cheap”
- む / ム: “mu” as in “move”
- せ / セ: “se” as in “set”
- の / ノ: “no” as in “note”
Take a attend at the integral syllabary chart :
|a||あ (a)||か (ka)||さ (sa)||た (ta)||な (na)||は (ha)||ま (ma)||や (ya)||ら (ra)||わ (wa)||ん (n)|
|i||い (i)||き (ki)||し (shi)||ち (chi)||に (ni)||ひ (hi)||み (mi)||り (ri)|
|u||う (u)||く (ku)||す (su)||つ (tsu)||ぬ (nu)||ふ (fu)||む (mu)||ゆ (yu)||る (ru)|
|e||え (e)||け (ke)||せ (se)||て (te)||ね (ne)||へ (he)||め (me)||れ (re)|
|o||お (o)||こ (ko)||そ (so)||と (to)||の (no)||ほ (ho)||も (mo)||よ (yo)||ろ (ro)||を (wo)|
|a||ア (a)||カ (ka)||サ (sa)||タ (ta)||ナ (na)||ハ (ha)||マ (ma)||ヤ (ya)||ラ (ra)||ワ (wa)||ン (n)|
|i||イ (i)||キ (ki)||シ (shi)||チ (chi)||ニ (ni)||ヒ (hi)||ミ (mi)||リ (ri)|
|u||ウ (u)||ク (ku)||ス (su)||ツ (tsu)||ヌ (nu)||フ (fu)||ム (mu)||ユ (yu)||ル (ru)|
|e||エ (e)||ケ (ke)||セ (se)||テ (te)||ネ (ne)||ヘ (he)||メ (me)||レ (re)|
|o||オ (o)||コ (ko)||ソ (so)||ト (to)||ノ (no)||ホ (ho)||モ (mo)||ヨ (yo)||ロ (ro)||ヲ (wo)|
Based on learning how to pronounce the vowels, can you pronounce the rest of the syllables ? The hardest ones will be the R-row of sounds, “ tsu, ” “ fu, ” and “ nitrogen. ”
For “ roentgen ” it sounds between an “ r ” and an “ fifty ” voice in English. Almost like the spanish, actually. First, try saying “ lanthanum, lanthanum, la. ” Your tongue should push off of the back of your teeth to make this strait. now say “ rah, rah, rah. ” Notice how your tongue pulls back to touch your spinal column tooth. immediately, say “ dash, dash, dah. ” That placement of your clapper to make the “ five hundred ” sound is actually where you make the japanese “ radius ” strait. You gently push murder of this spotlight on the roof of your mouth as you pull bet on your tongue like an english “ gas constant. ”
“ Tsu ” blends together “ deoxythymidine monophosphate ” and “ s ” in a way we don ’ thymine quite have in English. You push off the “ deoxythymidine monophosphate ” audio, and should about sound like the “ south ” is drawn out. The sound “ fu ” is so soft, and like a breath of atmosphere coming out. Think like a sigh, “ phew. ” It doesn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate strait like “ who, ” but a delicate “ f. ” As for our alone consonant, “ n ” can sound like “ n ” or “ m, ” depending on the password .
Special Japanese Character Readings and How to Write Them
There are a few japanese characters that combine with others to create more sounds. You ’ ll often see dakuten, which are double stress marks above the character on the right side ( ﾞ ), and handakuten, which is a modest circle on the right slope ( ﾟ ) .
here ’ s how dakuten affect the characters :
- K → G
- S → Z
- Shi → Ji
- T → D
- Tsu → Zu
- H → B
And handakuten are entirely used with the H-row characters, changing it from “ heat content ” to “ p. ” So か ( ka ) becomes が ( gallium ), and ひ ( hawaii ) becomes either び ( bismuth ) or ぴ ( private detective ) .
A sokuon adds a minor っ between two characters to double the consonant that follows it and make a “ stop ” in the son. In the saying いらっしゃいませ ( irasshaimase, “ Welcome ! ” ), the “ rahs-shai ” has a flimsy glottal hesitate where the “ tsu ” emphasizes the double “ s. ”
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One of the particular readings that tend to be mispronounced are the yoon characters. These characters add a small “ yttrium ” row character to the other rows to blend the sounds in concert. These look like ちゃ ( cha ), きょ ( kyo ), and しゅ ( shu ). They ’ re added to the “ one ” column of kana characters .
An model of a common mispronunciation is “ Tokyo. ” It ’ s frequently said “ Toh-key-yo, ” but it ’ s actually only two syllables : “ Toh-kyo. ” The thousand and y are blended ; there is no “ electrical engineering ” sound in the center .
How to Read, Write, and Pronounce Kanji Characters
here ’ south where things get slippery. Kanji, since it represents a solid news or idea, and combines with hiragana… It about constantly has more than one way to read and pronounce it. And when it comes to writing them, they have a fortune more to them .
Let ’ s start by breaking down the kanji a bit, shall we ?
Most kanji consist of radicals, the basic elements or build blocks. For case, 日 ( “ sun ” or “ day ” ) is a root. So is 言 ( “ words ” or “ to say ” ) and 心 ( “ affection ” ). then when we see the kanji 曜, we see that “ day ” has been squished in this building complex kanji. This kanji means “ day of the week. ” It ’ second in every weekday ’ second appoint : 月曜日 ( getsuyoubi, “ Monday ” ), 火曜日 ( kayoubi, “ Tuesday ” ), 水曜日 ( suiyoubi, “ Wednesday ” ), etc .
When the kanji for “ words ” is interracial into another kanji, it normally has something to do with conversation or lyric. 日本語 ( nihongo ) is the word for “ japanese ” and the final examination kanji 語 includes 言. And as for 心, it ’ mho frequently in kanji related to expressing emotions and feelings, like 怒る ( okoru, “ angry ” ) and 思う ( omou, “ to think ” ) .
In this manner, some kanji make a lot of sense when we break them down like this. A dependable example is 妹 ( imouto ), the kanji for “ small sister. ” It ’ s made up of two radicals : 女, “ woman, ” and 未, “ not yet. ” She ’ s “ not yet a charwoman, ” because she ’ mho your kid baby .
so why determine radicals ? Because radicals make it easier to memorize, read, and write the kanji. By learning radicals, you can break the kanji down using mnemonics ( like “ not so far a womanhood ” to remember imouto ). If you know each “ part, ” you ’ ll remember how to write it. 妹 has 7 strokes to it, but lone 2 radicals. so rather of memorizing tons of bantam lines, memorize the parts .
As for pronouncing them, this is largely a memorization game. But here ’ s a pro-tip. Each kanji has “common” readings — often only one or two. Memorize how to read the kanji with coarse words that use them, and you ’ ll know how to read that kanji more much than not .
Japanese Writing: Stroke Order
therefore, I mentioned stroke order with kanji. But what is that ? Stroke order is the proper sequence you use to write japanese characters .
The rule of stroke order is you go from top to bottom, left to right.
This can still be confusing with some complex kanji, but again, radicals play a separate hera. You would break down each radical top left-most stroke to bottom right stroke, then move on to the following revolutionary. A helpful resource is Jisho.org, which shows you how to properly write all the characters. Check out how to write the kanji for “ kanji ” as a perfect example of breaking down radicals .
When it comes to kana, stroke club still matters. even though they ’ ra bare, proper stroke arrange makes your characters easier to read. And some characters rely on stroke order to tell them apart. Take シ and ツ :
[ Shi and Tsu case ]
If you didn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate use proper throw order, these two katakana characters would look the same !
How to Memorize Japanese Kanji and Kana
When it comes to japanese write, practice makes perfect. Practice writing your sentences down in japanese, every day. Practice filling in the kana syllabary chart for hiragana and katakana, until there are no blank boxes and you ’ ve got them all right .
Create mnemonics for both kanji and kana. Heisig ’ sulfur method is one of the best ways to memorize how to write kanji with mnemonics. Using spaced repeat helps excessively, like Anki. then you ’ re regularly seeing each character, and you can input your mnemonics into the eminence of the card so you have it as a reminder .
Another great way to practice is to write out words you already know. If you know mizu means “ water system, ” then learn the kanji 水 and write it with the kanji every time from hera on out. If you know the phrase おはようございます means “ dependable dawn, ” practice writing in in kana every dawn. That phrase alone gives you practice with 9 characters and two with dakuten ! And try looking up lend words to practice katakana .
There are some fantastic resources out there to help you practice writing in japanese. hera are a few to help you learn it fast :
- JapanesePod101: Yes, JapanesePod101 is a podcast. But they often feature YouTube videos and have helpful PDFs that teach you kanji and kana! Plus, you’ll pick up all kinds of helpful cultural insights and grammar tips.
- LingQ: LingQ is chock full of reading material in Japanese, giving you plenty of exposure to kana, new kanji, and words. It uses spaced repetition to help you review.
- Skritter: Skritter is one of the best apps for Japanese writing. You can practice writing kanji on the app, and review them periodically so you don’t forget. It’s an incredible resource to keep up with your Japanese writing practice on the go.
- Scripts: From the creator of Drops, this app was designed specifically for learning languages with a different script from your own.
How to Type in Japanese
It ’ randomness actually quite simple to type in japanese ! On a personal computer, you can go to “ Language Settings ” and click “ Add a preferable language. ” Download Japanese — 日本語 — and make indisputable to move it below English. ( differently, it will change your laptop ’ sulfur terminology to Japanese… Which can be an effective report tool, though ! )
To start typing in japanese, you would press the Windows key + space. Your keyboard will now be set to japanese ! You can type the romanize handwriting, and it will show you the suggestions for kanji and kana. To easily change back and forth between japanese and english, use the elevation key + “ ~ ” winder .
For Mac, you can go to “ System Preferences ”, then “ Keyboard ” and then click the “ + ” clitoris to add and set japanese. To toggle between languages, use the command key and space bar .
For mobile devices, it ’ sulfur very similar. You ’ ll go to your settings, then lyric and input settings. Add the japanese keyboard, and then you ’ ll be able to toggle back and forth when your typing from the keyboard !
Japanese Writing Isn’t Scary!
japanese writing international relations and security network ’ triiodothyronine that bad. It does take practice, but it ’ sulfur fun to write ! It ’ s a beautiful handwriting. so, don ’ triiodothyronine believe the previous ideology that “ three different writing systems will take thousands of hours to learn ! ” A different writing system shouldn ’ thymine panic you off. Each writing system has a purpose and makes smell once you start learning. They build on each early, so learning it gets easier as you go. realistically, you could read a japanese newspaper after alone about two months of consistent study and practice with kanji !
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content Writer, Fluent in 3 Months
Caitlin is a message creator, fitness flight simulator, zero wastrel, linguistic process fan, and Star Wars nerd. She blogs about fitness and sustainability at Rebel Heart Beauty .
Speaks : English, Japanese, Korean, spanish
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