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Lesson Transcript

Welcome to Introduction to Japanese.
My name is Alisha and I'm joined by...
Hi everyone.
I'm Risa!
In *this* lesson, you'll learn the basics of Japanese writing.
The Basics.
In English, we use *one* script – the English Alphabet, to write in English.
To write in *Japanese* however, you will need to use three different scripts together.
And they are:
- ひらがな
- カタカナ
- and 漢字
ひらがな, is like the basic Japanese alphabet.
Instead of 26 letters however, we have 48 characters.
Each character represents one syllable.
These five characters, for example, represent the five vowels in Japanese.
All other characters except for one, are made up of a consonant and one of these vowels.
And so on.
カタカナ is almost *exactly* the same as ひらがな, the only difference is that it's written a little differently.
ひらがな is more cursive, while カタカナ has a lot of sharp corners.
The final script is 漢字
Kanji is the use of *Chinese* characters, in *Japanese* writing.
And this is because Japanese writing *actually* originated from China.
A long time ago Japan *only* used Chinese characters.
Today, we use all three scripts together to write Japanese.
Unlike ひらがな and カタカナ though, 漢字 is nothing like an alphabet.
Kanji characters are a special type of character that represents an idea or concept. They act more like entire words than individual letters. And unlike the alphabet, there are thousands and thousands of Kanji characters.
Not to mention, there are many different ways you can read them too. So the pronunciation actually changes according to the context.
OK. Now you know that there are three different scripts used to write Japanese, but *why* is this the case? Let's look at each script in a little more detail.
You can think of ひらがな as the default script used to write most things in Japanese.
It's the most common of the three scripts because it's used to write functional words, including most grammatical particles, such as possessive...
as a subject marker...
And it can also be used to write words that lack a kanji rendition, or whose kanji is obscure, or considered too difficult for the reader to understand.
Additionally, it's used as inflectional endings for adjectives and verbs together with kanji.
In theory, you could use this script to write everything in Japanese.
For this reason, it's generally best to learn ひらがな first.
We mentioned before that カタカナ is *exactly* the same as ひらがな、the only difference is that it looks slightly different.
This is the least common of the three scripts because it's used to write foreign words and names...
and onomatopoeic sounds...
It's common to learn カタカナ *after* you learn ひらがな because of their similarities.
The final script is kanji, which is undoubtedly the hardest one of all to learn.
Kanji is used to write most words of native Japanese, or of historically Chinese origin. This includes most nouns...
the stems of most verbs and adjectives...
and most personal and place names...
Learning kanji may be difficult since there are thousands and thousands of them. They are, however, an integral part of Japanese writing.
OK. Let's wrap up this lesson by recapping what we've learned.
In this lesson, you learned that there are three different scripts used to write Japanese.
ひらがな is the most common, and it's used to write functional words and particles.
カタカナ is used to write foreign words and names.
And 漢字 is used to write native Japanese words, or words of Chinese origin.
We've covered the very *basics* of Japanese writing.
Check out our 簡単かな series to learn the ひらがな and カタカナ scripts that we talked about in this lesson.
And check out our 'Introduction to Kanji' series, where we teach you the quickest and most effective way to tackle learning kanji!
In the next lesson, you'll be entering Japanese boot camp, where you'll learn useful beginner phrases to get you speaking Japanese right away!
See you in the next lesson. Bye!


Please to leave a comment.
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Friday at 6:30 pm
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Did you like this video? Please leave us a comment!

August 3rd, 2017 at 9:56 pm
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Hi German,

Sorry for the late reply!

One step at a time😉

You can start with Hiragana and then Katakana:

After you master them it’s time for Kanji😄
Please go here http://www.japanesepod101.com/kanji to get your FREE PDF book to easily master 1500 Kanji with the most efficient approach.

Ganbatte kudasai😉
And if you have any questions, we’re here to help.

Cristiane (クリスチアネ)
Team Japanesepod101.com

August 1st, 2017 at 2:21 am
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Hi Paige,

Thank you for posting.

Please do!😄

Have you already checked out our special Hiragana & Katakana video series:

Let us know if you have any questions.

Cristiane (クリスチアネ)
Team Japanesepod101.com

July 31st, 2017 at 11:56 pm
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Awesome! I will be sure to start learning Hiragana right away!

July 31st, 2017 at 10:56 am
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Emily san,
Basically katanaka is used for words from oversea which means are not Japanese original words.
Hiragana is often used for particles, copula verbs, honorific expressions and so on.
I am sorry I don’t get you very much.
Could you please tell me more details?😴
Yuki 由紀
Team JapanesePod101.com

July 26th, 2017 at 8:11 pm
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Hi Jared,

Thank you for your message.

The current lesson is an introduction to Japanese Writing. However, you can study each Japanese script (hiragana, katakana, and kanji) at your own pace and in more detail:

To get started with hiragana and katakana, we suggest this awesome series that will help you remember all the characters in few hours: https://www.japanesepod101.com/category/how-to-write-in-japanese-hiragana-and-katakana/

Also, please make sure to download our FREE kana practice worksheet here: http://www.japanesepod101.com/japanese-alphabet/

To learn Kanji, go here http://www.japanesepod101.com/kanji to get your FREE PDF book to easily master 1500 Kanji with the most efficient approach.

Hope it helps! Let us know if you have any other questions.😉

Cristiane (クリスチアネ)
Team Japanesepod101.com

July 26th, 2017 at 3:09 pm
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You said this is more easy than it looks
This is harder than I thought
It all went too fast and no way to practice.
All lessons are labeled basic things like numbers, you do not even teach us how to construct words or tell us why we cannot simply construct words that can be easily translated into English.
And I am trying to learn because there is only one job in the entire city that would hire me if I can learn Japanese

July 16th, 2017 at 10:19 pm
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Hi Alan,

Great to know that you’re enjoying our website!

Please stay tuned! Every week we’ll have new lessons for you!

Thank you for your message. Our team will soon give you a reply.


Cristiane (クリスチアネ)
Team Japanesepod101.com

July 15th, 2017 at 3:17 am
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So far I have watched the first 4 videos and they are great. Very simple and explained in a way that I can understand. Looking forward to watching more lessons

July 14th, 2017 at 4:54 am
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I found to be hard but slightly easy to understand. I know that Hiragana and katakana are very important, but I’m confused when people say you can combine 2 to make a word. I’m not that good at explaining but hopefully I made sense.

July 10th, 2017 at 9:42 pm
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Hi Ellen,

The Japanese language and its 3 different systems may seem intimidating at first, however please do not worry as you, alongside the rest of our customers are more than capable of learning them. The hiragana and katana systems follow the same properties/rules, therefore learning one will make the other a much easier learning process. In terms of Kanji, you will be memorising very simple characters at first and then gradually progress to more complex ones. It is a gradual learning process and as you learn each kanji one by one, you will be able to read and write hundreds of characters in no time!

Thank you for your comment!

Team JapanesePod101.com