Me Know No Nihongo - Part 1 - Learning Hiragana & Katakana

Welcome to the first post of the "Me Know No Nihongo" series. In this series of posts I'll simply be going over some of my Japanese language learning - primarily using the textbook "Minna No Nihongo". I am by no means an expert when it comes to the Japanese language, in fact I am pretty far from that! Essentially I intend to use this series of posts as a means of revision for myself and to perhaps help some other learners out there that are using Minna No Nihongo. Even if you are using a different textbook, hopefully you can find something useful in my posts. I will outline and share various learning tools and methods that have helped me personally. This will include many free or cheap resources that are readily available, and also some that I have created myself. I will rarely ever delve into the concepts - for the most part I will just be providing resources and learning techniques. (Yes, "Me Know No Nihongo" is a dumb play on "Minna No Nihongo")

Part 1 - Learning Hiragana & Katakana

You may already know that written Japanese is split into Hiragana, Katakana, Kanji and Romaji. Hiragana and Katakana are the "Kana". These are essentially the phonetic alphabets in Japanese (technically they aren't alphabets but I won't go into that). You will need to learn how to read, write and pronounce all of the characters. It is a lot easier than it first seems. It won't take you very long to conquer.

I would first recommend getting an app called "Dr Moku". The developers claim with this app you can "Learn Hiragana and Katakana IN ONE HOUR with mnemonic tricks!". It certainly took me a longer than an hour to learn all of the Hiragana and Katakana properly, but maybe it will only take you an hour. I found this app to be very helpful when starting out.

I'd recommend doing drills as often as possible using an app called Kana Mind.

You can practice your actual writing/stroke order using an app called Kana Writing. This works really well if you have a tablet or phone that you can comfortably use a stylus on. You want to emulate the writing experience as much as possible. Once you have gone through the entire Hiragana and Katakana in this app a bunch of times, start writing everything out on paper as well. It may be a bit dull writing the same characters over and over again but at a certain point it will all just "click" and you'll start progressing quickly.

A little bit of poor form there having "Writting" as an error...

These timed drag and drop exercises are also helpful for character recognition.

You may also want to print out some charts, or perhaps use these as a desktop wallpaper. Click on the images below to open the full size images. They are pretty big and are perfect for printing.

Try to get some practice in whenever you have a spare moment. Taking a dump at work? Get your phone and do some app drills. Stuck on a phone call? Practice some writing by just doodling on some nearby paper. You should have everything committed to memory a lot quicker than you would have thought it'd take.

Additional resources

I'd recommend heading over to the Learn Japanese sub-reddit. There are a lot of helpful links, posts and people!

This article was updated on Thursday, June 6, 2024