How to learn the Japanese alphabets better than most natives in only three months!

You often hear people say Japanese is a hard to learn language but really it's not as bad as it's reputation.  It’s not as hard as you think!





Ok so in Japanese there are four alphabets. If you're an English speaker you already know all the sounds Japanese has - well done you! 
Let’s look at those alphabets:

Romaji | ローマじ | ローマ字
You know this one already! You’re reading it now! Yay!
a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y zA B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
It's used to write out words for advertising, where things are supposed to look cool and to spell out Japanese words to foreigners. Sometime there are lines added over the vowels which means the sound should be stretched out for a longer time.


Here's some romaji in action, literally spelling out what's written above.



When learning Japanese - disregard romaji! Go straight for hiragana and katakana!

Hiragana | ひらがな | 平仮名


Ball point pens are equally fine for writing hiragana!



Hiragana has 48 characters. With a little motivation it can be memorized in a day or so. At one point women weren't allowed to learn kanji so they could only write in hiragana. It's used for Japanese words.



The order you draw the strokes is important. Get authentic Japanese hiragana practice sheets for kids for free here. If you want a learn it super fast buy some flashcards or Kodansha's Hiragana Workbook.

Katakana | カタカナ | 片仮名

Also 48 characters. Like our alphabet has capital letters A and a, different symbols for the same sound. Japanese has hiragana and katakana. Katakana is generally used for emphasis or foreign words. It’s more angular and looks a bit cooler. Another day or so and you'll have the basics down.


Collectively hiragana and katakana are called the kana.


Katakana is used to write ramen - that most important fact about katakana.




Kanji | かんじ | 漢字

This is the big one! The government says there are 2,136 regular use kanji, sounds like a lot but in day-to-day Japanese life you’ll see even more than that! How am I going to remember all those, you might ask? Well it’s actually not that hard - a lot of kanji are composed of other kanji - 火 this is the kanji for fire 灯 and this is the kanji for lamp. See how it has fire in it?


                                                                  鹿                                                                                                                            These are just the most recent additions!


Check out a list of the kanji here.
Kanji are the best! Easily the coolest.

The number 1 super best way to learn the kanji in my opinion is using the book Remembering the Kanji by Heisig. Basically each day you learn a few kanji and attach it to an English phrase with a memonic (small story to help you recall how to draw the kanji). Buy the book on Amazon here and try out the first chapter online for free immediately here. Before getting into Hesig to much check out Anki. Also when you get the book I recommended using the website - Reviewing the Kanji it’s totally free but will help you make the flash cards and lets you see memonics other people have used! People have done Heisigs method to learn the kanji in a month - but that is super extreme. I'd said putting in the effort it's doable in 3 months! Remember to keep up your reviews to really cement the symbols in your head. I did it in about 3 months.



If you decide Hesig is not for you - I think you're making a mistake - but there are always flash cards. Drill those kanji until you’ll never forget again. Here are the white rabbit set. Drilling will take significantly longer than the Heisig method.
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