Kana for Beginners

A quick reference guide for learning Hiragana and Katakana, diacritics and digraphs.

Ideal for students who are just starting to learn Japanese, this reference guide will help you to remember the characters, practice stroke order and listen to the spoken pronunciations.

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User reviews

This app is amazing for learning how to write and there’s even sound. Good option for somebody who just got started in learning Japanese!

– Pmrigo, 1 Nov 2014 (USA)

This app is tightly designed and useful for learning your kana. The animated stroke diagrams are a nice touch that most other apps don’t include. Aesthetically pleasing and matches well with iOS7.. Best app I’ve found for Kana especially nice since other (worse) apps tend to try charging for katakana flashcards. I’d buy an everyday kanji expansion.

– PINNOCHA, 27 Oct 2013 (USA)

Frequently asked questions

Does Kana represent the Japanese alphabet?

Not really. Japanese Kana are syllabic writing (each character represents one syllable), consisting of Hiragana and Katakana characters – though you might consider this is somewhat similar to an alphabet.

What are diacritics?

Diacritics are accent characters which change the voiced sound of certain characters – for example カ (“ka”) becomes ガ (“ga”).

What are digraphs (compound characters)?

Compound characters (digraphs) are two Kana which are pronounced as one sound, not individually. These are formed by appending smaller versions of “ya”, “yu” and “yo” to the syllables from the “i” sounding Kana (“ki”, “shi”, “chi”, “ni”, “hi”, “mi”, “ri” and their variations) – for example キ (“ki”) + ョ (small “yo”) = キョ (“kyo”).

What are Hiragana?

The more cursive and widely used form of Kana.

  • For most words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc) of a Japanese origin.
  • Show the pronunciation and Okurigana (endings) of Kanji characters.
  • Used for grammar particles in sentences – for example, to highlight sentence topics, subjects and objects and prepositions.

What are Katakana?

The more angular form of Kana, primarily for words of foreign origin – these have the same sounds and pronunciations as Hiragana.

  • Foreign words and names, such as コンピュータ (konpyu-ta, “computer”)
  • Onomatopoeia, such as ワンワン (wan-wan, “woof-woof”)

Why do I need to practice stroke order?

Japanese characters are composed of strokes and each character is intended to be written in a certain order. It is very important to learn the correct stroke order as this will help you intuitively know how to write new characters and it has a big effect on how readable it ends up looking.

Why don’t some of the stroke order diagrams match the displayed Kana?

This is because the glyph (shape) of the handwritten form is different from the printed (typed) form. Example: き (ki).

How are long vowels written?

A long vowel is written in Hiragana with an extra “あ”, “い”, “う” “え” or “お” depending on the previous vowel sound – for example おねえさん (oneesan, “older sister”) or おおきい (ookii,”big”). In katakana, it’s written with a dash – for example, メール (me-ru, “email”).

How are double consonants written?

The double consonant is written by adding a small “tsu” (“っ” or “ッ”) in front of the doubled consonant syllable – for example, “どっち” (docchi, “which”).


Learning Japanese iPhone and iPad apps © Dale Clifford 2012-2015.

Kana for Beginners
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