Chapter 1

Wrapping Your Head around Japanese Writing and Pronunciation

IN THIS CHAPTER

check Getting to know the history of the three writing scripts, kanji, hiragana, and katakana

check Checking out the basic sounds of Japanese

check Knowing when to use kanji

This chapter introduces basic information about Japanese sounds and the three writing scripts: kanji, hiragana, and katakana. It is essential for you to know how the Japanese sound system works to be able to learn how to pronounce kanji correctly. You will find that kanji plays an important role in the Japanese language. Foundational information in this chapter will provide context to begin to learn kanji.

Brief History of Three Writing Scripts: Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana

Three writing scripts? It may seem very strange to have three different writing scripts in one language. Let me give a brief history illustrating why the Japanese language needed the three types of characters.

Taking a cue from Chinese writing — Kanji

For a long time, the Japanese language did not have a writing system. It was not until the 5th century that kanji (Chinese characters), the writing of “Han China” (pronounced “kan” in Japanese), was introduced into ...

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