Wow, where to start. I guess learning anything new takes time, but learning Japanese is going to take us a lifetime. To begin there are three different alphabets that we have to learn. The first is called the hiragana. In Japanese there is a letter for every sound, unlike English where some letters make more than one sound. Actually it's a consonant vowel combination. For foreign words, such as our names, there is an alphabet called the katana that is used.
Below is Samuel's name:
Ku ku, Sa mu e ru Pi li po
They take the sounds they normally use from the hiragana but use the katakana to write them. So when we see the katakana we know it's a foreign word. The third alphabet is kanji. I'm not sure it really qualifies as an alphabet, because it's characters used to describe a thought, idea or picture. However, sometimes a kanji can be just one word.
Below is the chart of hiragana and katakana from our textbook that we study. We learn the sounds using the romaji.
Romaji uses the Roman letters, it helps us learn the sound that goes with each hiragana or katakana. As you can see the Japanese letters can be difficult for us at first to know and read. When we tell some of our Japanese friends that we can't read Japanese they are confused. We tell them that we haven't seen many of the Japanese letters or studied Japanese until we came to Japan. They are given the option to study Korean, Chinese, and English in school, we tell them our options are usually Spanish, German, French, or Latin. In Japan, many business names or buildings have English as well as the Japanese. So the people here are used to seeing some English words and letters. They can pronounce them mostly and read them even if they don't know what they mean. We on the other hand, couldn't read anything at first and we knew what nothing meant. Now that we have been here a year our ears are becoming tuned to the sounds of the Japanese language. When we see words in the hiragana we can read most, but just don't know what they mean because our vocabulary is still very limited. We have focused our efforts on learning the hiragana, and basic conversational phrases.
We study the letters in rows. Below is a picture of the vowel row and the 'ka' row.
Also a picture of some of the conversational phrases we have learned.
We have a few tools like the pictures below to help us study. We also have various applications and games on our phones that help us learn and study as well.
We took a break from Japanese classes when we had Samuel and intended to begin them again after we got used to being a family of three. Then when I got sick we decided to wait until I was better. We decided to wait until our August break was over to begin again and are studying as much as our schedules allow right now. We would appreciate your prayers as we make time to study and as we are currently working on Japanese conversation.