For those new into the world of Japanese, you might not know some basics about the Japanese written language. Just to sum it up, written Japanese is a syllabic based writing system, where every character has a sound associated with it, rather than letters that combine to make sounds like in English.
So for instance, the word for flower is はな (hana). For our language, it consists of f l o w e r, which combine to make the syllables, flow – er. In Japanese, it is two characters that are syllables は, な, ha and na which combine to make はな (hana). Here is a pretty representation done by Amarisl using a Fruits Basket character.
There are three ways Japanese words might show up as well. ひらがな (hiragana) カタカナ (katakana) 漢字 (kanji). While the kana tables have roughly 41 base symbols in each of their table, there are additional kana that are voiced and aspirated ( は ば ぱ ha ba pa) and combinations to create some more sounds such as ひゃ (hya). It might sound complicated compared to only 26 letters to learn, but kana never change the way they’re pronounced like English does. Here is another chart that shows the additional forms via TextFugu!
Long and detailed story short, kanji was brought over from China and adopted into use. Eventually some of those who were valued the kana sounds were broken down to create the two simplified kana tables of 1-4 strokes. While there is also a variety of odd ball kana that shows up here or there, they aren’t as well used, and I wouldn’t worry with it till you run across it.
While I’m sure a lot of you out there are just as glad as me that kana were simplified, they come with the price of learning how to memorize them with less to work with like people use for RTK, so the following resources should hopefully help you out, followed by the way I went about learning.
Stroke Orders and Charts and Informational Resources:
Know of a well documented website or book that explains the history and usage of kana/kanji? Link below!
Stroke Order: TextFugu’s Hiragana chart
Heisig didn’t leave you hanging, his very own, Remembering the Kana
ReadingtheKanji (has option for kana reviewing)
Iknow – has both a review/drill section and a game section, sounds, and stroke orders
Kana Invaders – review game
Many Thing’s Kana games and tests
Play Hiragana – slightly eye killing but for for speed lovers
Youtube Videos of Fun:
Japanese Kana Games:
Also, there is a wealth of Japanese games for children that deal with kana on the web, here are some search terms that can get you far: ひらがなゲーム、カタカナゲーム。
Kodomoclick －this site tests your vocabulary and kana, fun for some easy reviewing
How I Studied Kana
Back when I studied kana, I didn’t know about things like SRS, and I didn’t know about how to make it really easy for you in terms of the various memory aids. Instead, I owned kana, one grueling kana at a time. I made some basic flashcards, with kana on front, sound on back, and flipped through both the front way and the back way. I constantly flipped for about 4 weeks total, wrote the symbols out whenever I could,and began typing up on the internet to start using them.
I can’t say this way is the best, but I don’t have any big issues on remembering them, and I can still write them without much hesitation here two years later, with no real studying to keep my practice up.
Once I did learn about SRS tools, I made an audio clip with the sounds on the front of the card and the symbols on the back. But I found that even then, it was far more beneficial to listen to random strings of Japanese and look it up the old school way, since hearing them in use is better.
Share your story down below! Got a site you use that is awesome?