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Confused about hiragana and katakana x.x

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Confused about hiragana and katakana x.x

Postby Mrvontar » Sun 12.04.2011 7:03 pm

I'm confused about mostly hiragana I guess. Although this might apply to katakana, I haven't studied it yet. Basically I'm confused if we need to memorize what each hiragana stands for, such as the a one. http://japanese.about.com/od/howtowrite ... lesson.htm such as this. Why do we need to know what the symbol stands for if they can't be combined to create a sentence O.o like why do we need to know that it such as from the link above stands for a if the sound the symbol stands for makes a different sound (ah). I have a feeling I'm missing something important, x.x.
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Re: Confused about hiragana and katakana x.x

Postby phreadom » Sun 12.04.2011 8:43 pm

You should probably start by reading http://thejapanesepage.com/getting-star ... s-japanese

And beyond what it says there, note that for each of the "vowel" sounds in the kana, they basically only have 1 pronunciation:

a = "ah"
i = "ee"
u = "oo"
e = "eh"
o = "oh"

Kana are used to spell basic things, and for other uses like verb conjugations etc... but you'll get to that later. :) How about you read that little intro on the Getting Started guide and then ask if you still have more questions. I'll be happy to try to clear things up. :bow:
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Re: Confused about hiragana and katakana x.x

Postby Mrvontar » Sun 12.04.2011 8:50 pm

Thanks for answering! Although I'm still confused. Couldn't a person just memorize the sound of the vowel instead of both the sound of the vowel and linking the vowel's actual sound to the vowel its self?
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Re: Confused about hiragana and katakana x.x

Postby Hyperworm » Sun 12.04.2011 9:29 pm

In a way you're right. You'll need to be mapping the characters straight to the sounds in the end anyway, so why introduce the middle step when you could cut it out right at the beginning? It's definitely a commendable attitude.

Some reasons to learn the romanizations are:

1. it may make it easier to remember how a character is read if you can refer to some kind of memory-jogging guide when you forget. For this you need a way to write a representation of the pronunciation in English letters, and it may be better to learn and use the standard system (か=ka, ち=chi, etc) rather than growing your own; Hepburn romanization was designed to correspond well to how Japanese is pronounced.

2. you probably want to be able to enter Japanese on a computer, and you'll probably want to use a standard qwerty keyboard to do it, which means you need to learn some kind of standard mapping from English letters to Japanese characters.

3. sometimes there are some good learning resources for beginners in romaji (English characters).

4. you may want to communicate in Japanese in a situation where you can't use Japanese characters (e.g. explaining something to a learner who only knows spoken Japanese; or an environment where Japanese characters are not available), and it's good to use the same system for representing the sounds as everyone else, so there's no confusion.

5. for some time, your reading speed is likely to be significantly higher in romaji than in hiragana, so (while it's extremely important to get as much hiragana/katakana reading practise as possible to increase your reading speed) you might find at the beginning that slogging through a whole bunch of hiragana is a little frustrating when what you're really trying to do is focus on understanding/learning a grammar point, and so you might prefer romaji in that case.
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Re: Confused about hiragana and katakana x.x

Postby Mrvontar » Sun 12.04.2011 9:37 pm

How would the keyboard thing work? Since there are more japanese character's than english letters?
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Re: Confused about hiragana and katakana x.x

Postby Hyperworm » Sun 12.04.2011 10:16 pm

You use a Japanese IME (input method editor), which is a program that converts your keyboard input into Japanese characters as you type.
The default behavior is usually to turn sequences of romaji into hiragana, so to get か you have to hit two keys, 'k' followed by 'a'.

There is a mode ('kana mode') where one key=one kana, but if you want to use that you have to learn to type all over again :D And most Japanese people just use romaji mode. It might seem like kana mode would be much faster, but there are lots of situations that make kana mode use just as many keypresses as romaji, so it's not as big a gain as it seems.

Either way, when you want to enter kanji, the IME handles conversion to kanji from hiragana automatically, but it's not 100% flawless. That means that typing in Japanese is 'interactive'; you can touch-type perfect English without even looking at the screen if you're good enough, but if you want to type Japanese properly, you have to watch the text the IME is producing for conversion errors so you can correct them. It's a little more involved.

Here's a good video (though personally I use Google IME)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tddv4OCz3L0
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Re: Confused about hiragana and katakana x.x

Postby Hektor6766 » Sun 12.04.2011 10:23 pm

If you take a typical word processor (say, jwpce) and type in the romaji for the sound (ka for example), the character か will appear (caps lock will give you katakana カ). When you capitalize the first letter, you'll get a list of the candidate kanji, usually with the most frequently used at the head of the list, and you pick the kanji you want for the meaning you wish to communicate.
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