Japanese for beginners #1

Introduction, the first vocabulary and the Hiragana alphabet

October 11, 2015 in Japanese for beginners



For a Work & Travel Journey in Japan having a good knowledge of the Japanese language is of great advantage. If you want to buy the necessities of the everyday life you can certainly do it with english but at the latest if you want to chat with the people living there and especially for job hunting a reasonably acceptable Japanese is a big plus. The better the communication skills, the higher the chance you get the job you want. After all, this is not a surprise isn’t it? It is the same as in Germany and other countries as well. This is the reason why I signed up for a Japanese-language course at a University of Applied Sciences. Take a look at this and upcoming chapters on how I’ve aquired my skills piece by piece and eventually join me in learning Japanese!

The first vocabulary

In the table below are the first Japanese words that are to memorize. Yes, learning a new language is connected with a lot of memorization! However, some of the words might be known already to the one or the other, even without Japanese course. ;-)


Good Morning.Ohayoo.おはよお。
Good Morning. (polite)Ohayoo gozaimasu.おはようございます。
Good Day.Konnichiwa.こんにちわ。
Good Evening.Konbanwa.こんばんわ。
Good Night.Oyasuminasai.おやすみなさい。
Good Bye.Sayoonara.さようなら。
Thank you.Arigatoo.ありがとう。
Thank you. (polite)Arigatoo gozaimasu.ありがとうございます。
You’re welcome.Shite kudasai.してください。
I am at home.Tadaima.ただいま。
Welcome home.Okaerinasai.おかえりなさい。
Enjoy your meal.Itadakimasu.いただきます。
EnglishJapanese (Romaji)Japanese (Kana)

Numbers from one to ten

Zero Zero ゼロ
One Ichi いち
Two Ni
Three San さん
Four Yon よん
Five Go
Six Roku ろく
Seven Nana なな
Eight Hachi はち
Nine Kyuu きゅう
English Japanese (Romaji) Japanese (Kana)

The Hiragana alphabet

The japanese language has several writing systems. In total, there are four: Kanji, Hiragana, Katakana and Romaji. Hiragana and Katakana together are known as Kana. These writing systems are used in parallel, so for example in a Japanese newspaper you would see Kanji characters alongside with Kana characters and even sometimes Romaji characters in one single headline or article. They are conceptually separated because of different implications:

Kanji (漢字)
- The kanji characters are originally from the Chinese. Each kanji is not just a syllable but has its own meaning.
Hiragana (ひらがな)
- Hiragana is a syllabary and consists of 46 characters. It is mainly used for grammatical forms and in the Japanese educational system it is the first writing system which the Japanese children learn at school.
Katakana (片仮名)
- Katakana is also a syllabary. Japanese Foreign Words are mainly written in Katakana.
Romaji (ローマ字)
- Romaji uses the Latin alphabet to depict Japanese words. It is rarely used in everyday Japanese. It can be found more often in the digital world for example to access websites.

The 46 Hiragana Characters

Hiragana is a syllabary. This means a character represents a syllable and not just a sound as it is the case for the Latin alphabet (phonetic). The syllables of Hiragana predominantly consist of a consonant-vowel pair. The following table shows the full Hiragana alphabet. In the first row are the vowels, they are pronounced roughly as we know it from the German pronounciation. The syllables start from the second row (For example, the characters in the second row are pronounced as follows: か = ka, き = ki, く = ku, け = ke, こ = ko). A special case is the n ん. It is pronounced as a silent n. In Japanese, there is no soft S. The S is becoming increasingly pronounced as a SS. Other features: つ is pronounced more like tsu and ち sounds more like chi. し is pronounced shi. す し therefore stands for sushi ;-)

Table of the Hiragana Characters


More detailed information on the Hiragana characters, especially with respect to the correct stroke order in drawing (important for learning) are available on Wikipedia. The course uses the textbook Genki.


Until the next chapter, the vocabulary and the Hiragana characters should be internalized. The Hiragana characters are learned best through constant repetition and drawing. Example Task: Draw each Hiragana 3x. Remember the marked syllable and consider the correct stroke order when drawing. (You can find the proper stroke-orders in the Wikipedia article)

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