Japanese from Scratch 1.1.8 – y vowel and double consonant

If you’re new to this series, check out my previous posts under the “Japanese from Scratch” category.

I know I keep saying we’re done with Hiragana only to have another lesson with more sounds in Hiragana. Well, we’re almost done with learning all the sounds in Hiragana. In this lesson, we’re going to learn how to attach a /y/ vowel sound to another consonant and how to make a double consonant sound. Once more lesson after this, and we will be done with Hiragana!

Reading Practice

Here’s a list of random vocabulary you should read over for some simple reading practice. Once again, don’t worry about memorizing the definitions.

  1. いしゃ – doctor
  2. おちゃ – tea
  3. りょくちゃ – green tea
  4. にんじゃ – ninja
  5. しゅと – capital (city)
  6. しゃしん – photograph
  7. まっちゃ – (ceremonial) green tea
  8. しっぽ – tail
  9. じゃっかん – slightly
  10. ざっし – magazine
  11. もっと – more
  12. けっちゃく – conclusion

Japanese from Scratch 1.1.7 – Voiced sounds in Hiragana

If you’re new to this series, check out my previous posts under the “Japanese from Scratch” category.

So actually, while we learned all the Hiragana characters, there’s still more sounds to be learned using the same Hiragana characters we’ve already learned. In this lesson, we’re going to be learning the voiced consonants, which are indicated by two small lines or circle (only for /p/ sounds) in the upper-right of the character. There are five voiced consonant sounds: /g/, /z/, /d/, /b/, and /p/.

On computers or other digital displays, a small font can make it hard to distinguish between the lines and small circle (ex: 「ば/ぱ」) so make sure to increase the font if you’re having trouble seeing the circle. You can easily do this in your browser by using the “Zoom” functionality in the “View” menu.

Sounds to watch for

Learning to read and write these sounds is not very hard since you’ve already learned the characters. The pronunciations are pretty much what you would expect except for: 「じ」 and 「ぢ」. Both are pronounced “ji”. 「ぢ」 is very rarely used and normally only in voiced Kanji readings which we will learn about later so you’ll see 「じ」 more often than not for “ji”. 「づ」 is also usually only used as a voiced Kanji reading of 「つ」. It sounds almost identical to 「ず」 except for a slight press of the tongue to the roof of your mouth for a faint “d” sound at the beginning. It should sound like “dzu”.

Reading Practice

Here’s a list of random vocabulary you should read over for some simple reading practice. Once again, don’t worry about memorizing the definitions.

  1. ご – five
  2. ふじさん – Mt. Fuji
  3. はなぢ – nosebleed
  4. ひづけ – (calendar) date
  5. にぎりずし – nigiri sushi
  6. びじん – beautiful person
  7. ともだち – friend
  8. ざぶとん – cushion
  9. ぱん – bread
  10. じかん – time
  11. おんど – temperature
  12. つぎ – next
  13. かばん – bag
  14. おんがく – music
  15. ぴあの – piano
  16. うで – arm
  17. おび – belt
  18. かぐ – furniture
  19. ちず – map
  20. ぷりん – pudding
  21. かぞく – family
  22. みず – water
  23. おぺら – opera
  24. かぜ – wind
  25. かげ – shadow
  26. ぼく – me;myself;I (masculine)
  27. いべんと – event
  28. ばれんたいん – valentine
  29. ぽけもん – Pokemon

Also check out my page on Hiragana.
My Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/taekimjapanese

Japanese from Scratch 1.1.6 – y/w sounds

If you’re new to this series, check out my previous posts under the “Japanese from Scratch” category.

In this lesson, we will learn how to read and write the remaining Hiragana characters.

Sounds to watch for

The /r/ sound is notoriously difficult for English speakers. It is a hard sound between “r” and “l”. You want to make sure that you flick your tongue against the roof of your mouth, similar to how Spanish speakers roll their r’s.

The last few sounds don’t really follow the convention that we’re used to. There is no “yi”, “ye”, “wi”, “wu”, or “we” sounds.* And while 「を」 technically is a “wo” sound, it sounds exactly the same as “o” (お) in practice. As you’ll later learn, 「を」 is only used for grammatical purposes and not as part of regular words. Therefore, it will not show up in the reading practice below.

Finally, as the only consonant-only sound, 「ん」 is an curious anomaly. It comes after another sound to add a “n” or “m” consonant sound. I find that if you always pronounce it as “n”, nobody really notices the difference.

Reading Practice

Here’s a list of other vocab you should read over for some simple reading practice. Once again, don’t worry about memorizing the definitions.

  1. そら – sky
  2. やま – mountain
  3. しろ – white
  4. ゆき – snow
  5. よる – night
  6. りす – squirrel
  7. おふろ – bath
  8. わたし – me, myself, I
  9. さん – three
  10. よん – four
  11. ふとん – futon
  12. ゆめ – dream
  13. みらい – future
  14. むり – impossible
  15. みる – to see
  16. れんこん – lotus root (used in Japanese cooking)

Congratulations, you’ve learned all of Hiragana! We’re almost done with all the sounds in Japanese. Review the complete Hiragana chart here.
My Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/taekimjapanese

*Classical Japanese does have “wi” (ゐ) and “we” (ゑ) but they are no longer used.

Japanese from Scratch 1.1.5 – h/m sounds

If you’re new to this series, check out my previous posts under the “Japanese from Scratch” category.

In this lesson, we learn how to read and write the /h/ and /m/ consonant sounds in Hiragana.

Sounds to watch for

Most of the sounds in this section are exactly how you would expect except for 「ふ」, which is a weird sound somewhere between “who” and “fu”. Basically, your mouth when pronouncing “who” (as in “Doctor Who”) is an open circle while “fu” (as in “kung fu”) is completely closed with your top teeth touching your bottom lip. However, 「ふ」 lies directly in between the two sounds almost as if you’re trying to pronounce both at the same time. In practice, probably nobody will really notice anything wrong if you pronounce it as just “fu”. Incidentally, this is the sound for words like “Fuji” and “futon” so obviously we hear it as “fu” and not “hu”.

Reading Practice

Here’s a list of other vocab you should read over for some simple reading practice. Once again, don’t worry about memorizing the definitions.

  1. ふく – clothes
  2. はこ – box
  3. ほし – star
  4. ふた – lid
  5. へい – soldier
  6. ひく – to pull
  7. ふえ – flute
  8. へた – unskillful
  9. め – eye
  10. うみ – sea
  11. のむ – to drink
  12. きもの – kimono
  13. いま - now
  14. まめ – bean
  15. みみ – ear
  16. かも – duck

Japanese from Scratch 1.1.4 – t/n sounds

If you’re new to this series, check out my previous posts under the “Japanese from Scratch” category.

In this lesson, we learn how to write the /t/ and /n/ consonant sounds in Hiragana.

The best way to practice writing is to use plain old-fashion pen and paper. You can download the Hiragana practice writing sheet here:
http://japanese-lesson.com/characters/hiragana/hiragana_writing.html

Sounds to watch for

Japanese doesn’t necessarily follow how we would normally expect consonant and vowel combinations to sound like. While most are pronounced how you would expect, 「ち」 is actually pronounced “chi” (instead of “tee”). Another very tricky sound for English speaker is 「つ」 which is a sound that really has no equivalent in English. To pronounce 「つ」 (“tsu”), try forming an “o” with your mouth as if you’re pronouncing “sue” and add a hard “t” sound at the start of the sound by touching your tongue to the back of your teeth.

It is often difficult at first to distinguish between 「す」 and 「つ」. The word for “moon” and the adjective for liking something is often used as an example. I got the sample audio files below from forvo.com. Can you notice the hard “t” sound that’s only in the first clip?

Reading Practice

Admittedly, learning random vocabulary is not very useful but it is good reading practice so do read over the list below but don’t worry about memorizing the definitions.

  1. いち – one
  2. て – hand
  3. たつ – to stand
  4. たこ – octopus
  5. かつ – to win
  6. に – two
  7. なに – what
  8. ぬの – fabric
  9. すな – sand
  10. おかね – money
  11. しぬ – to die
  12. ぬく – to extract, to pull out

Japanese from Scratch 1.1.3 – k/s sounds

If you’re new to this series, check out my previous posts under the “Japanese from Scratch” category.

In this lesson, we learn the next two columns in the Hiragana chart: the /k/ and /s/ sounds.

Have you noticed that the new sounds have the same vowels we just learned in the last segment? As we learn more of Hiragana, we simply add a new consonant with the 5 vowels we already learned.

Handwritten vs type

The best way to practice writing is to use plain old-fashion pen and paper. You can download the Hiragana practice writing sheet here:
http://japanese-lesson.com/characters/hiragana/hiragana_writing.html

Just like how we would never write “a” by hand how it looks in a computer font, some Hiragana characters are not written they way they look typed on a computer.

  1. If you compare the Hiragana for “ki” and “sa” below with the version in the practice sheet, you’ll notice that there’s a gap in the handwritten version not in the typed version.
    versus

    vs

  2. 「せ」 is also not usually written with such a large hook in the second stroke as it displayed by most computer fonts. In fact, many (including myself) write it with no hook at all.
    vs
  3. 「そ」 is fine written exactly the way it looks typed. However, you can also decide to write the first stroke differently as shown below, making it two strokes。
    vs

There’s no single “correct” way to write these characters and often depends on personal preference. Keep an eye out for these discrepancies and go with what works best for you.

Sushi and other tidbits

Now you know how to write “sushi” in Hiragana: 「すし」. However, in Japanese, it is usually called 「おすし」. 「お」 is an honorific prefix that is used before certain words such as “money” or “store”. I’m not really sure why. Another thing you may often see in sushi restaurants is 「しそ」, that green leaf used for decoration that I personally never eat.

Reading Practice

So what kind of words can you say with /k/? How about romantic love? While 「あい」 is a very deep kind of love nurtured with time and effort, 「こい」 describes more of a romantic, exciting, or infatuation type of love. The same word is also used for “koi” fish, of course! If you ever go to a fancy Japanese restaurant that has a koi pond, you should say, “You know, these fish are called 「こい」 in Japanese.” They probably already knew that but they would be impressed if only they could see that you said it in Hiragana.

Speaking of homophones, the word 「かき」 has over 10 different meanings including “oyster” and “persimmon”. Those two can be particularly difficult to sort out in a conversation since they’re both edible. Because Japanese has many homophones, most of these words are written in Kanji or Chinese characters. But we still use Hiragana to describe how the Kanji is read or pronounced. Don’t worry, we’ll get to it all soon enough.

Here are some other words for additional reading practice using the /k/ and /s/ sounds.

  1. あか – red
  2. いけ – lake
  3. いく – to go
  4. かく – to write
  5. あし – foot; leg
  6. あさ – morning
  7. いす – chair
  8. かさ – umbrella
  9. あせ – sweat
  10. うそ – lie
  11. (お)すし – sushi
  12. せかい – world

With 「あか」, we now know 2 of the 3 traffic light colors. And unlike green/blue, they do use “red” for red light in Japan (and yellow). Here’s a random, scandalous tidbit: in Japanese, the verb 「いく」 is used for orgasms instead of “to come”, basically the opposite of English. But I wouldn’t recommend practicing this!

Um, anyway, why don’t you play around with this cool koi flash thingamajig and feed the fish. Until next time!

Bored with feeding the fish? Check out my page on Hiragana.

Japanese from Scratch 1.1.2 – Hiragana Vowels

If you’re new to this series, check out my previous posts under the “Japanese from Scratch” category.

The best way to practice writing is to use plain old-fashion pen and paper. You can download the Hiragana practice writing sheet here:
http://japanese-lesson.com/characters/hiragana/hiragana_writing.html

Here are the example words from the lesson with some additions for extra reading practice.

  1. あい – love
  2. あお – blue
  3. いえ – house
  4. うえ – above
  5. おい – nephew
  6. おう – to chase
  7. あう – to meet

Here’s a odd tidbit. Did you know what we call “green” for a green traffic light is called 「あお」 in Japan? Actually, it IS kind of blue in Japan depending on how you look at it so it’s not that strange.

The sound 「おう」 is also an interjection used to express an “informal affirmative response“. So next time somebody says, “Let’s do it!” You can respond 「おう!」 instead of “yeah!”. Practicing interjections in Japanese is a great way to start sounding and maybe even feeling a bit more Japanese.

Hungry for more? Check out my page on Hiragana.
My Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/taekimjapanese

Japanese from Scratch 1.1.1 – Writing Systems

I am trying out a new series called “Japanese from Scratch” by making videos that go over Japanese in small steps in a quick, no-nonsense fashion. In this first video, I do a brief overview of the 3 writing systems in Japanese to give you some context before jumping straight into Hiragana. Post your questions, suggestions, and feedback here or on the video page for future videos.

My Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/taekimjapanese

*I will be updating and re-posting the old posts in this category as I make the videos.