I am an absolute beginner and was wondering.... How the heck do you memorize Hiragana? I mean- there are so many and they all look so similar, I just do not know where to start... If someone can help me it would be greatly appreciated! Arigatō!
I think the trick is to practice writing - trying to do it by just reading will probably overwhelm you. I have an Android app for it, where I just draw the hiragana on the screen. It has three types of writing practice - one where you follow the strokes that are displayed on the screen, one where you are shown the start points of the strokes, but not the strokes themselves, and one where you are shown nothing and have to just write it from memory. Then at the end it shows you your score. Using that technique, I learned all the hiragana in about two weeks (although I still made some mistakes for a while, like confusing な and た, but that went away with more practice).
The app I used is called Hiragana - Learn Japanese by Legendarya/Imaginactiva. If you find the writing too difficult, it also has exercises to choose the right hiragana given the romaji and spoken Japanese, or to write the romaji given the hiragana. It's a pretty good app, especially for the price (free). I don't know what options are available for iOS (though I'm sure there's something), and if you don't have a smartphone or tablet, obviously you'll need a different technique.
Even if you do use that technique, you'll still have to come up with some tricks for remembering some of them. For instance, ち and さ look very similar. To remember which one is which, I think of the shape of the word ちいさい, and then I know that the first one is 'chi' and the second one is 'sa'.
Hope that helps, 小狼
BTW: While I definitely wouldn't recommend looking into it too deeply for a beginner (unless you're really interested), knowing the origin of hiragana and katakana does help them "make sense". Kana are ultimately derived from kanji. Writing was introduced to Japan by China, and was originally written with Chinese characters. Over time, a Japanese syllabary called man'yogana was devised. This was essentially writing kanji, but having them represent the sound (or beginning of the sound) of the word they originally represented, while ignoring the meaning (much like ateji in modern Japanese). This was called man'yogana because it was used in the famous Japanese ancient text called the Man'yoshū. After a while, hiragana and katakana were developed. Hiragana was originally a simplified form of man'yogana intended for use in personal writings like diaries and so forth, while katakana was originally a shorthand form of man'yogana developed by Buddhist monks where only parts of the character were written to speed up writing (the word 'katakana' literally means "partial kana"). But like I say, learning kana that way isn't really practical (not least because you need to learn kanji first!), so it's only really something to look at out of interest once you already know the kana.
i started learning hiragana and katakana before i even started learning the language itself. After getting them all right i started to learn vocabs and grammar stuff. Doing it this way really helped a lot, cause you are able to read simple japanese texts in hiragana/katakane from the get go and can use this as a constant way to help you remember them.
As for learning them i used a pretty simple method. I did 5 hiragana/katakana every day (which is, to be precise a row like はへひふほ) and so on. I actually wrote them on paper. For the first memorizing step i wrote every sound like 50 to 100 times repeating the sound by speaking it out loud(helps you also to get the hang for the right pronounciation) while writing it. I did this for every 5 sounds. After that i made flash cards for every sound learned on that day. The next day i continued with the next row. Repeating the ones learning so far before starting to learn new sounds and after i finished my new learning session. When i finallly finished learning all hiragana sounds i may have written each sound like up to roughly 1000 times.
I then did the same thing for the katakana while still repeating the hiragana in the meantime. Doing it like this took my 3-4 Weeks, i dont really remember the exact time anymore.
When starting to finally learn the language i was able to read everything without making any mistakes.
Im doing almost the same thing with Kanji right now. I manage to learn 1-3 Kanji every day (depending on how complex they are and how much readings they do have).
This may be a somewhat stupid (and you may think boring approach) but for me it actually works really really well.
Tl;dr: Repeat, repeat and repeat speak, write, repeat repeat speak write and so on ^^
小狼さん wrote:I think the trick is to practice writing ...
adelholtz wrote:As for learning them i used a pretty simple method ... I actually wrote them on paper
And I agree: learning the the kana by writing them is quick and effective.
The method I used was to follow the JapanesePod101 Kantan Kana video series. It covers hiragana and katakana. I did the whole series over one weekend. After that I wrote them out several times a day while saying the sounds, very much like adeholtz says, for three or four weeks to make sure I didn't forget them again.
I think it's important to learn the correct way to do the handwritten kana style: it's not the same as the standard printed style. When you know the handwritten style it's much easier to read stylised printed fonts. Here's a page from a Yotsuba-to manga: Yotsuba's speech is in a bold, stylised font and the speech in the middle row uses handwritten characters. As you can see, these look noticeably different to the standard text-book kana style.
Write them down on a big sheet of paper and hang it up somewhere where you can see it a lot or in the bathroom.Imagine some stories with each of them. Make flashcards and review them at least 3 times a day. Exercise yourself to visualize them by reciting あ、い、う、え、お、か、き、く、け、こ etc. and do that during times you have nothing to do on the bus or waiting for something. Write them down every day. Now, hiragana and katagana are the easy part, the kanjis will get a lot more difficult to remember.
Just wanted to throw my 2 cents in, and say I absolutely agree with all the study tips already said here. I'm new as well and the way I did it was learn 5 a day using the videos here on this website.
After she would show the stroke order to write one, I paused the video on the kana, and would first write the romanji for it at the top of the page ("a" for あ, also consider writing how it sounds for pronunciation, in this case 'ah') and then write the character at least 20-40 times on a page of paper. I didn't worry about it looking absolutely perfect, instead I would write it as 'naturally' as I could while still writing it properly.
Afterwards I would circle the ones I felt were my best; which I felt help me memorize the way I should I write them (I'm a very visual thinker).
The next day I moved onto the next video with the next five and repeated it, only this time after I was done writing these new 5 characters 20-40 times, I would write all the ones I previously learned from memory (without checking back how they are drawn) along with the new ones I learned this day on a new piece of paper once in a row. While also writing the romanji above each character (ex: write 'su' above す). I would then check to make sure I wrote them all correctly. If I messed up on one I would write that one out 20-40 times again like I did the first time.
Also, throughout he day whenever I had free time, I would take a moment and write every character I memorized so far in a row. (Don't forget to write the romanji above each one to help remember the sound of the character.)
Before I knew it I was drawing over half of the hiragana characters from memory. Then eventually all of them. It took about a week doing only 5 at a time, so it was a bit of a slower method, but I felt like it paid off in the long term because they were very much ingrained in my head.
Also consider taking up typing in hiragana. It was a lot of fun to me and since you type in romanji you can start right away. Just make sure you are actually focusing on the characters it converts the romanji into, don't want romanji to be a 'crutch', otherwise you are back to not being able to read it and only type it! However, this is completely optional and the writing plan I did was what made me really memorize hiragana.
Hope this helps and keep up the great work!
EDIT: Oh and above all, make sure you say the sound of the character out loud each time you write it. This helps a ton imo. I recommend checking out videos on how to pronounce the 'r' sound, as well as the 'tsu' sound, better to make sure you have it down right from the start.
There is also a website that I found where all the hiragana are mixed up and you have to orginize them in the correct order. I'm still trying to memorize all of them, but it certainly helps. Here is the link. Hope this helps. http://www.csus.edu/indiv/s/sheaa/proje ... timer.html
Start off by memorizing 5-10 flashcards a week or day depending on how well it goes. Practice writing them and repeat. When You get to the end you will begin the whole flash card set since you will most likely have forgotten a bit. Repeat the flashcard deck daily for a good amount of time. You may try to beging writing all of them out from memory as well. Doing all of this allows you to not only learn them, but get where you can remember and recognize them very quickly.
Writing each one alot will allow you to write them like your native handwriting fluency. It is all about repitition.
I think writing Hiragana correctly is also very important. I was in the upper level at a Japanese Language School and my teacher gave me papers to practice Hiragana. I had been studying at that school for 6 months, wrote essays numerous times and one day a teacher told me to practice Hiragana like a newbie! She said I wrote many characters the wrong way. I told an American friend of mine about that and she said she was told to do the same, even though she was one level higher than mine. So I have a question I'd like to ask Japanesepod101's staff: Do Japanese people really think foreigners write Hiragana in a terrible way?
konnichiwa. It often happens in Japan. It’s said that writing letters and characters represents the person’s personality in Japan. If you can’t write hiragana, katakana and kanji correctly, it indicates distortion. At primary schools in Japan if you draw a line at an angle in a test, which is supposed to be straight, you will get mark deduction. Teachers really care about the balance, too. I think that is the Japanese culture.