Hiragana

Basic Hiragana

The Japanese writing system is made up from 46 basic syllabic letters. The basic hiragana are shown in the chart below. The method of writing them is shown in the Stroke Order Videos further down the page.

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Basically, in Japanese script, all letters are pronounced individually (exceptions to this will be mentioned later). For instance, look at the first column.

あ い う え お

あおい, blue, is pronounced, a, o, i, as three separate vowels. There is no blurring of vowels as in the English word peal. An exception to this is when one vowel is repeated. It is then read as one long sound (i.e. the sound is held for two syllables), rather than being voiced twice. For instance:

  • いい good
  • ええ yes
  • ああ oh!

Reading practice

Reading Practice

Advanced Hiragana

Modified Syllables (dakuon)

Some basic syllables can be modified by adding two dots (e.g. が) or a circle (e.g. ぺ). The pronunciation of these syllables is shown below.

hiragana-dakuon

When ga, gi, gu, ge or go is in the middle of the word, it may also be pronounced with a nasal ng or with the English pronunciation sound.

  • おりがみ paper folding
  • でんわ telephone
  • かぞく family
  • ともだち friend
  • さんぽ walk/stroll
  • えんぴつ pencil

Consonants plus “y”

If a small ゃ is added after the syllable き, it is then pronounced kya and written as きゃ. The small ゃ,ゅor ょ can be added any い sounds.

See Combo Hiragana below.Combo.PNG

Examples:

  • ちゃいろ brown
  • かいしゃ company
  • しゅみ hobby
  • うんてんしゅ driver

Long vowels

It has been previously mentioned that いい, ええ and ああ are each pronounced as one long vowel. The vowels that are sounded in combination with consonants may also be lengthened by adding a vowel. For example, かあ is pronounced kaa (long a), not ka, a (two distinct vowel sounds).

RULES:

  • あ sound + あ = long a sound
    • おかあさん mother
    • おばあさん grandmother
  • い sound + い = long i sound
    • いいえ no
    • いい good
    • ちいさい small
    • おにいさん older brother
  • う sound + う = long sound
    • すうがく mathematics
    • じゅう ten
    • せんしゅう last week
  • え sound + い = long e sound
    • せんせい teacher
    • せいふく uniform
    • ていしょく set menu/meal
  • お sound + う = long sound
    • こうこう high school
    • こうえん park
    • どうぞ please
  • However, the following common words are exceptions, since they are lengthed by adding お instead:
    • おおきい big
    • おおさか Osaka
    • とおい far

Double Consonants

There are no syllables for individual consonants in Japanese. Hence, a special device is needed to indicate a double consonant. This device is called small tsu, っ.  Notice the difference in the size between つ and っ. The small っ is not pronounced. Instead, it indicates a pause before the next letter.

  • いた vs いった
  • きて vs きって
  • ちょっと a little
  • もっと more
  • ざっし magazine
  • かっこいい trendy/cool
  • きっさてん coffee shop
  • しゅっぱつ departure

Practice booklets

Practise writing hiragana including those with ten ten and maru.
(Click to download)

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Tools to help you learn

Hiragana by Marugoto

Hiragana stroke order animations, listen to each hiragana, see how the hiragana is used in common vocabulary, and take hiragana quizzes.
(Click image to play)

hiragana.PNG

Hiragana Drag-n-Drop

(Click image to play)

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Hiragana Listening Acitivity

(Click image to play)

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Hiragana Memory App by Japan Foundation

Download Link: http://www.jfkc.jp/en/material/memoryhint.html

Hiragana Board Games

(Click image to download)

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Basic Version
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Advanced Version

Stroke Order Video Playlist

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