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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 46 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!