Learning Hiragana

By Aitana Camponovo

Hiragana is just one out of the three total Japanese alphabets, but it is arguably the most important. It is the backbone of the rest of the language, and without a complete understanding of it, it is impossible to learn Japanese. For three months, Japanese Plus worked together to master this alien writing system; it was hard, but by the end of it, gratifying to finally put to use.

As English-speakers who are only used to writing the Latin alphabet, one of the hardest parts of understanding hiragana is learning its stroke order and having to memorize it for all forty-six letters. Not only that, but with the exception of very few minor differences like an extra loop or curve at the end, some of the hiragana looks exactly alike. Though I had already studied hiragana a few years ago, thanks to Tsujioka-Sensei’s valuable teaching, even I got the opportunity to brush up on my handwriting. 

I was shocked at the resilience of some of the members of our class. They showed up to every meeting, including the optional review sessions, and were committed to mastering not only the writing of hiragana, but the reading and real-world usage. I remember seeing the class’ writing the very first time we started learning it, and seeing it again only a few weeks later and being shocked by the improvement. It is exciting to see so many motivated students because it pushes me as well to want to continue learning. 

The next alphabet the class has left to learn is katakana, though similar to hiragana, it is sharper and more square shaped, used only for foreign loan-words in Japanese. I am confident, however, that learning it will be a breeze now that everyone is more familiar with foreign writing systems. 

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