Complete guide for learning hiragana and katakana

What are kana in Japanese ?

What are kana ?
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The Japanese language uses two main alphabets, the kana (仮名) and the kanji (漢字). The kana are syllabic whereas kanji are idiomatic. One would use kana in order to write words by syllabs and kanji for expressing concepts insteads. Kana are composed by two sub-alphabets : the hiragana (平仮名) and the katakana (片仮名). A Japanese learner would better start memorizing kana before starting any grammar lesson. Finally, kana can be transcripted in Roman characters, also commonly mentionned as romaji (ローマ字). Romaji are often seen as a good alternative alphabet for beginners, but one shall use it only temporarly if he or she wants to record progress in his or her language acquisition process.

When do we use hiragana and katakana ?
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  • For hiragana : used mainly when writing common words (nouns, verbs, adverbs etc..). Hiragana are also often associated with kanji.
  • For katakana : used mainly when writing words created from foreign languages (often English, German, French) and neologisms, family names, country names, onomatopoeia.

How many characters has the Japanese language ?
how many characters in japanese

Both hiragana and katakana alphabets or syllabaries contain 46 basic characters. When including diacritics (variation of syllabs due to an accent, a cedilla or by associating several character together), the number can increase up to 71 characters.

Where to start from ?
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JLPTMatome provides to Japanese learners two interactive guides for learning hiragana and katakana. Scroll down the screen and click on the below buttons for either learning kana either for testing your knowledge with a randomized knowledge quiz platform. The platform would help you not only to learn how to read and pronunce each character, but also to memorize a short list of basic words that could be used in daily life.

Learn hiragana Japanese beginner

Learn katakana Japanese beginner

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