“School” Vocabulary

The challenges and difficulties of learning a new language are many and with Japanese even more so with its three separate sets of characters (hiragana, katakana and kanji), but I find it absolutely fascinating and look forward to my study time each day. This was one of my early vocabulary lists when I first started studying Japanese:

人 【ひと】 – person
アメリカ人 【アメリカ・じん】 – American (person)
フランス人 【フランス・じん】 – French (person)
日本 【に・ほん】 – Japan
本 【ほん】 – book
学生 【がく・せい】 – student
先生 【せん・せい】 – teacher
高い 【たか・い】 – tall; expensive
学校 【がっ・こう】 – school
高校 【こう・こう】 – high school
小さい 【ちい・さい】 – small
大きい 【おお・きい】 – big
小学校 【しょう・がっ・こう】 – elementary school
中学校 【ちゅう・がっ・こう】 – middle school
大学 【だい・がく】 – college; university
中学生 【ちゅう・がく・せい】 – middle school student
大学生 【だい・がく・せい】 – college; university student
国 【くに】 – country
中国 【ちゅう・ごく】 – China
中国人 【ちゅう・ごく・じん】 – Chinese (person)
日本語 【に・ほん・ご】 – Japanese language
中国語 【ちゅう・ごく・ご】 – Chinese language
英語 【えい・ご】 – English
フランス語 【フランス・ご】 – French
スペイン語 【スペイン・ご】 – Spanish
大学生 【だい・がく・せい】 – college student
社会人 【しゃ・かい・じん】 – working adult
中国 【ちゅう・ごく】 – China
韓国 【かん・こく】 – South Korea
カナダ – Canada
イギリス – England
オーストラリア – Australia
フランス – France
スペイン – Spain
ブラジル – Brazil
メキシコ – Mexico

Hiragana: Voiced Consonants and Other Sounds

Though I covered in an earlier post all the distinct characters in Hiragana there are still a few additional variations and sounds that still remain.

Voiced Consonants

Voiced consonants are consonant sounds that require creating a vibration in your throat. A number of consonant sounds in Hiragana can be changed to their voiced counterpart by adding two small dashes to the upper-right corner of the character; namely the “k”, “s”, “t”, and “h” consonant sounds. There is also a semi-voiced consonant sound “p”, which is created by putting a small circle in the upper-right corner of the “h” characters.

Y-vowel sounds

A consonant can precede the three y-sounds: (や), (ゆ), and (よ). This is done by attaching a small, half-size version of the y-sounds to the consonant+i sounds as you can see in the table below.

Hard Consonant Sounds

While no single letter ends in a consonant sound except (ん), Japanese does have a way to carry over the next consonant sound back with a small (つ). This can be used with the consonants “p, k, t, s” to create a hard stop. For example:

ひと —> meaning “person“. It would normally be read as “hi-to”.

However, by adding a small (つ) the “t” consonant sound is carried back

ひっと —> meaning “hit”. It would be read “hit-to”.

The Long Vowel Sound

Finally we have the long vowel sound which is simply extending the duration of a vowel sound. You can extend the vowel sound of a character by adding either (あ), (い), or (う) depending on the vowel. See the following chart:

It’s important to make sure you hold the vowel sound to the full length of both characters because there are many similar words that are only different by the length of the vowel. An example:

ここ –> “here”

こうこう –> “High school”

Hiragana: An Introduction

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Hiragana is the main phonetic writing system in Japanese used to represent every distinct sound.

The table represents the entire Hiragana characters organized by the consonant and vowel sounds. Most sounds in Japanese are easily represented by a vowel or consonant-vowel, “chi,” “shi,” “fu,” and “tsu” are the only exceptions as shown in the chart.  There is also one consonant-only sound: “ん”. The above chart also shows the stroke order for Hiragana.

A simplified chart without stroke order is shown below:

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Here are a few sample words in Hiragana:

あう —> to meet

いえ —> house

おい —> nephew

うえ —> above

いう —> to say

Practice writing the hiragana characters to help commit them to memory. You can do this on a blank sheet of paper or here are some easy practice sheets you can print out below.  Make sure you practice the proper stroke order.  It will be helpful to get in the practice before moving on to the more complex Kanji.

Practice sheets: http://japanese-lesson.com/characters/hiragana/hiragana_writing.html