Katakana vs Hiragana

One of my favourite things about learning Japanese is the alphabet .

Whilst it can sound quite scary at first to realise there are 3 different alphabets, it makes a lot of sense when you figure out why.

Kanji || Kanji originated from the Chinese alphabet. In fact some of the letters/characters are common in the Chinese language also, and even boast the same meaning. Kanji are typically the bain of foreigners because every single one is pronounced differently. You have to simply remember them as you go.

Hiragana || Hiragana was created during the 9th century, mainly for describing something informal, or telling stories. Every letter is unique with many curved lines as you can see below.

Katakana || Katakana is a more angular version of Hiragana. The most typical use of Katakana are for words outside of the Japanese language, loanwords essentially. This means when you learn to read Katakana, you unlock a whole part of the Japanese language straight away.

Which do you prefer the look of - Katakana vs Hiragana? Or maybe Kanji?

I love the way Katakana looks - I find it easier to write and I quite like the angular look it has :heart_eyes:

We have a super-informative article about the 3 Japanese alphabets here you can read if interested - Japanese Alphabet {Hiragana, Katakana & Kanji} // Why Are There Three?

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I actually don’t like the look of katakana. It almost looks like Romanji and most of the time it is used for loanwords. It confuses my brain too much. It took me a considerable amount of time to remember シ ツ ソ ン They look like faces laughing at me :joy:

I used to wish Kanji doesn’t exist because it’s too much to remember. But not anymore since my teacher told me it’d be even harder for everyone to study Japanese, for example 鳳凰を追う王を覆う meaning “Let’s cover the king chasing the phoenix” would be read as ほうおう を おう おう を おおおう :joy:

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Ah yes these were a nightmare at first! I think I’m past that stage of guessing now, but it took some time :upside_down_face:

I’ve studied Japanese since about 1998 off-and-on (though my Kanji is a little rusty, and I can only read at an elementary level – figure that will change once I learn some Mandarin :joy: ) so here’s a few things that help me!

I always remember:

“TSUchi” (ツチ) – the left mark is reaching to the “ground”
“tenSHI” (テンシ) – the right mark is close to heaven (“angel”)

The other two … well, I just try to remember “n” is more flat than “so” :joy: and “so” is reaching towards the “sky” (SOra – ソラ).

Something that’s helped me is knowing what hanzi the kana came from – sometimes they have similar sounds (like “ハ” (ha) is from “八” (ba) – hachi & ba both mean “eight”!) You can look up what hanzi are used for both hiragana and katakana and they generally have that “sound” to them somewhere.

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Very smart insight! Even in big images like these, it’s still not so easy to tell them apart!

I also found this video super helpful - although some of the mnemonic aren’t great, others stuck with me almost immediately. It’s long, but if anyone is learning the Japanes alphabet now, this is a great start.

TIP || break the video down into small chunks, watch maybe ten minutes at a go and then pause it. Watching all at once might be too overwhelming

I’m glad it’s not just me that’s found katakana more of a struggle that hiragana!!

For some reason hiragana was really easy to take in and my brain just did not want anything to do with katakana :joy:

But this is a great tip!! Definitely remembering that one :star_struck:

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I wish i knew this piece of advice when i first started learning the alphabet :joy: Thank you for sharing this

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