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Kanji Learning Today: Hiragana Intro

Introduction

Tap a link in the Table of Contents below to start practicing hiragana.

Table of Contents

Hiragana Set 1 - Practice Hiragana Set 2 - Practice Hiragana Set 3 - Practice
Hiragana Full Test

Appearance of Online Hiragana

hiragana a

How-to-Use Video

KLT video

Purpose

Hiragana is the foundational system for pronouncing the Japanese language. A firm grasp of hiragana is also necessary for using the Kanji Learning Today products because the kanji readings in the workbooks are given in hiragana to promote correct pronunciation. Only the Year 1 Demo version presents the kanji readings in romaji (English letters) for beginners; from Year 2 onward, the user must read the hiragana to understand the kanji readings.

Hiragana Workbook

Download Kanji Learning Today: Workbook Hiragana for additional practice.

workbook

About Hiragana

In contrast to kanji characters, the hiragana characters have no intrinsic meaning: they are just shapes used to represent sounds. The set of primary syllables used in Japanese is called Go-Juu On (“Fifty Sounds”), and both hiragana and katakana have a character for each of the sounds. A few of the original set have dropped out of regular use, so there are now 46 hiragana characters.

Many of the primary syllables have companion syllables with slightly different consonant sounds (濁音, dakuon), and these sounds are represented by placing small marks (濁点, dakuten) beside the base hiragana. For example, the basic sound ha is represented by the primary hiragana は, while the related syllable ba is represented by ば and the syllable pa is presented as ぱ. The small two small marks used for ば are called 濁り (nigori), but are often referred to informally as 点々 (tenten), and the round mark used with ぱ is called 半濁点 (handakuten), and it is informally referred to as 丸 (maru). In this way, there are actually more than fifty syllables in the language, although the additional sounds relate to the primary Go-Juu On.

Another sound modification technique regularly used in Japanese is a glottal stop 声門閉鎖音 (seimonheisaon). This is represented by a っ, which is the same shape as the hiragana character つ (tsu) but in a smaller size. For more information about pronunciation of Japanese, consult other references such as a language textbook.

Hiragana and Katakana Equivalents

The hiragana and katakana syllabaries are the same: they cover the same 46 syllables. As such, each character in hiragana has a one-to-one correspondence with a syllable in katakana. The reason for having two character sets for the Go-Juu On syllables is simply that hiragana is the main set for representing Japanese readings of words, and katakana is primarily used to present the readings of words that originated outside Japan. Because of the close correspondence between hiragana and katakana, each hiragana character in the Kanji Learning Today learning materials is followed by the katakana equivalent in brackets, to facilitate learning of both character sets.

Acknowledgements

Kanji Learning Today was created by Todd Adkisson. Thanks to Marty Crouch for developing code used in Kanji Learning Today: Online.

Related

Kanji Learning Today: Workbook Hiragana
Kanji Learning Today: Online Katakana
Kanji Learning Today: Online 1 (Demo)

See Kanji Learning Today for all related products.

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