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What I’m Learning: Terminology 

There are many terms that I had to learn when I first jumped into Japanese. Here’s a short summary of that termonology including the meanings, and how it is helpful or relevant to learning Japanese.

Kana:

  • Pronounced: Kah-Nah
  • The Japanese language has two “alphabets”.
  • Kana is what those two Japanese “alphabets” are called together.
  • The two alphabets are individually named Hiragana and Katakana.
  • Knowing Kana allows you to pronounce Japanese words. Even if you don’t know the word yet!
  • Hiragana:

    • Pronounced: Hee-ra-ga-na
    • “Hiragana” spelled in hiragana is: ひ ら が な
    • “A I U E O” in hiragana looks like this: あ い う え お
    • There are a total of 46 Hiragana characters.

    Katakana:

    • Pronounced: Ka-ta-ga-na
    • “Katakana” spelled in katakana is: カ タ カ ナ
    • “A I U E O” in katakana looks like this:  ア イ ウ エ オ
    • There are a total of 46 Katakana characters.

    Kanji:

    • Pronounced: Ka-n-gee
    • “Kanji” in Kanji appears as: 漢字
    • Kanji are characters that make up a huge portion of the Japanese language.
    • Kanji symbols can be very simple, such as people () or dog (犬).
    • Kanji symbols can also be highly complicated like the word protection (護).
    • Kanji, Katakana, and Hiragana all make up the Japanese language together.

    Furigana:

    • Pronounced: Fu-re-ga-na
    • “Furigana” in Japanese appears as: 振り仮名
    • Furigana is ‘kana’ displayed directly above or next to kanji to show how a kanji is pronounced.
    • For example, if you saw the Kanji for mother (母) then you may also see the kana (はは) above the kanji.
      • This would show you that the pronunciation is はは or “ha-ha” for the word “mother”.

    On’yomi:

    • Pronounced: Oh-n-yo-me
    • “On’yomi” in Japanese appears as: 音読み
    • Some Japanese kanji have two pronunciations, one of those two is called On’yomi.
    • On’yomi is the reading of a kanji that originated from the chinese lanuage.
    • For example, the word “cow” in Japanese is 牛.
      • The on’yomi pronunciation is ぎゅう or Gyuu.

    Kunyomi:

    • Pronounced: Koo-n-yo-me
    • “Kunyomi” in Japanese appears as: 訓読み
    • Like On’yomi, Kunyomi is another way that Japanese kanji can be pronounced.
    • Kunyomi is the reading of a kanji that came from the Japanese pronunciation.
    • Again, using the example of the word “cow” (牛) in Japanese.
      • The Kunyomi pronunciation is うし or Uoo-she.

    Rendaku:

    • Pronounced: Ren-da-ku
    • “Rendaku” in Japanese appears as: 連濁
    • Rendaku relates to the pronunciation of a second word, when the first and second word are the same.
    • The best and easiest example is the word people.

      • To make the word “people”, we would take the word person, and repeat it.
      • Person is pronounced hito and sounds like ‘hee-toe’ but to say person twice and make it “people” we would not say hito-hito but, because of the natural flow of sound from a persons mouth, rendaku happens and it is instead pronounced hito-bito. Still confusing, but if you say it out loud, hito-hito is hard to say but hito-bito flows off the tongue easier.

     

    Dakuten:

    • Pronounced: Dak-ten
    • “Dakuten” in Japanese appears as: 濁点
    • Dakuten is a small mark that is added to a kana character for a new pronunciation.
    • The mark is usually a small dot or a quotation mark that is added to the upper corner.
    • Let’s see the hiragana character for “ha” and us Dakuten marks on it.
      • は is pronounced ha  and does not have anything added to it.
      • ば is pronounced ba because it has a ” added to it.
      • ぱ is pronounced pa because it has a dot added to it.
      • These changes in pronunciation can be helpful with words like ‘pen’.
        • Pen is spelled ペン in Japanese and ペン is pronounced pe-n.
      DISCLAIMER: While writing these posts, I might not have been able to fully understand or speak Japanese yet. Feel free to learn from my experience in learning Japanese, but be aware that I may still have errors. If you speak Japanese, please let me know if you see any issues in my posts!

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