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Which Japanese alphabet should I learn first?


Japanese is a fascinating language, and its writing system is no exception. However, it can be overwhelming to start learning Japanese, especially when faced with the decision of which alphabet to tackle first. In this article, we’ll explore the two Japanese alphabets and help you decide which one to learn first.

What are the two Japanese alphabets?

The Japanese writing system consists of two alphabets: Hiragana and Katakana. Hiragana is used for writing native Japanese words while Katakana is used for writing foreign words and onomatopoeic expressions. Both alphabets consist of 46 characters each, which can seem daunting at first.

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Hiragana: The Basics

Hiragana is a phonetic alphabet and is the first alphabet that Japanese children learn. It has a curvy and flowing appearance and is used in everyday writing. Hiragana is essential to learn if you want to read and write Japanese properly.

Katakana: The Basics

Katakana is a more angular and boxy-looking alphabet, often used for emphasis or to differentiate from hiragana in text. It’s used mainly for foreign loanwords, but also for scientific names as well as onomatopoeic words. Katakana is an excellent choice to learn first if you plan on studying science or technology in Japan.

Hiragana vs Katakana: Which One to Learn First?

While both alphabets are essential to learn, Hiragana should be learned before Katakana. This is because it’s used more frequently in everyday writing and reading. Without hiragana knowledge, it’s hard to read or write any Japanese sentence correctly.

How to Learn Hiragana

Learning Hiragana is easy, and there are many resources available. You can start with basic charts, flashcards, or even mobile apps that gamify the learning process. The key is to be consistent and practice daily.

How to Learn Katakana

Katakana is also easy to learn, but it’s essential to have a good grasp of Hiragana first as many Katakana characters look similar to Hiragana characters. Once you have mastered Hiragana, learning Katakana will be a breeze.

Why Learning Both Alphabets is Essential

While it’s possible to read some Japanese texts using only one alphabet, mastering both alphabets is essential for becoming proficient in the language. Knowing both alphabets will allow you to read and write Japanese correctly and appreciate the nuances of the language.

Choosing the Right Method for Learning

There are many resources available for learning both alphabets, ranging from textbooks to online courses. It’s essential to choose a method that suits your learning style and pace. Some people find it helpful to learn with a tutor or in a class setting, while others prefer self-study.

The Benefits of Learning Japanese Alphabet Early

Learning the Japanese alphabet early on in your language learning journey will help you build a strong foundation for your studies. It will also enable you to read and write simple sentences quickly, which can be very motivating. Knowing both alphabets will also make it easier for you to learn Kanji, which is an essential part of Japanese writing.

The Importance of Consistency

Consistency is key when learning any new skill, and this applies to learning Japanese too. It’s better to study for short periods every day than for longer periods once or twice a week. This will help you retain information better and progress faster.


Learning the Japanese alphabet is an essential part of mastering the language. Hiragana should be learned first, followed by Katakana. There are many resources available to help you learn both alphabets, and it’s essential to choose a method that suits your learning style and pace. Consistency is key, and with dedication and practice, you’ll be reading and writing Japanese in no time!

When learning Japanese which alphabet should you start?

Learning Japanese requires mastery of multiple alphabets, including Hiragana, Kanji, and Katakana, but Hiragana is the most suitable for beginners as it provides the foundation for written Japanese. Hiragana is the simplest of the three and is the starting point for learning Japanese script.

What order should I learn Japanese?

It is recommended to begin learning hiragana before tackling katakana and kanji. Hiragana has a cursive appearance and is primarily used for writing Japanese words, verb endings, and grammar particles. There are 46 hiragana characters, each representing a syllable.

What Japanese alphabet is most used?

Hiragana is the standard form of written Japanese, which is commonly used and taught to children as their first writing system. It is usually combined with kanji to form words and can be challenging to read on its own without kanji. Its standalone form is reminiscent of child-like writing and requires some effort to read.

Should I learn kanji or katakana first?

The recommended order for learning Japanese writing systems is to start with Hiragana, followed by Katakana, and then finally Kanji.

Should I use hiragana or katakana?

Hiragana characters are primarily used for particles and grammatical components like verb, adjective, and adverb endings. They are also utilized for writing certain words when the kanji is too complex or rare. Katakana characters are commonly used for foreign words, technical jargon, and sound effects.

Is hiragana easier than kanji?

Hiragana is easier to use and write than kanji. Hiragana characters are phonetic and require fewer strokes to write compared to kanji, which represent different concepts.

Using Hiragana and Katakana in Combination

Once you have mastered both alphabets, you can start using them in combination to read and write Japanese with ease. Japanese texts usually include a mixture of Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana. This combination allows for more flexibility in writing and can convey various nuances that are unique to the language.

The Role of Kanji in Japanese Writing

Kanji is a set of Chinese characters that are used in Japanese writing. Learning Kanji can be challenging, but it’s essential if you want to read and write advanced Japanese texts. Kanji represents words, ideas, and concepts through visual symbols, making it a crucial part of the language.

Tips for Learning Japanese Alphabets

Learning the Japanese alphabets can be challenging, but there are some tips that can help you along the way. One tip is to practice writing the characters repeatedly until they become ingrained in your memory. Another tip is to use mnemonic devices to help remember the characters, such as associating them with pictures or stories.

The Importance of Pronunciation

Pronunciation is crucial in Japanese since it is a phonetic language. It’s essential to understand the correct pronunciation of each character to read and speak Japanese correctly. Listening to native speakers and practicing speaking out loud can help improve your pronunciation skills.

The Benefits of Learning Japanese

Finally, learning Japanese offers many benefits beyond just being able to read and write in the language. Japan is a vibrant country with a rich history and culture, and learning the language can allow you to appreciate its unique features on a deeper level. Additionally, knowing Japanese can open up career opportunities in various fields such as technology, tourism, and education.

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