Duolingo Japanese Walkthrough Part 1 Hiragana

Duolingo Japanese Walkthrough, Part 1

Hiragana (1 - 4)

Welcome to the first step in becoming fluent in Japanese using Duolingo and Jappon! In this post, I cover the entire Hiragana section within Duolingo. This stage covers a lot! I still feel unsure at times when reading. However, when I sit back and think of all the characters I can now read compared to when first opening the app... Its an insane difference!

Let's get into the review now, shall we? This post covers a lot so please feel free to come back and take it section by section to avoid getting overwhelmed.

FIRST OFF, WHAT IS HIRAGANA?

Hiragana is the Japanese writing system used to write native Japanese words. Learning Hiragana is essential if you want to read, write, or pronounce Japanese properly. I am glad to see Duolingo begins by getting us familiar with Hiragana right from the start! As we now continue working through the rest of the program we can practice reading these characters over and over. Before you know it you will be a master!

Let's now dig into exactly what you will learn within each section of Duolingo, or if you have already worked through them all. Here is your chance to review and test if you truly know your Hiragana!

HIRAGANA ONE

JAPANESE WRITING SYSTEMS.

This section begins by stating the fact that the Japanese use three writing systems.

  1. Hiragana - consisting of all the basic Japanese syllables.
  2. Katakana - used to write foreign words such as… フライドポテト (fried potato).
  3. Kanji - the first writing system to ever exist in Japan! These symbols require a great deal of study to master.
  4. * Romaji - is when English lettering is used to write Japanese words.

HIRAGANA VOWELS.

In Hiragana, each character represents an entire syllable. Not just the individual sound of a letter such as in English. Also in most cases, the vowels are all the same throughout each group of characters...

HiraganaRomajiPronunciation
aah
iee
uoo
eeh
ooh

CHARACTER GROUPS.

Hiragana mainly consists of 8 groups of characters (a, ka, sa, ta, na, ha, ma, ra) with of course some extras. Each group is pronounced very similarly, just place the group's letter in front of the vowels listed above and cycle through. For example, take a look at the ka group below.

(A) Hiragana(A) Romaji(KA) Hiragana(KA) Romaji
ak-a
ik-i
uk-u
ek-e
ok-o

SECTION REVIEW, PRACTICE.

That's the basic overview Hiragana and how it works. See the table below to practice reading a few simple words written in Hiragana.

EnglishHiraganaRomaji
oneいちi-chi
twoni
threeさんsa-n
blueあおa-o
whiteしろshi-ro
blackくろku-ro
redあかa-ka
yesはいha-i
noいいえi-i-e

HIRAGANA TWO

More characters are now introduced while focusing on the pronunciation as well. I am not sure if I should be ashamed, but the favorite thing I had learned was how to write sushi (すし) in Hiragana! It felt AWESOME!

Refer to the tips section within the app itself for audio samples of pronunciations to listen to. I will also type out some common words below from this section as a way to practice reading.

SECTION REVIEW, PRACTICE.

See the table below to review simple words for practice reading. Readout loud if you dare...

EnglishHiraganaRomaji
Sushiすしsu-shi
Teriyakiてりやきte-ri-ya-ki
Alcoholおさけo-sa-ke
Sweetあまいa-ma-i
Wantほしいいho-shi-i-i
Likeすきsu-ki
Readよむyo-mu
Nightよるyo-ru
Drinkのむno-mu
Wearきるki-ru
Iわたしwa-ta-shi
Helloこんにちはko-n-ni-chi-wa

HIRAGANA THREE

By the time you make it through the Hiragana three section, you have covered all the basic Hiragana characters! Including the following groups of characters, a, ka, sa, na, ma, ta, ra, and ha. This section focuses highly on repetition, which is quite helpful!

SECTION REVIEW, PRACTICE.

See the table below to review all the Hiragana characters.

AKaSaTaNaHaMaRaOther

ah

ka

sa

ta

na
*は
ha, wa

ma

ra

yah

i

ki

shi

chi

ni

hi

mi

ri

yu

u

ku

su

tsu

nu

fu

mu

ru

yo

e

ke

se

te

ne

he

me

re

wa

o

ko

so

to

no

ho

mo

ro

wo

n

* は - is always pronounced as (wa) when in particle form.

HIRAGANA FOUR

Finally, we arrive at Hiragana four. This section enlightens us on the marking systems within Hiragana (Dakuten and Handakuten). Opening up a vast new set of sounds and characters. Don't worry it's a simple modification to read and write.

DAKUTEN.

It appears as two small lines on the top right of characters. When you see this marking it simply makes the following modifications to the listed groups of characters. For example, looking at the top example, ka becomes ga. This repeats for all the characters within this group, K simply becomes a G.

HiraganaDakuten
か(ka), き(ki), く(ku), け(ke), こ(ko)が(ga), ぎ(gi), ぐ(gu), げ(ge), ご(go)
さ(sa), し(shi), す(su), せ(se), そ(so)ざ(za), じ(ji), ず(zu), ぜ(ze), ぞ(zo)
た(ta), ち(chi), つ(tsu), て(te), と(to)だ (da), ぢ(ji), づ(zu), で(de), ど(do)
は(ha), ひ(he), ふ(hu), へ(he), ほ(ho)ば (ba), び(bu), ぶ(bu), べ(be), ぼ(bo)
* し (shi)じ (ji)
* つ (tsu)づ (zu)

HANDAKUTEN.

The next marking we come across is a small circle seen on the top right corner. This is only used on the H sounds such as ha, hi, hu/fu, he, ho. When you see this marking it changes the H sound to a P sound.

HiraganaHandakuten
は (ha)ぱ (pa)
ひ (hi)ぴ (pi)
ふ (fu)ぷ (pu)
へ (he)ぺ (pe)
ほ (ho)ぽ (po)

SMALL FORM CHARACTERS.

When you see a small Hiragana character placed between regular-sized characters it changes the way you read the word. Either by extending or combining syllables. Take a look at how this works below.

SMALL TSU (っ).

The small tsu (っ) extends the sound of the character directly after it. At first, this may sound like a subtle difference when heard spoken, but pay attention as these subtle differences can make a huge difference in what you are saying. For better or for worse. Take a look at the following example to see how this works. Using the word kippu, meaning ticket. As you will see the small tsu doubles the hold of the P sound of the ぷ (pu) character.

With small (tsu)Without small (tsu)
きっぷ (ki-p-pu)きぷ (ki-pu)

YA, YU, YO, COMBINING SYLLABLES.

Next is the combination of the small ya (や), yu (ゆ), and yo (よ) with other characters. This one is hard to explain but easy to demonstrate. When you see a regular character followed by a small ya (や), yu (ゆ), or yo (よ) it merges these syllables to one. Take a look at the following example to see what I mean using the word Kyo (today).

Two SyllablesOne Syllable
きよ(ki-yo)きょ(kyo)

Written as きよ both characters full size, this would be pronounced as ki-yo. Each character pronounced as one individual syllable. Which is wrong... All the character's sounds are supposed to blend in the space of one syllable (kyo). By writing the yo (よ) in small form as in our example きょ (kyo). We successfully have combined these characters to one syllable. Got it?

SECTION REVIEW, PRACTICE.

This was a big section, all characters, and new modifications! But hey, we can handle it right!? Keep in mind that even though this may seem like a lot, to begin with. You will be exposed to these characters consistently moving forward through the app. Before you know it, this will all come naturally. You're smarter than you think you know 🙂

PRACTICE TIPS

Hiragana is a massive subject that develops over time. Naturally, your reading skills should be pretty good by now. However, if I was to put a blank page in front of you could you write them all out Nothing against you here but I doubt it...

HOW TO GET BETTER AT HIRAGANA.

  • Dedicate a portion of your practice time to writing practice.
  • Lookup the proper stroke order of each character.
  • Try using an app such as RoboKana to practice, not only does it teach you the stroke orders it also saves a ton of paper!
  • Practice writing words you are currently learning.
  • Use the worksheets we have provided you for practice.

JAPANESE GUIDE BONUS TIPS.

Q1: What are Easy beginner mangas to read to get familiar with Hiragana?

A: Yotsubato (よつばと). It's very easy to read and does not have a lot of text.

Q2: What are good Japanese movies to watch as a beginner with subtitles?

A: Japanese Movie,

Totoro (Ghibli). It's a movie that can be enjoyed by all types of people.

A: Japanese Anime,

Nichijou. It's pretty fun!

MOTIVATION TIP, WRITE FUN WORDS!

  • Enjoy writing Hiragana.
  • Learn new vocabulary.
  • Practice using random characters.

 

MORE DUOLINGO GUIDES

Access the step by step guide of Duolingo Japanese.

COMING UP NEXT - INTRO ONE.

Leave your comments, or questions below. Also please share this series with anyone else you know trying to learn Japanese. The more community we build, the more support we all can share.

Arigatou Gozaimasu (ありがとうございます) for reading!

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