Japanese isn’t as hard to learn as you might think – most sounds are similar to English and they are pronounced consistently. There are no genders, plurals or articles, and verbs stay the same whether “I” or “she” is doing it. However, reading and writing in Japanese can be difficult because it uses a completely different writing system!
Japanese is written in a combination of three scripts:
- hiragana “Japan”= にほん=ni.ho.n ( used for grammar and words for which there are no Kanji, each symbol = one sound)
- katakana “Japan”= ニホン=ni.ho.n (used for emphasis, foreign names and “loan words” . each symbol = one sound.)
- Kanji “Japan”=日本＝ni.ho.n (each symbol = an idea and can be pronounced different ways depending like日 for “ni” means sun and 本 for “hon” means “origin”.
- There are five basic vowel sounds in Japanese: a, i, u, e and o. They are similar to the following English sounds, but keep them short and crisp.
a –> ah, i –> eat, u –> too, e –> head, o –> hot
- There are also long vowel sounds: a‾ , e‾ , u‾, e‾ and o‾. These sounds are pronounced like the basic vowels, just hold them for twice as long!