Japanese Characters

The Japanese written language is a mixture of 4(!) different character sets:

1. Kana - The Syllable Characters

The Japanese language is based on syllables, not on letters! Consonant letters are unknown and a mystery to the average Japanese :) But they have vocal syllables (A,E,I,O,U).

The Japanese have two syllable "alphabets": the round "Hiragana" and the more angular "Katakana".

The pronounciations within the two systems are perfectly the same. They are just sued for different purposes in grammar.

The classic order of Kana is a table, by the Vokals A-I-U-E-O (not A-E-I-O-U!) and by that what WE would call its beginning consonant, K-S-T-N-H-M-Y-R-W. That is 5 by 10 combinations, the 50 classic syllables. In Japanese, they are called by the first "vocal" (A) → "KA-Gyo" か行, "SA-Gyo" さ行 and so forth, in the "row" ("Gyo" 行).

2. Kanji - The Word Characters

Yes, there are many :) It is tough :) And it is a challenge =)

Even when there are just a handful of basic strokes - less than half of the alphapet - there are tenthousands of characters.

The stroke means nothing, only the combination has a meaning. A single stroke more or less changes the meaning completely!

To make it more challenging =), each character has more than one reading, at least two: ON (derived from Chinese), KUN (original Japanese, "assigned" to the character), and maybe more ...

Once I tried to learn some Arabic, too ... I gave up, that language is even much worse =8/

3. Romaji - Latin Letters

The Western alphabet is used for abbreviations like WTO, NATO and so forth - but not for all. U.S.A. is written as "Bei Koku" in Kanji. Ironically, that means "Rice Country"! XD

The letters are pronounced as in English - oa whatto za Japaneezu maydo ofu itto: WTO → "daburu yu ti ou"

4. Arabian Numbers

We use them, too: 1,2,3. The Japanese have own number kanji, but they too use them as needed in a context.