As I mentioned last week, when first stepping foot inside a Japanese classroom you will be learning the vowels in hiragana ひらがな. Do you remember them? We’ll do a little test…
あ - ?
い - ?
う - ?
え - ?
お - ?
If you can’t remember them, make sure to check back to the post I mentioned - this stuff is vital - you can’t forget it! And what good is memorising what these characters are if you can’t remember how to pronounce them? Make sure you know exactly how to pronounce them! Pronunciation could possibly be the easiest part of Japanese because it’s always consistent and mostly simple for native English speakers (there are some exceptions, however; りょ ‘ryo’ gives me a lot of grief!).
So that you know exactly what you’re doing, you can watch this video:
This chick has a bit of a grating accent, in my opinion, but she will give you the exact pronunciation of each character and MOST IMPORTANTLY, she’ll show you how to write them with proper stroke order. Do not underestimate the importance of stroke order! Stroke order is important not just for hiragana ひらがな, but for katakana カタカナ and kanji 漢字, too. Before learning proper stroke order my あ looked like some sort of retarded mess, but following this video will hopefully prevent that from happening to you. Also, you have to practise! Don’t just settle for memorising how to read Japanese - writing it is just as important as it helps to strengthen pathways in the mind. You will remember twice as fast if you concentrate on both reading AND writing.
My final advice on beginning hiragana ひらがな and even for intermediate kana かな learners is to use this website:
It’s basically a flash-card system. Use it! It will count your right and wrong answers - so you can time yourself and calculate your percentage of correct answers. I gave this website to my sensei 先生, and she loved it.
Now, onto the next part of Japanese lesson 1 - aisatsu あいさつ
These, as I have covered before are your everyday expressions, some of which you will already know! As I list them I will give you the Japanese in both hiragana ひらがな and roumaji ローマ字, their meanings in English, and a little explanation about how to use each of them. Also, there are a lot of aisatsu あいさつ, so I won’t be covering them all in this post!
Konnichiwa こんにちは - Hello
Used after midday but before sunset. Konnichiwa can be used by anyone to anyone - friends, strangers, superiors - it’s universal.
Konbanwa こんばんは - Good evening
Used after sunset as a greeting; anyone can use this.
Ohayou gozaimasu おはようございます - Good morning
Used before midday as a greeting. Is a bit more commonly used than ‘good morning’ is in English. Between more casual acquaintances you can drop the gozaimasu ございます.
Oyasuminasai おやすみなさい - Good night
Used when going to sleep, but you can drop the nasai なさい to be more casual.
Arigatou gozaimasu ありがとうございます - Thank you
Used the same way as ‘thank you’ in English, though I feel like arigatou gozaimasu ありがとうございます carries a bit more weight than it does in English. You can drop the gozaimasu ございます for a more casual ‘thanks’, but you can also add doumo どうも to make doumo arigatou gozaimasu どうもありがとうございます if you really need to show your appreciation. You can also say hontouni arigatou gozaimasu 本当にありがとうございます which is like ‘I truly appreciate what you have done’ and is very humble in tone. For a super casual ‘cheers’ or ‘ta’ you can just say doumo どうも, but it’s somewhat uncommon.
Douitashimashite どういたしまして - You’re welcome
A very humble way of saying ‘you’re welcome’. More casually you can say ieie いえいえ which is like ‘it’s okay’ or ‘no problem’