Ordering Japanese Characters

Before I dive into all of these oh-so wonderful Japanese sounds and characters, I should point out that this course does not follow the standard order in which these characters are usually introduced. Most classes, teachers, and textbooks will present the hiragana in the same order that Japanese elementary students learn them, kind of like how we start our alphabet with A, B, C…

“Normal” Hiragana Chart:

Typically, you would read this chart (i.e. read out the hiragana) from top to bottom and from right to left:

So first you say:

a

i

u

e

o

Then you say:

ka

ki

ku

ke

ko

Then you say:

sa

shi

su

se

so

And so on, all the way through the 48 standard characters (46, really, because you’ll almost never see ゐ [wi] or ゑ[we]).

The way I have arranged these characters for us, however, is based on their pronunciation. That is, based (mostly) on the order that they appear in our giant pronunciation chart introduced a little while ago. The reason I do this is that the “ABC” listing of the characters doesn’t present all of the sounds of Japanese, which seems counterintuitive to me. There are 48 characters in that standard chart above, but to “learn” hiragana and katakana completely, we need to memorize just over 100 sounds, all of which have (sometimes very slightly) differing characters.

That’s why I have us go in this order:

And so on. Along the way, in addition to learning all of the sounds of Japanese, we will also learn (well, gloss over) over 700 extremely high-frequency vocabulary words.

Note: If you don't want to learn the hiragana and katakana using this super, ninja all-star system, that’s okay… I guess. There are all kinds of (free) resources for learning these characters online, in apps, etc. Just find what meshes well with you.

Are you with me still? If so, let’s get started…




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