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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!

November 15th, 2017 at 1:21 am
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So far, so good. I am still following and I like how clear you are.
I do not get however why I cannot hear the final うwhen Lisa pronounces ありがとう

November 8th, 2017 at 9:14 pm
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Hello Tortoise Racer,

Thank you for posting.

It seems the video is working fine with this lesson.

Could you check if you have a free lifetime account? Those who have the free lifetime account can access only up to lesson 3 for free. If you have a basic or premium membership, please let us know which error message you see on the screen. It’d be great if you could send us an email at contactus@JapanesePod101.com so that we can take a look at the issue closely.

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

Tortoise Racer
November 8th, 2017 at 9:33 am
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I can’t play the video. 😕 although I had no problems playing the earlier 3 videos. My phone don’t have another browser. May I know how do I download the video into my device? Can’t find the button.

October 23rd, 2017 at 9:33 pm
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Hi Madeline,

Thank you for posting.

When a video doesn’t stream well, please try to log in with a different browser.

You can also try downloading the video file and watching it with a video player on your device.

If you experience any other technical issues, please send us an email at contactus@JapanesePod101.com

Regarding the flashcards, you can access them here:
(or on the upper menu: [Vocabulary] >[Flashcards]).

Thank you for using JapanesePod101.com!

We hope you’re enjoying our lessons!

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

October 23rd, 2017 at 1:34 pm
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Sorry but the video won’t work and it says that I have flashcards to do but🙀 can’t find flashcards any where

September 13th, 2017 at 6:40 pm
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Thank you for your comments, everyone!

>Hi William,
Each kanji character has some meanings in and of itself, while hiragana and katakana have only sounds.
Mostly hiragana is used as particles or to support kanji. Actually it’s possible to write all sentences in hiragana, but a sentence without kanji might look childish and it’s not easy to read for the Japanese as we don’t use a space between words.

私の名前は美希です。(=Watashi no namae wa Miki desu.)
わたしのなまえはみきです。(=Watashi no namae wa Miki desu.)
Both sentences above have the same reading. Don’t you feel the second one looks flat and non-modulated?

>Hi Abishek,
I think learning both at the same time works well. Why don’t you learn the reading and pronunciation of Hiragana first and memorize some words written in Hiragana and read them aloud?
The following video might help you to learn all Hiragana letters.

Keep studying with JapanesePod101.com
Team JapanesePod101.com

September 3rd, 2017 at 8:40 am
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i have a question should i learn to speak or write first

August 30th, 2017 at 6:01 pm
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Hi,just wanted thank you guys,these videos really helped clear up some things.But i am still wondering,why is kanji still used?They said it in the video,you could us hiragana,so…why not?I do not know if i am going to get a answer,but thank you again,realy looking forward to learning the language.

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