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.

Hiragana click to enlarge

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.


- Learning 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.

click to enlarge

ポケモン (ぽけもん)
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"!

・Related posts: Katakana
Language guides to help with learning Japanese
・Here’s tinycards for Writing Japanese—Hiragana

September 13, 2017


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!

September 13, 2017

Thank you for your suggestions! I will let them know.

September 15, 2017

I agree, there should be ones with just audio, with the multiple choice of the hiragana and katakana, instead of seeing the english sounds, it would help me a lot.

January 3, 2018

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.

March 18, 2019

I only started three days ago . Not knowing any kana . And would agree about the romanji its kind of off putting and being able to write out would be great.

April 20, 2018

i just draw them myself in MS paint

April 22, 2019

Stroke order is a waste of time, unless one would want to learn Japanese forever instead of learning fast with radicals and mnemonics!

October 31, 2017

It will be pretty obvious if you actually get into cursive styles. People would have problem reading it.

January 15, 2018

Yes, stroke order 書き順 matters.

January 21, 2018

I wonder why this is not directly below the very first lesson. It would be so useful if it were, with sound files when you click on each character.

October 14, 2017

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.

January 6, 2018

Tinycards link is added for your practice!

October 30, 2017

I just started Hiragana 2. I've seen some letters pronounced differently from their English consonants in the Hiragana 1 & 2. So far, I've "ha" sounded as "wa"; "ro" sounded as "do", and "ru" sounded as "u" (almost like a grunt). Any reason for that?

October 19, 2017

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.) (This gives a pretty good technical explanation.)

April 4, 2018

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."

January 12, 2018

Yep. That's how Japanese speakers pronounce them. You'll also notice ''Su'' just sounds like ''S''

October 26, 2017

Probably a rendering problem. Hopefully Duolingo will fix that!

October 20, 2017

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 there a reason to this? Thank you for making a Japanese course! I've been waiting for this class ever since I joined <3

October 24, 2017

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!

March 2, 2018

Thank you.

September 13, 2017

Very cool!

September 13, 2017

Can we expect more posts like this to come out in the future in the place of Tips and Notes?

September 14, 2017

Thank you! This was very helpful! :D

September 18, 2017

Hiragana always confuses me with the letters that look alike and such, is there any method you think that I could use to help me remember the distinct letters and their pronunciation?

October 12, 2017

I just found a site that shows each symbol and gives them a picture to go by which can help memorizing, (thanks to another user for posting it) here it is: Hope this helps

October 13, 2017

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:


October 14, 2017

Immersion is key in learning any new language.

October 14, 2017

Unfortunately I live in the middle of Texas, the only Japanese I'll ever be able to immerse my self into it, is a romanji sushi menu.

January 3, 2018

There's still anime and manga tho

January 31, 2018

I live in Cen Texas too! I know how you feel T^T

Their romaji on menus aren't even that great either, so many mistakes!

April 4, 2018

I agree on this, I too need help remembering the symbols that look very alike but have different sounds

October 13, 2017

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! :)

November 9, 2017

I've just started with lesson 1 and made pictures/stories out of the symbols; for me it seems a great way to remember them.

January 20, 2018

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.

April 4, 2018

HelpfulDuo can you add a romaji for beginners as well as in korean?

October 24, 2017

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?

October 25, 2017

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.

October 26, 2017

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)?

October 29, 2017


March 14, 2018

Couldn't find a better place to report bugs, so here goes: I just did a Strengthen test on Hiragana 2, and it asked me to translate の む five times in a row! Doesn't seem to be selecting questions as intended.

November 8, 2017

"Knowing this, you'll also be able to avoid the common mistake of saying "Poke-EE-mon"!"

YES! FINALLY SOMEONE GETS IT! There are too many people who pronounce it that way, and it's my all-time pet peeve. There's a reason the é has a diacritic over it!

November 13, 2017

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS I agree so much!!

January 31, 2018

Thanks, Mod HelpfulDuo

November 19, 2017

This helped out a lot thanks. I think flashcards might be helpful?

November 22, 2017

this was so helpful, I was so confused but this chart helped me with my hirigana understanding

November 28, 2017

A bit confusing.

November 29, 2017

thanks duo :)

December 28, 2017

I don't understand what to pronounce し as it is pronouncing 'chi' and it is written 'shi'.

January 5, 2018

it is also pronounced shi

January 12, 2018

し - is always 'shi' ち - is always 'chi'

The sounds are really close so unless your advanced or native it's going to sound muddled.

April 4, 2018

Hi, within Hiragana 3/Lesson 1 the pronunciation of [:nu:] (ぬ) has the audio spelling of [:ni:] (に). Like how the overall sessions are built and mixing in vocabulary early on :)

January 19, 2018

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?

January 24, 2018

Just has to do with the font. Different fonts show certain characters 'drag marks'. Remember that these were written with calligraphy brushes. Think of it's like the difference between print and caligraphy or sans fonts and serif fonts.

July 11, 2018

る is pronounced "n" instead of "ru" in this course. Is that intentional ? I compared it to google translator and some youtube videos just to be sure.

February 3, 2018

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.

February 3, 2018

Apparently there are some errors that have not been corrected.

March 14, 2018

more writing practice japanese needs it

May 11, 2018

This is wonderfully helpful, however, I would just like to learn the words and be able to speak the language, not necessarily write the language. :)

August 2, 2018

Thank you Duo!

November 11, 2018

well that was helpful

May 10, 2019

this is soo helpful !

May 20, 2019

Danke! Duo

May 26, 2019

On top of that, stroke order (the order in which you draw each line) is quite important in Japanese, so here's a chart with each stroke numbered in correct order I hope it's ok I'm adding this here

September 13, 2017

Thank you. One thing to remember, is that W-column i and e sounds (wi 「ゐ」and we「ゑ」) were used until 1946. So it's rare to see them unless you read classics, names from older generations, or the company names which were kept as the original writing. They are not taught in schools anymore.

September 14, 2017

I noticed that Wi and We were present in this chart and wondered why. That's great info, thanks!

January 6, 2018

There is also the old Y-column sounds!

エ - 'ye' as in エビス - Yebisu (beer), Yebisu (kami) and エバーグリーン - Evangelion (anime); this is the katakana character. The hiragana is -

April 4, 2018

i don't understand

October 22, 2017

It is a bit difficult to understand at the beginning, but with the practice it is better understood.

March 14, 2018

In all of the Japanese lessons on duo す is mispronounced. It’s truncated and just sounds like ‘ss’. Hope this helps.

January 21, 2018

That is right.

す: Especially if it's in the middle or at the end will get cut off sorta so that -desu will sound more like -dess and -masu will sound like -mass. 'tabemasu' (to eat) would sound like 'tabemass' and this is correct.

This is because S, along with K, T, and P, are voiceless consonants. The 'U' in 'Su' can also disappear if it's in the middle of 2 of these voiceless consonants.

Like 'gakusei' (student) will sound more like 'gakk-sei' and 'suki' (like) will sound like 'skki'. The 'U' is between a 'K' and 'S'.

In 'suizokukan' (aquarium) it will sound more like 'suizokk-kan', where the 'U' is between 2 'K's.


Here is a video for more examples and explanation.

April 4, 2018

The hiragana (平 仮 名 or ひ ら が な) is one of the two syllabaries used in Japanese writing; the other is called katakana. Browsing a bit on the internet I found an article that expands the information, you can see it in:

March 14, 2018

follow me :)

November 1, 2017
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