Travel, Teach, Live in Japan
If you are learning Japanese, then you will soon come across the three writing systems, hiragana, katakana and kanji. Japanese is written by using a combination of these three writings systems, with each having a different purpose. Kanji is used for things and objects. Katakana is used for foreign loan words, i.e. words that didn't exist in Japanese but were introduced into the language and so the foreign word was adapted into the Japanese language. Hiragana is used mainly for grammatical constructs. You may be overwhelmed when thinking about trying to learn all of the writing systems so that you will be able to read Japanese. The best thing to do is to break down the task and tackle one writing system at a time. In fact, many people suggest that you start with Hiragana first. Here are some reasons why:
1. Hiragana does not have a huge number of characters. It has 46 basic characters and they can actually be learnt quite quickly. Some people manage to learn the entire set of Hiragana characters in one afternoon.
2. The characters are easy to learn. There are 5 vowels, a, i, u, e, o. Once you have learnt the vowels and pronuciation, you are ready to learn the rest of the characters, as every other characters, except for one, is made by combining a consonant and a vowel together.
3. All Hiragana characters have the same sound. This makes it easy to learn as you don't have to worry about the pronunciation. Once you have learnt the pronunciation then it is always the same. This is not so with kanji characters, and even English. So learn the pronunciation once and learn it well.
4. The whole Japanese language can be written in Hiragana. As Japanese is a syllable based language, any words can be written in Hiragana. In fact children learn Hiragana first when they first start to learn to read. Books for young children are all in Hiragana.
A great way to study Hiragana is to get yourself a Hiragana Chart