Are you new to learning Japanese? The first thing you need to do is learn the Katakana and Hiragana- the characters used to read and write in Japanese! We have a Hiragana table right here!
After the Hiragana table, there are some notes that help explain certain aspects of the characters. Feel free to ask questions in the comments.
Hiragana is what you’ll see the most on any Japanese text that you encounter, so we will use it first. Plus, Katakana is easier to learn after you know the Hiragana! Hiragana is used along with Kanji for text of any kind. Children’s books will never use Kanji, only Hiragana and Katakana, so you can use anything aimed at Japanese kids in order to practice. Modern Pokémon games even allow you to choose between having Kana only or a mix Kana and Kanji, and the best thing about it is that you can choose to play in any language regardless of the region of your 3DS!
Pronunciation of syllables
Every syllable with an “A” sound like あ, か, さ, etc., must be pronounced like the A in “saw.” “I” sounds like ひ, き, み, etc., should be pronounced the same way you say the I in the English word “me.” You need to say “E” sounds like え, へ, ね, etc., like the E in the word “lay.” O sounds like お, こ, そ, etc., like you pronounce the O in “coat.” Finally, “U” sounds like in ぶ, む, く have to be pronounced like the U in “moo.”
That quotation mark-like symbol on top of syllables with H, K, T, and S sounds is called Tenten. Yes, it totally sounds like it came from the credits of a Capcom game from the 90s, but it changes the pronunciation of H to B, K to G, T to D, and S to J. For example, は (ha) will be pronounced “ba” when you add the Tenten, and it looks like ば.
The syllables ぢ and じ are pronounced the same way (ji). Same goes for ず and づ (both of which are zu).
See that little circle-like symbol on top of the syllables that start with an H? Please refer to it as Maru. Like the TenTen, the Maru changes the pronunciation of certain characters- in this case, it turns はひふへほ into ぱぴぷぺぽ- the H can also transform into a P. Much better than having to learn five new characters!
The Small “っ”
This indicates a small vocal break, or elongation of the following consonant. The following consonant is basically repeated, so the word ぴったり is romanized as “pittari” and has to be pronounced as if “pit” and “tari” were different words, rather than pronouncing it “pitari” without breaks. It means “exactly,” “neatly,” “sharp,” by the way!
きょ きゅ きゃ are all examples of “slide vowels”. Basically, you take the “i”-ending syllables, and add a small よ, ゆ, or や after it, and you get slightly-new characters!
The Japanese “R”
In the Japanese language, the R sounds different than it does in English. Some people say it’s like “a mix between an L and an R” which doesn’t actually describes the sound. If you’ve heard a Spanish speaker pronounce their soft R roll sound, then you have an idea of how the Japanese R actually sounds. Just don’t mistake it for the Strong Spanish R, because if you do, you’ll sound like a thug! Maybe even a Yakuza! The R-roll is a bit hard for English speakers, but practice makes perfect! Use careful listening and try to imitate how Japanese speakers pronounce it. がんばってください！<–Try reading that to practice your Hiragana-reading skills!
That’s all for now, but do remember to check back often because we have more resources for learning coming! We recommend that you memorize the Hiragana table before checking out our Japanese-teaching videos, they will become a lot easier to follow! The first episode of our Pokemon LeafGreen playthrough is here, and the first episode of our Rockman.EXE Transmission playthrough can be found here.