Learning Japanese is quite challenging, but Duolingo is here to help! First and foremost, let’s start with Hiragana, one of three Japanese writing systems.
This chart starts from upper right hand side corner, and goes down from top to bottom.
Here’re the first five letters.
|-||a i u e o|
|Hiragana||あ い う え お|
|Roman letters⁺||a i u e o|
|Pronunciation||/a/ /i/ /u/ /e/ /o/|
⁺ Roman letters = Romaji, ローマ字(じ)
These are the vowels, and pronounce as short vowel sounds. This is easy to say but very hard to do for English speakers. When you see those vowel letters, it’s natural for you to pronounce as long sounds as English letters, a e i o u. This would be one of the best advice to keep in mind as you read Japanese in Romanized letters (Romaji). Reading those vowels with short sounds will definitely help you pronounce the rest of the Hiragana.
|Hiragana||あ か さ た な は|
|Roman letters||a ka sa ta na ha|
|Hiragana||ま や ら わ を ん|
|Roman letters||ma ya ra wa wo n|
This is the top row of the Hiragana chart from left to right with the irregular words added at the end. As you can see, the vowel “a” (あ) is combined with a consonant “k” to make the word “ka” (か). So, the rest of the chart will be the same: a consonant followed by a vowel. This is the way the Japanese students learn hiragana by memorizing the top row. Thereafter you would go into “ka” (か) column, and follow “ka, ki, ku, ke, ko” (かきくけこ), the next is “sa” (さ) column, “ta” (た) column, and so on. Once you learn the vowels, the rest is quite systematic. “Wa, wo, n” (わをん) are the irregular words. Also, the “ya” column only has three, “ya, yu, yo” (やゆよ).
たてがき・よこがき (Vertical and Horizontal writing)
In Japan, scripts can be written horizontally or vertically. Hiragana chart is usually written in the vertical writing (top-bottom) in the same way as in school textbooks for Language Arts and newspapers. Most literatures are also published in vertical format. However, more and more books are written in horizontal writing (left-right) as you see in digital world. Manga frames still tend to flow in right-to-left horizontal direction just as in the hiragana chart.
Now that you learned the trick to pronounce Japanese words, you know it's "Sake" (酒／さけ) not "Saki", and "Karaoke" (カラオケ／からおけ) not "Karaoki". Knowing this, you'll also be able to avoid the common mistake of saying "Poke-EE-mon"!
For those who know kana (both hiragana and katakana), there should be the option to not see romaji, and allow for not having to relearn kana when you know it. Waste of time. Also, allowing people to type out their own Japanese sentences instead of picking out from the bubble options, and speech practise. Those add-ons in your Japanese settings would help a lot. Also, to write out the kanji/kana on the screen to test their stroke orders. THANKS!
i think the on screen writing might be unlikely to happen just because that would take a lot of programming and integration from scratch :/
However, I am a big fan of your suggestion for opting out of romaji and learning kana. They should have a skills test for kana in the beginning and if you pass, you just skip to the initial vocab they would have integrated with the kana lessons.
So I started with the first lesson of Hirigana the other night and thought to myself "I feel like there should be an introduction because they're just throwing things at me and it's confusing and a little demoralizing." Up til today I felt that way, and I just finished the first module of "intro" so....a little ways in... and I just found this page and can't say how VALUABLE this is. It just felt like total unorganized jargon to me but now I can see the chart and know that consonants and vowels are deliberately aligned and suddenly it all makes sense. THANK YOU but this should really be like the first thing you see when you click on Japanese. Just... here's the introduction. Now onto your first actual lesson.
The kana は has two pronunciations. 'ha' if it is used in a word and 'wa' if it is used as a particle. The kana 'へ' and 'を' also have this secondary function as a particle and are pronounced as 'e' and 'o' when used as such, but keep their original sounds when used in a word.
As for the R-column... you can NOT think of these R sounds like typical hard R sounds (Rah, Ree, Rue, Reh, Roh) you see in English. This would be a complete mistake.
Their "R" sounds are more like they are in the middle of R, L, AND D sounds, though mostly between R and L. Usually in English when we make R sounds the back of our tongue is raised to the middle to back of the roof of our mouths to get these hard sounds... JAPANESE on the other hand don't do this. They put the tip of their tongue to the back of their teeth in the front of their mouth with a flicking motion and make softer R sounds; the way that English (or other languages) would make distinctive L or D sounds.
The best exercise for this is to start by making L or D sounds with the tip of your tongue to the back of your teeth, even alternating/combining. Then, without changing mouth position too much, try to make R sounds. It should come to a decent middle/balanced place where you can't really tell if you're doing L or R or even a D sound.
la, la, la, la, la. - da, da, da, da, da. - la, da, la, da, la, da, la, da, la, da. - la, da, la, da, ra... etc. for all the kana Ra, Ri, Ru, Re, Ro and you'll eventually get it.
Here are also some video links (These are kinda old so the quality isn't great but it's basically all I've said with practical explanations as well.)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2wzUuGm7yw https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQns_g_A7U0 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-ERE23YP88 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xjX7sTnso8 (This gives a pretty good technical explanation.)
I was a little irked when I encountered that myself. I feel like it's a little misleading, because Japanese does still include the "ha" sound, and they just gloss over that and it possibly teaches people to always sound out "wa" whenever they would see that.
"The Hiragana は (ha) is pronounced "wa" WHEN it immediately follows the topic of the sentence. This character is usually only pronounced "ha" when it is part of a word."
hello I'm new to the Japanese course! I was wondering while I was doing the Hiragana 1 lessons, the "ha" symbol is pronounced "wa" by the voice guide...is there a reason to this? Thank you for making a Japanese course! I've been waiting for this class ever since I joined <3
Because the 'は' kana is also used as a particle. When used as a particle, like after the subject of the sentence it is pronounced 'wa'. If it is part of an actual word like 'はな' (flower) or 'はなせる' (to speak).. it keeps it's own 'ha' sound.
The kana 'へ' and 'を' also has a secondary function as a particle and pronounced as 'e' and 'o' when used as such but keep their original sounds when used in a word. (へび - snake)
Urm, there is one more but it's not a particle. The 'tsu' kana can be used to show you when to hold a beat when 2 consonants are together if it is the small 'tsu'. Japanese doesn't normally have two consonants together all willy-nilly and you do NOT pronounce the small 'tsu'. Whatever the following consonate is you hold a beat for it before continuing.
These are all 3 syllables.
zutto - ずっと - zu-(t)-to
chotto - ちょっと - cho-(t)-to
matte - まって - ma-(t)-te
Hope this helps!
It would be fantastic if the course were for Spanish speakers. My brain goes from Japanese to English and then to Spanish and I get confused haha. the problem for me is that I am native Spanish speaker and I am still learning English but thank you very much for the course, although the course is still in beta.
Not sure if previously mentioned, but I know this is still the case in the lessons. I would highly suggest in the Kana practice portion of the app to write the romaji of を as “wo” even though it is always pronounced as “o”. Mainly to keep new learners from confusing お and を, but in the same way many other Romaji representations contain silent or clipped “letters” when used in practice, it just builds a better foundation for when making the switch to solely kana and kanji. Also, any full Japanese keyboard I’ve seen requires you to type “wo” to get を, so it would help to prevent ingraining a future of typos when learners start typing in Japanese. So I would recommend always pronouncing を as “o” in the sound clips (which is how it is currently set up), but when writing the Romaji representation it should always be shown as “wo”.
Tofugo is a jackpot of gold when it comes to learning Japanese. I think Duolingo needs to take a hint from them and start using mnemonics themselves
Tofugo has tutorials on Hiragana by mnemonic, katakana by mnemonic, and pronunciation by technical explanation. They also have a Kanji-learning site that is invaluable but sadly only free up to the 3rd level. I won't name it for Duolingo's sake and because I don't want this comment deleted, but its not hard to find, since Tofugo's blog advertises it.
This Tofugo article gives you a detailed roadmap full of resources on how to efficiently and successfully learn Japanese https://www.tofugu.com/learn-japanese/?utm_source=Mailchimp&utm_medium=Automated%20Email&utm_campaign=Learn%20Japanese%20Guide%20Email
Tofugo: Learn Hiragana via Mnemonics https://www.tofugu.com/japanese/learn-hiragana/
Tofugo: Learn Katakana via Mnemonics https://www.tofugu.com/japanese/learn-katakana/
Tofugo: Technical Pronunciation Guide https://www.tofugu.com/japanese/japanese-pronunciation/?utm_source=Tofugu&utm_medium=Article&utm_campaign=Learn%20Japanese
Hope this helps
Just saw Rachel's post--cool stuff. Great way for a beginner to visualize. Of course, later you'll be reading hiragana, katakana, and kanji so quickly that there's no time to put each symbol into a mnemonic. I like the Japanese sentences taught on Duolingo, so I'd say always come back here if you get too bogged down with other stuff you're studying.
Practise writing the charts out by hand on a dollar store dry erase board, over and over, then do it from memory. Making sure to speak each kana as you write them out, make sure you use sites that help you hear the pronunciation and making sure to get as close as you can (recording your voice helps a lot).
Then make your own physical kana decks (hiragana and katakana) w/one side the kana, and the other side how it is said with one basic word like ね: ねこ Cat and カ: カラオケ Karaoke. Also, write out vocabulary and say them as well. Using speech with the new writing characters help most.
Also put a print out of the kana charts especially Japanese kids version, so it has vocab on them along with the charts. Immerse yourself in them and you'll learn them. I hope they start making the Japanese learning better so they can allow you to say words and be able to judge your pronunciation, also using Siri or Google Assistant in Japanese to search for things helps pronunciation as well.
Two charts to help: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/1c/82/b6/1c82b60cdc555afe0181c0f1650a1484.jpg https://i.pinimg.com/originals/06/93/5b/06935bef713bfbf3bba6f4c54f05bb57--katakana-chart-learning-japanese.jpg
Everyone learns differently, the method we used at school was one of making pictures/stories out of the symbols. However, I have tried to describe that to someone recently and they just laughed and said they would never remember that. Flash cards and repetition will probably be your friend! :)
I practiced them in sets and eventually I just... knew them. I'd do a set a week: sing them, write them, have post-its on objects around the house that they started with (This is really good for katakana. ラグ Ragu, post-it on my rug in the bedroom, ベッド beddo, post-it on the headboard of my bed.), make art with them, flash cards, make lists of words they started with without looking up in dictionaries.... it made all the difference for me having them in groups and being creative with them. Made it easier to recall, 'oh I need ラ ra, I saw it every morning when I got up. Made sure not to step on it.' or 'べ be, right! That was on my bed! It lost its stickiness and I kept having to pick it up when it fell'. etc.
I have another question HelpfulDuo...was wondering how come there's no kanji and katakana in the course? or it will be added sometime in the future?
When it comes to writing in the Japanese answers, I have difficulty in making some of the letters small, like the small tsu and the yo and yu in today and nine. Is there a way of doing this on the keyboard (similar to using shift to create uppercase as opposed to lowercase in English)?
Something has been bothering me. I have seen that some letters are not written the same way, compared to others places that I've seen them, specially a(う) and ri(り). This is how they look when I see them when practicing with Duolingo. But when looking at the table you provided they look noticeable different, especially ri, where we see 2 separated lines. I've seen this other places as well. Why is that?
Ru る of course is never pronounced as ん. Honestly the Japanese course is still loaded with errors. I’ve been keeping my tree guided to see if they’re making changes, but it’s still really bad. Some of the other trees are very well done, but Japanese is not even close yet.
If you are on PC you can install Japanese Microsoft IME through the language section or bar if you have that enabled. (Be sure to go through all it's settings and to set the shortcuts to your liking.) For phone, whatever type of keyboard you have, there is also a language section to download Japanese (I prefer SwiftKey for the quickswitch feature that other boards struggle with.)
I'll quote Cheesy Ben and use their answer for your question: (https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CheesyBen)
" They are all both equally important because missing one means missing one of the structure of the language and would make a sentence incomplete.
but if you really want to compare, I would rate it like this: Hiragana > Katakana > Kanji
Kanji is in lowest because you can spell Kanji with Hiragana and speaking Kanji will be using Hiragana pronunciations instead of the Kanji's original Chinese pronunciation, but not knowing how to read Kanji or read it can be a problem.
Hiragana and Katakana just includes tons of simple and common words and not knowing them is just problematic. "
Pretty straightforward list , Not sure why you put the vowel sounds at the end of the list but that's OK. What's helped me learn the most was downloading a chart where I can draw the letters 10 times or so each and a description of the phonetic by it at the beginning, like you would may do in elementary school. Maybe duolingo can create there own lists for us. Anyway thank you for all your help.
Noticed new hiragana and katakana lessons today. Student writing practice can be on paper, but one improvement would be to let students see the characters slowly form as if someone was writing them. In fact, the actual strokes whether shown with numbered arrows or slowly appearing, should be a standard addition to all alphabets used on this website. Why not treat the Roman alphabet just as you would others? You'd also need to explain why the typed "a" is different from the written one.
Ra like butter? In Hiragana 1 at the top you can select "Tips" (https://www.duolingo.com/skill/ja/Hiragana-1/tips-and-notes) and for ら/ra you get this explanation: "like the t in the American pronunciation of butter". What do ら/ra and t have in common?
It's about tongue position. In British English, the t in butter and the t in porter are pronounced with air. In American English, porter rhymes with border. For purposes of teaching "the flap r," American butter is a good choice to show what the tongue does. It's a quick little tap on the roof of the mouth. That sound is represented by r in many languages but not English. When you start exploring the letter l, you'll notice that English and Russian have what is called "the corrupt l" because we flatten out our tongues quite a bit when we say it. For the l in other languages, the tongue is more pointed in its contact right in the same spot your tongue is going to hit when you say butter in American English. It's much easier to learn new consonants and vowels with examples like this to get your tongue or lips in the right position. The one you will really have to practice is the Japanese u. I just love the feeling when I'm sounding more and more like Japanese. Good luck!
At the moment, Japanese is one of six languages with stories for English speakers. The stories were added recently, and I only know about them because of your question. Just click stories next to learn in the web-based version. You may practice stories at any time--no need to master other skills first unless you want to. Stories are awesome for listening practice: an essential part of communication. I just did the first Japanese one and give it a thumbs up. I study four courses. Obviously, Duolingo has put a lot of money and effort into the Spanish course. It has also been obvious that the Japanese course is being improved: must have staff working on it full-time. In Korean and Chinese, I've Golden-Owled. These two courses have been frozen without improvement for quite a while, but I know Duolingo was looking to hire staff to improve them. For these two courses, they'll need to fix and improve the courses first before adding stories. The Korean course especially is in dire need of help.
Don't know about your screen, but on my screen only "characters" button is visible to the right of "learn" in the web-based version. Same for tablet and phone. I've done some other courses with Duolingo, and the German course, for example, only showed the stories after I collected a certain number of crowns. However, I have already surpassed that amount of crowns in my Japanese course - yet the button for stories didn't show up. I have no idea about Spanish course, or Korean course, or Chinese - I suppose you expect me to congratulate you on your success in those courses, isn't that why you're bragging? My question was about the qualifications needed for the stories to appear specifically in the Japanese course - completion of hiragana, or both hiragana and katakana, or a higher number of crowns. You did not answer it. But by all means, pat yourself on the back for completion of all those other courses (about which I never asked), and for telling me to "click on the one beside it".
You can never complete a course if Duolingo is constantly improving it. Someone posted that they completed the Spanish course five times. Back in the day, you only had to go through the cycle once to complete it. Now it is five times. I just meant those two courses are frozen due to lack of improvements. The Golden-Owl moment only means "Why bother studying it anymore?" My XP ranking is currently 187,648. With 500,000,000 accounts open, I guess that isn't bad. They just added those Japanese stories: maybe it has been a week. They'll keep adding to it. Sorry you can't see them and thanks for explaining. It's to the right of characters and the left of discuss. If you can't see it, it could be in testing mode and only shown to some users. Sometimes they are cautious about rolling out new things. I assure you one month ago stories were not available to me. You have a good question because of what you said about German. Try going into your German. Click on stories. You'll then be in stories. Click on your Japanese flag and see what happens. If it says not available, then maybe you'll get an explanation why you are not getting it.
Unlike yesterday, today I don't have stories for Japanese. It seems to be still in development and testing. You should have it soon. I don't think the number of crowns or the study of characters could be tied to access to stories. Lots of changes and improvements all the time.