Hannah In Japanese – Where I left off in this series on how I learned Japanese, I’ll talk about how I started writing Japanese characters! I mentioned in previous posts how writing hiragana and katakana helped me learn to read and pronounce Japanese words faster and better. This time, let me introduce you to the details of my learning process!
The initial stages of learning how to type a new font are naturally difficult. After all, it’s a whole new language you’re entering! I shuddered to learn 92 new characters in hiragana and katakana. Especially when I saw all the kanji strokes I was definitely scared. Fortunately, we had kanji recognition and calligraphy lessons at the end of Japanese, so I could focus on the core.
Hannah In Japanese
When it comes to kanji, stroke order can be very important depending on your teacher. If you are self-taught, you can be gentle for this reason. But it should be noted that learning the correct order of kanji is often important in formal calligraphy classes or communities. Even among native Japanese, writing unusual kanji seems unnecessary outside of academia. The evolution of technology has made it so easy to write kanji that we are now content with reading the characters. If you can write down the basics, you’re good to go!
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It’s cliché, but hiragana and katakana really take practice to perfect. You can’t become a master overnight. You have to start as a beginner! Personally, I decided to master writing hiragana and katakana before moving on to Japanese. These writing systems are the foundation of my mandatory Japanese classes, so it makes sense to memorize them from the beginning. Here’s how I approach it:
In a previous post, I shared how I copied hiragana and katakana characters into my pocketbook when I got tired of carrying my bulky workbook while learning to read. I also wrote them on other pages and practiced on lined paper. Writing Japanese characters requires patience and muscle to get used to new shapes. Within a week I understood the difference between 2 words and the sounds they represent.
At first, of course, my writing was crooked. So I used the tracing method of hiragana and katakana in my book. This was very useful when I was just starting out because I had pretty thin sheets. I also lived with a classmate of mine who studied architecture and they gave me their scrap paper. If you have baby oil, put a few drops on a cotton pad and you can make your own tracing paper!
Once I got used to writing, my native Japanese friend told me that the hiragana and katakana in my book were outdated. I just explained that it might be useful to keep the traditional way of writing in the classroom. Out of curiosity, he asked me to show him how he writes his characters. Surprisingly, they wrote the hiragana character for fu (ふ) a little differently than in my book, and it’s softer.
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To improve my handwriting, I decided to study Japanese fonts. I was lucky enough to have a personal computer at university, so I played around with the language settings and found a way to input Japanese on my laptop. I opened a notepad app and entered hiragana and katakana characters, which looked like what my friend had written. I turned on the light, put tracing paper on the screen, and then drew smarter shapes.
In the end, I just got used to writing the characters in the order they were given. I can easily associate letters with their sounds, as easily as the ABCs. Only time really matters! Again, for reference, here’s a Kana chart I made for you to print out to find the characters:
Personally, I say katakana characters are memorable because they are used in the phrase 「ポケボン」or “Pokémon”. I also mentioned how surprised I was when I spelled out the lyrics of the anime songs I had memorized. I actually imitated the Japanese Pokemon songs! This technique helped me memorize hiragana faster. I even recognized some of the vocabulary words I was studying before, which helped me understand the song better.
Pokemon songs, and maybe even anime songs, have simple lyrical structures and catchy melodies. It made it easier for me to learn them without really understanding what I was surrounded by alone in my room. I just know that they make me happy and that learning words is fun. The way I learned to write, I tried to spell the lyrics to look like they were printed on paper. I have the song memorized so when I listen to the song, I can easily follow the lyrics!
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In katakana, I learned Pokémon trading cards. Fun fact: Pokemon names in Japan are written in katakana. Before I learned to read and write Japanese, these trading cards were my first knowledge of writing Japanese. After memorizing katakana, I learned many Japanese pokemon names and practiced spelling them. Some of the songs also mentioned these names, so I had to spell them out as well. Try combining your passion for learning Japanese with another hobby. This technique will help you learn as fast as I did!
In my hometown, there are many Japanese goods, labels, and storefronts. Such is the global impact of the Land of the Rising Sun. We have a Biscuit Nut called “Nagaraya” with 「ナガラヤ」 printed on the packaging. I didn’t notice this until I learned to read katakana!
As part of my training, I wrote down the names of all the Japanese brands and companies I knew. I even tried to find out the meaning behind these names that I remember for a long time. Did you know that “Mitsubishi” in Japanese means “3 diamonds” when written as 「三菱」? That explains the shape of his logo!
I was surprised when I contacted my course. I was learning and remembering random things that I naturally got used to writing hiragana and katakana. I’ve gotten to the point where I automatically type any character from any Japanese vocabulary without thinking about it!
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If you look back at how you learned your ABCs, you’ll realize that learning how to write hiragana and katakana takes time and effort. Lines and dashes may seem strange at first, but once you learn the correct order of writing them, you’ll realize there’s nothing to worry about!
There are several ways to learn a new writing system. Basically, they all have a shape. Get familiar with these new shapes and the sounds they represent, and you’ll be fine! The best part is that you are in charge of how you retain your knowledge from the course. I guarantee you that once you find your own way of learning, you will write Japanese as naturally as your first language. Good luck!
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