1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Japanese
  4. >
  5. Language guides to help with …


Language guides to help with learning Japanese

These posts are designed to support your Japanese learning and to help you become familiar with the language. You can also ask each other some questions or share your language learning experience in the Duolingo community by leaving your comments. Remember to check the list regularly for new content and share these with friends who have an interest in learning Japanese!

Hiragana / Katakana / Kanji




October 18, 2017

This discussion is locked.


i just really want to be able to watch anime without subtitles lol


I think it's a great idea to consume media in it's initial language. So many things just don't translate quite often


there are animes with hiragana subtitles, but even so - it`s a huge pack of vocabulary and a lot of "created" words that only exist for that anime for ex. spellname, ability, ...

I had the same goal but no clue how to reach it efficiently, furthermore the gap between hiragana 1-4 and the rest of the course feels gigantic


Same, alicenfunder, same. The feeling's mutual here. I couldn't watch Yuri On Ice, without it. It was a bit sad. Although, I did notice more background noise/talk, when the episodes were playing in English; that brightened my spirits!


Lol, I wan't to be able to read mangas and Light novels in Japanese. Theres so many that are so cool, ("Date A Live", "No Games No Life" (It has been translated though). I think it would be so cool to just have everything up for "grabs" lol.


That owl photograph is amazing.


I became fluent primarily after many years of reading Manga in Japanese with an electronic dictionary nearby. Now with the advent of a smartphone, one can search up any resource or anything not understood instantly. Learning a language through comic books has been the key to me becoming a polyglot because unlike in standard communication, which cannot be paused, comic books allow you to see snapshots of time, where one can research, analyze character emotions, diction, vocabulary usage, colloquialisms, idioms, characters, slang, language corruption, etc.


If you're new to Japanese, I HIGHLY recommend practicing your written Japanese using practice sheets like these: http://wiredinjapan.blogspot.com/2010/11/wired-kana-hiragana-and-katakana.html or http://japanese-lesson.com/characters/hiragana/hiragana_writing.html

Written Japanese looks very different from typed and things like stroke order may be near undetectable to beginners, but native speakers and experienced Japanese speakers are easily able to spot poor character formation and missed stroke order. Practicing is also a great way to cement characters into your head and get a handle on writing naturally and thinking in Japanese.

You can also improve your character formation (I've found) by looking at examples of Japanese handwriting: things like stroke order tend to come out more and you can see not just what the character should look like, but how it should be written.


ありがとうございました !


Hey I translated thank you very much from the kanjis all on my own by sounding it out! wohoo


Way back, when I first studied Japanese, I had the following guide: "A guide to reading and writing Japanese" (by Florence Sakade). It's available very inexpensively on Amazon and Abebooks.com. It really should have the word "Kanji" or "characters" added to the title because that's all it teaches! But that is the hard part of learning Japanese, so I have found the book very useful and plan to buy a new copy for myself (unless the old one turns up really soon). Update: New copy ordered! Looking forward to its arrival.

Update 2: My book arrived, and it's as good and useful as I remembered. I'm so excited! And it only cost $3.89 with free shipping! Bought it on Abebooks DOT com, and they have some more in that price range.

The first half of the book features the 881 "basic" kanji, the ones they teach in elementary school. They're nice and big, and include stroke order as well as several example compound words.

Please note: This book uses romaji transcription, not kana. I personally really like that, but some people may not.


Good job my friend.


Any idea to remember the signs and vocabulary for Japanese?


I used this website to help me learn the signs. Hope it helps! http://www.csus.edu/indiv/s/sheaa/projects/genki/index.html


I try to create mnemonics that compare the signs to things I know. For example the hiragana "n" looks somewhat like the letter "n", "yo" looks kind of like it contains a "y" and an "o", and etc... It's helped me to memorize them as I learn


For Kanji some of the symbols resemble what they actually represent.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdSmXSEFR-I (Watch part 1 of this)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-12bzTZD1eY These are incredibly helpful! I've begun doing it myself and have already memorized 8 Hiragana in two days.


Hi, I'm new to the japanese course and I was wondering if duolingo at a certain level is gonna give me a japanese keyboard instead of a word bank


Won't Japanese course get to phase 3 from incubator?


I want iiiittttttt!!! Please, Duooo!!! xD


HELP!!! I'm italian and for improve my english i studied english for italian speakers and italian for english speakers. I'm still imrpoving my english, day after day but i afraid that i will not to be able to speak japanese because in my opinion it is too difficult, GIVE ME SOME GOOD ADVICE. I like very much Japan and japanese culture and i want to learn japanese :)


Hey Francesco, don't allow yourself to be intimidated. Japanese pronunciation is actually fairly easy for Italian speakers (and Spanish speakers too). It has the same 5 vowels... Just take it easy, and maybe get some supplementary help. Also, take Sophia's advice and create a notebook for yourself with all the words you want to focus on. Good luck!


Hi, I'm Italian too. I think that to learn Japanese you need a good reference book alongside the duolingo course. Try "il giapponese a fumetti" if you can find it. It's quite good.


Perché pensi che il giapponese sia troppo difficile? È perché la lingua ti sembra difficile o perché stai imparando dall'inglese che non è la tua lingua madre?


Duo is making this more educated, easy, and fun. It really helps me learn more, and makes me want to travel around the world and meet new people.

thanks Duo.


Thanks for the guide Helpful Duo! People who have no prior knowledge of Japanese will likely find this as a great assistance. :)


but we're in duolingo so why would he give us while we can find :/


It would be nice to add romanization for pronounciation (and certain anime and manga), as well as for korean (in the course)


Thank you very much HelpfulDuo!


Thanks for all these. Also... I use duolingo from my smartphone (and I love it ! I ❤️ U Duo) and this wonderful forum is not easy to find from there. The (quiet useless) clubs are right here but this (very useful) forum is invisible. Warui desu yo...




How I study Japanese when I don’t have access to duolingo I keep a journal of new word I learn on here and put the Japanese characters the English word and romanji pronunciation to help me study.

[deactivated user]

    Why not substitute the roumaji with kana?


    Great advice, Sophia! I do the same thing, and not just for when I don't have access to Duo, but even alongside it. I especially write down all the words I find hard to remember, and for the REALLY hard ones, I create flash cards. Also, I have found that we remember things better and better, the more "channels" we use, so adding physically writing things to the mix, it helps.


    If you've been learning Chinese for a very long time, would that sort of make learning Japanese easier?


    It may help with learning the kanji writing system, however the languages are completely different. Japanese has a much more complex grammar system and a lot of situational vocabulary. I don't think there is a ton you learning Chinese could do to help with learning spoken Japanese, but when learning to read and write it could be a benefit.


    I hope it is okey to add stuff to this list? I've started Japanese two years ago, and I first learned Hiragana and Katakana by myself, then I visited a half year class from university (which was a wast), and then I had a one year break from it, until I found out about Michel Thomas. That guy used to be a famous teacher in the Hollywood area, and he has an alternative way of teaching, i.e. you will listen to him, and repeat after him, and he will teach in a way, that you can easily build sentences your own, right away.

    So, for instance if you learn Spanish or French, he would teach you "I want/I like" + some verbs in infinitive form, so you can construct a large number of sentences right form the beginning, opposed to the typical "Hi my name is, I am from, and I do this and that". Also there is a big focus on getting in as much vocabulary as easy as possible, so they will start with words that come from English (or where introduced into English). There are a bunch of CDs (8 in the foundation course, and then there are advanced and vocabulary additions to it), each one hour, so with pausing them and repeating the sentences you get about 16-20 hours of Japanese (for the foundation), after which I guess you have a good grounding for starting learning on your own. I myself just finished half of the foundation course (I found it used for really cheap). And you gain a good hearing-understanding form a native speaker. It's not perfect, you don't get in-depth language analysis, or a lot of Grammar, and of course you don't learn how to read and write (the companion booklet that has a transcript of everything on the CD uses Romanji).

    At least for me this purchase turned out to be an invaluable investment. I've been using the CDs the last month and learned more in that time that in that one year, where I learned on my own and then started visiting a class.

    If you buy them new, however, they are quite expensive (depending on where you are; you can find them on Amazon), so I would advise you to look into eBay if you are interested, or first test-hear them on YouTube (there are some CDs uploaded).

    PS: I've heard from this method via Tim Ferriss, who the one or the other might know as besides everything else he does, he's also a polyglot ;)


    If you're using chrome, rikaikun is an indispensable tool for any Japanese learner. When you activate it, once you hover on any Japanese word, a list of definitions and kanji writing forms show up.

    Jisho.org is the most complete and organized online dictionary I've come across so far. Each word you look up has a list of links to example sentences and you can also look up the kanji stroke order for that word.

    Use Anki ( A spaced repetition program a.k.a SRS) in conjunction with Jisho.org and rikaikun chrome extension to make some flash cards of new vocabulary you come across, so you can retain all that you learn with maximum efficiency. If you feel that making your own cards is too much trouble, there are always premade flashcards made by the community that is available to anyone.

    Last of all, if you have no idea on where to start your journey of learning Japanese, you can use Tae Kim's free guide to learning Japanese ( guidetojapanese.org ).


    When do you use kanji or hiragana or katakana? I understand the different types, but why are they used when they are used? Does anyone know?


    In most Japanese text, kanji makes up the majority, being used for nouns and the base of verbs, adjectives etc. Eg. 犬 (dog) and 猫 (cat) (There are some nouns that are written in either hiragana or katakana, as the kanji is either too difficult or obscure - most often I seafood names.)

    Hiragana shows the function of the word - if it's an adjective or what tense the verb is, or to show the reading of a noun. This is called okurigana. Eg. 可愛い (cute) or 見る (to see). It's also used for particles. Eg. は、で、に、の、よ、を. Books for kids, however, may be written completely or mostly in hiragana, or with small hiragana (furigana) above the kanji to show the reading.

    Katakana is most often used for foreign loan words. Eg. テレビ (table) ビール (beer) ビデオ・ゲーム (video game). But it can also be used for words with uncommon kanji, eg. カラオケ (karaoke) or for emphasis. Eg. バカ!(idiot!)

    Both katakana and hiragana are often used in video games, books or comics to show that characters are talking in an accent or strange voice. Hiragana-only usually shows childlike qualities, girliness or innocence. Katakana-only can show robot-like characters, or stilted/ monotone speech.

    As Zanzaboonda said, once you can use all of the alphabets together, Japanese sentences are a lot easier to understand at a glance because you can tell the parts of the sentence and the meaning of any homonyms from the kanji.

    It's also really cool how much word play and character building there is in Japanese just by using the different alphabets.

    Good luck!


    It's a little complicated, and I won't claim to understand entirely.

    I can tell you briefly that katakana is used mostly for foreign loan words, foreign names, and onomatopoeia, which is much more common in Japanese than in English.

    Kanji characters are used when there are words (I believe) that are common to both Japanese and Chinese (combination kanji may be new); it's worth noting that each kanji can have multiple pronunciations.

    To my understanding, hiragana is used for words that are only found in Japanese, as well as for particles. (I think of it as the "default" syllabery - it can be used in place of kanji, if you don't know the kanji. And hiragana can also appear in a smaller font above kanji in learning materials, which is known as furigana.)

    This may not be entirely accurate, but I think it's close. Happy for someone more knowledgeable to chime in.

    It seems a little crazy at first, but having them all actually makes the sentences easier to read, imho. And although kanji can be complicated, I think they help prevent confusion. I've noticed there are many homonyms in Japanese, and the correct kanji provide clarity of meaning.


    The general misconception about katakana is its use for only loan words, but actually there is more to it than just that. There is an interesting discussion about katakana here.


    Katakana is generally for foreign loan words. For example "ペット" is borrowed from the English word "pet" and "パン" is from the Portuguese word for bread.

    Hiragana is the phonetic alphabet for Japanese. In general, it's used for particles like "と" and "は." It's also used for conjugations and honorifics like "~ます" (present tense) and "お" (formal/respect marker) and "~さん" (Mr./Ms./Mrs.)

    Kanji is used to indicate verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc. Unlike katakana/hiragna, kanji characters directly indicate meaning rather than phonetic pronunciation. This is why you might see your hear someone asking how a particular kanji is "read": its pronunciation may change depending on its context."

    As you learn more Japanese, your kanji knowledge increases. This takes years and most Japanese people are still learning new Kanji throughout high school (and often don't really start learning kanji consistently until middle school). So in Japan, how much kanji is in something often indicates how difficult it is to read. Newspapers, for example, have a mandated set of kanji they are allowed to use so that it's not too difficult for people to read. One of the distinctions between novels and "light novels" in Japan is that light novels typically contain less kanji, making them easier to read (esp. for younger people). If you don't know the kanji for something, you simply replace it with hiragana.

    There are a few interesting cases where kanji, hirigana, and katakana are all mixed, like in the word for "eraser:" 消しゴム (pronounced keshigomu). 消し is the the i-form of "消す" which means "erase." ゴム actually comes from French word for eraser. Which is why all three alphabets come together in that one word.


    Here is the link to Sakubi (Yesterday's Grammar Guide) https://sakubi.neocities.org/


    Oh thank the gods! I've had so much trouble with Japanese but I wan't to learn it! This list of helpful sites was a great thing to have on hand.


    I notice that hiragana and katakana seem to share a number of characters, is that as straightforward as it seems?


    I haven't seen a single Hiragana character that is the same in Katakana.

    Do you mean the romanization?


    Actually へ (he) feels the same for both hiragana and katakana.


    True, but that's it.


    there is also り


    The characters for "ka" are similar too in hiragana and katakana, just the little extra stroke is missing.


    OMG Japan is so cool hopefully soon I can watch no dub or sub anime and make naruto ramen. RasenShuriken and Shadow Clone for life


    Watching the original 1989-1996 dragon ball z in japanese helps me learn japanese.


    so i am new to japan. i wanted to learn it for a while. anyt tips or advice?


    If I may suggest an addition to the list: I’ve seen many beginners on the forum struggling with the issue of dual kanji reading (Onyomi-Kunyomi), so could you please add it as well? Also, despite having a sticky, this post is becoming a bit hard to find without scrolling way down the Popular discussions list, so perhaps an updated version is necessary every now and then, otherwise a way to keep the information visible until course notes are added. Thank you.


    Thank you for your suggestions and also for the reference guide (https://www.duolingo.com/comment/25047236) you have provided. More help and options for users, the better. I believe that the summary post should still be in 3rd place if they switch to the Japanese for English speakers forum. The users might also want to bookmark it for easier reference. Our sticky system isn't perfect, but we'll be working on better forum organization features in the future.


    wauu seriously, do you are learning korean, japanese and chinese? and you have 268 days constantly, i would like practice with you, i learn japanese and chinese.


    I am only a beginner with Chinese (my main focus now), but it would be great to get the chance to practice in the future when I've gotten a bit better. Thank you


    This was SO helpful. Many thanks!


    what does ( nanurne ) means please answer i couldnt find it in anywhere


    I have trouble learning Japanese because I don't have a Japanese keyboard to complete my lessons....


    Hi! There should be a choice to use a word bank at the bottom of your screen. You should be able to download a Japanese keyboard, but if you are at school you might not have permission to download anything. In any case, look for the word bank option. Good luck and don't give up!


    Try to have it for practicing Japanese kana. I use Microsoft IME Japanese Keyboard (control panel-> add input language) in Windows, and Google Japanese Keyboard in Android.


    Basically everything but Spanish I have trouble with.


    Dōmo arigatōgozaimasu! Kore wa machigainaku watashi o tasukemasu! ^ ^ (Thank you so much! This will definitely help me!)


    Very helpful!!! please add more. there are not enough guides to Japanese as there are for other languages


    Is there any websites that I can use to learn grammar? I've tried learning Japanese in Duolingo a few months ago and it doesn't teach you any grammar. Just a bit.


    Back when I was self studying, I went to this site all the time to learn grammar. It was a great help to me then. http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/grammar


    Hello! You might be able to use www.bliubliu.com. Although, it's for more advanced readers (unfortunately, I'm not one of those, yet). I'll see if I can't search for more, if you'd like. I've never heard of guidetojapanese, before. Good one! :)


    Wow I've never seen such this post at another discussion. It is helpful understanding information which i need to find. Thank you for your post.

    [deactivated user]

      What writing system is used the most in Japanese?


      The Japanese writing system is a mix of Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana, each serving a certain purpose in the sentence.


      Knowing all three systems, especially kanji, is important for navigating daily life in Japan. You can see that by looking at the homepage for YAHOO! Japan, the most common search engine in Japan.


      Hiragana and Katakana are basic. Most media mixed. Even adults can not read kanji often.


      Kana(Hiragana & Katakana) are most common in Japan. They also use Kanji, but they aren't that common like Kana. ;)


      When I went to Japan, kanji was absolutely everywhere. I definitely couldn't get by on kana alone.


      pueden configurar el programa para los que hablamos español puedan aprender japones un poco mas fácil? seria de gran ayuda


      Thank for your guide! It great!


      Thank you very much! I think I can learn Japanese easier!


      the android app "Obenkyo" is very useful , i really recommend it if you want to learn hiragana and katakana , even kanji ..., and it have a grammar guide too .


      Btw, there are awesome books in Minna no Nihongo series, covering all from kana to extensive grammar, kanji and even some keigo. They are not hard to come by and can really help in learning Japanese.


      thanks for the references


      thank you based bird of brain gains


      Thank you for sharing this, it is extremely helpful for us beginners and gives me something to do when I am not near the computer and still want to study.


      this is amazing, thanks you.


      I know that there is Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji, but was about Romaji? I mean, in the course there isn't Romaji so I was wondering if it exists...


      Romaji it is not a official writing system. It is a form that the occidental people created to transliterate the sounds of japanese in our alphabet. It is a system of Romanized spelling used to transliterate Japanese.


      This is the JAPANESE board. It’s not for study of Korean...that’s another board.


      Aunque hable español no está nada mal comenzar con el inglés v':


      okay I am on hiragana 4


      I can only use duolingo at school anyway so that sucks.


      Why can you only do it at school?

      Learn Japanese in just 5 minutes a day. For free.