Monday, April 28, 2014

Learning 3 languages in a Month: Day 2 Japanese

My original plan to use articles from the BBC has actually failed in a way. This is because, despite how many languages the BBC website has, it does not have Japanese nor Italian. As a result, I'm having to look for articles from other sources.

Japanese will be a great deal more difficult for me than Spanish given my lack of exposure to it. I can understand a few phrases here and there thanks to watching several Studio Ghibli films with the subtitles on. However, reading it is an entirely different story, and I imagine learning the language (I'm going to be focusing on the phonetic portion of the language) will be VERY challenging. Unlike the languages with a latin root, I won't be able to rely on my knowledge of the roman alphabet.

So in order to be able to read it, I would also have to learn a whole new alphabet.

Following the advice of a native speaker, I began by learning Hiragana, part of the phonetic alphabet of Japanese. t is a sister form to Katakana.

 How Hiragana works

Having the "Hiragana base characters" helped me understand how it was structured.
  • The column determines the first syllable- with the phi-symbol denoting a lack of first syllable
  • The row determines the second syllable. They are basically vowels.
  • Example:  The sound of "Na" would be な. While the sound of "Ni" would be に. Together the sound "Nani" is written as
    なに (which means "what" in Japanese).

I have a bit of a monumental task, as in order to read Japanese, i'll have to not only be able to recognize a whole new alphabet, but also have to learn how it is spoken.

In order to memorize the alphabet, My plan is to begin by recognizing the available sounds: a, i, e, u, o. And the modifiers, k, s, t, n, h, m, y, r, w, and the rest. From there, i'll have to simply grind it out.

I'll probably try to utilize a sort of mnemonic visualization technique to better retain the symbol's appearance. But i'm still uncertain of which one at this point; I'll experiment.


I've fully memorized the 46 Hiragana characters, though I can't really recommend my method, as it did take about 5 hours to perform.

Essentially I tackled the Hiragana 5 one row at a time. I had a few steps I considered with every set though
  1. I always began by writing out each 5 characters
  2. I looked at each character and tried to associate the sound it made with something. For instance the symbol for the sound "a" reminded me a bit of an @ symbol. As such, in my mind I would associate the two ideas, which would help me recall it later on.
  3. I tried to take note of general patterns that occurred. For example, how "Ru" and "Ro" look very similar, and how "ki", "sa", and "chi" were similar. As well as "ke", "ha" and "ho". 
  4. After finishing a new group of five, I would review the past sets that I already learned in order to practice and cement it in my head.
  5. I also tried to make words and phrases when I could, writing out "Mu Sa Shi", or "Wa Ta Shi", "Su Ki Ya Ki" and "Ko Ni Chi Wa". The use of these helped me recall how the hiragana were written more than I expected the to.
  6. I reviewed using flash cards- I would display the sounds and then write out the character, essentially training myself to be able to write on command.

Next Step: Grammar

I plan to use a similar method that I am employing for Spanish.


    1. I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post
      ld hardas