Read and write Japanese Scripts.

Do you know that Japanese people cannot understand the Chinese kanji symbols used today? So do Chinese people.

learn japanese

Learning to read and write Japanese is both and achievable challenge and a hugely satisfying skill to master.

The first European visitors to Japan is the 16th century called the Japanese language "the devil's tongue",

but one of aimis of this website is to convince you that this is sipmly not the case.

So what are the Japanese scripts, and how they develop?

Let's look at this in more detail! Are You Ready?


A brief history of Japanese langauge

Chinese kanji symbols to Japanese kanji symbols

The Japanese writing system was introduced into Japan by the Chinese around the middle of the 6th century AD.

But, the Chinese language is very different to Japanese in strcuture.

Sometimes, I am asked to translate the Chinese kanji symbols into English, but it is quite hard to understand what they even though I can read Kanji synbols.

Because Japanese kanji symbols and Chinese kanji symbols are different in structure and also the meaning too.


Unlike the Chinese kanji writing system, we use three different scripts to write.

These three Japanese scripts make up the Japanese writing system (actually, nowadays it is four as you can include romaji or roman scripts, in other words, the Western alphabet)


The most popular design - Kanji scripts


Kan is an ancient word meanig "Chinese" and "ji" means "letter" or character, hence kanji is translated as Chinese characters.

Yes, the Chiense kanji symbols and the Japanese kanji symbols are totally different and Japanese people cannot understnad what the Chiense kanji symbols says, and either Chinese people too.

Kanji are ideographs: this means that the whole character conveys a meaning or idea (whereas in the roman alphabet system, letters are grouped together to make words)

Kanji were originally drawn from pictuures of nature and gradually develpepd into the standardized kanji used today.

For example, 日 is the kanji for "sun", the 木 is the kanji for "Tree" and they are develped like this:

Sample of kanji symbols

You can learn more about the kanji scripts in the kanji symbols sections.



What is Kana?


The other wto scirpts in the Japanese writing system are called hiragana and katakana and are known collrectively as kana.

The are phonetic alphabets or syllabaries, which means that each symbol represents one sound only.

Thiss differs form the roman alphabet system, which letters are grouped into sounds and where the same letter can be pronouced in different ways depening on its grouping (e.g. "a" in "rat", "rate", "far" and "fare").

In English, the word "house" is made up of five letters: H-O-U-S-E.

In Japanese, the word for "house" (uchi) is made up of two sounds, U-Chi.


46 hiragana symbols

The hiragana scripts and katakana scripts represent the same set of 46 basci sounds, but symbols are wirtten differently, and the two scripts are used for different purposes.


The first script Japanese children learn - Hiragna symbols

Hiragana symbols

The word "hiragana" means "rounded/easy to use and indicate both the shape and the relative simplicity of the script.

Each symbol was develped from symplified kanji with the same pronunciation.

For example, the hiragana symbol か (ka) is a simplied version of the kanji 加 (pronouced ka).

The left side remains very similiar in the hiragana symbols, the right-side box has been reduced to a slanting line.


Hiragana is used to write the grammatical parts of words and sentence and to write Japanese words which don' have kanji.

You know, Japanese children learn hiragana first and then gradually replace words and parts of with kanji as they progress.


Hiragana is also used to indicate how to pronouce a kanji when it is first learned or if it is unusual.

When used in this way, it is called Furigana and is written beside or above the kanji as shown above.

For more information, please see the learn Hiragana section.



Used often when writting English name - Katakana scripts

Katakana symbols

The kata of katakana means "partial"; this is because each katakana symbols was develped from part of a kanji with the same pronuncition.

For example, the katakana symbol カ (ka) comes form the left side of the kanji, 加 (pronounced ka).

Katakana scripts represents the same set of sounds as hiragana, but the symbols are written differently and are used for different purposes.

In overall appearance, hiragana symbols are rounded in shape and katakana symbols are more angular.


Katakana has number of uses.

Firstly it is used for writing non Japanese words whic have been introduced into language.

So if you ask Japanese people to write your English name, the normally used katakana scripts to write, although we can use kanji or hiragana scripts as well.

For more information, please see the learn Katakana section.


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