Try to imagine a language where how a word LOOKS tells you what it means even if the word is completely new to you. Even a quick glimpse will tell you whether the text is about traditional or modern things, Japanese or non-Japanese things. The written Japanese language takes longer to learn but it is also very informative and what I feel is – colorful. Japanese is a combination of pictographs and phonetic symbols.
Hiragana is the basic phonetic alphabet of the Japanese language. Read this chart from right to left, top to bottom. Use this chart to follow along when you listen to the Hiragana Song posted down below. Each character is always pronounced a specific way, unlike English where a character “A” can be pronounced in different ways – short a, long a. Also note that each hiragana character is a vowel sound, or a vowel sound with a consonant. English can combine vowels with vowels, and consonants with consonants.
Here’s a nice introduction to the Katakana alphabet in Japanese and why it is different from Hiragana and Kanji. Katakana is the alphabet for computer-related words, many modern foods and drinks, and pop culture. I know it is tempting to try to rely on English letters as you learn Japanese but in the long run, that will slow you down. Master the Hiragana and Katakana alphabets so you can get around in Japan and sound more natural.
Notice that Katakana sounds exactly the same as Hiragana but LOOKS more angular.
Here’s the Hiragana/Katakana song to practice the sounds.
and another simple video focusing on just Katakana.
A nice blog site that explains the differences between Katakana, Hiragana and Kanji.
Here’s a site that introduces you to the computer-related katakana words.