Japanese Hiragana

Modern Japanese combines the use of hiragana, katakana and kanji in its writing system. details »

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Hiragana - Introduction

Modern Japanese combines the use of hiragana, katakana and kanji in its writing system.

There are 46 basic hiragana characters (see the first table), and there are 25 voiced and 33 double hiragana characters modified from the basic hiragana characters (see the second and third table).

Hiragana is (almost) 100% phonetic - what you write is what you pronounce. (In this sense it's easier than English, Chinese or Korean!)

Pay special attention to:

  1. は, を and へ: when they are particles in a sentence, they are pronounced as wa, o, and e respectively.
  2. Japanese r is similar to Spanish r but different from English r. Do not roll your tongue when you pronounce the following r sounds: ら り る れ ろ.
  3. Long vowels: Japanese vowels can be short (1 beat or 1 mora) or long (2 beat). In hiragana, it is common to use an extra vowel, namely, あ い う え お, to express the long beat. For example, どう is pronounced as a long ど for the Japanese word どうも (thank you), not two separate syllables ど and う.
  4. Short pauses: Pauses could happen before consonant p, k, t and s in Japanese, and the pause is 1 beat (or 1 mora) in timing. A small つ is used to represent this pause in a Japanese word.
  5. ぢ and づ: in romaji they could be written as di and du, but they should have the same pronunciation as じ(zi) and ず(zu).

A Japanese word can be as simple as one single hiragana.

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