How do you read Japanese?

Updated: 3/21/2024
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16y ago

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The Japanese language is written phonetically using pictoral representations of short sounds to create words and sentences. There are three different writing systems that the Japanese use: Hiragana (1), Katakana (2), and Kanji (3). Japanese writing used to use Chinese characters with which borrowed Chinese words and uniquely Japanese words were combined to form a sort of language mixture. Eventually, hiragana and katakana were derived. Hiragana was mostly used by women until the about the 10th century. Consequently, katakana was once known as men's writing. These days, katakana is mainly used to write loaned words and foreign names. Kanji consists of no less than 5,000 characters which are native to China. Many originally Japanese words that have the same meaning as a certain Chinese word will share its written kanji. There are upwards to 10,000 kanji characters, so the process of studying it as a second written language can become challenging. All three writing systems are used today to construct basic Japanese sentences. A combination of all three will usually encompass names, places, and general speech. Traditionally, Japanese books will be read from right to left (the pages are turned to the right). In the west, it is the opposite. Just as well, Japanese can be written and read from the top right down to the bottom right, all the way over to the left in columns instead of rows. This is very traditional and it is not uncommon these days to see the Japanese language written in rows (paragraphs) that are read from left to right. The way the pages turn, more often than not, is still right to left.

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To read Japanese, you need to learn three writing systems: kanji, hiragana, and katakana. Kanji are characters borrowed from Chinese and represent words or ideas, while hiragana and katakana are syllabaries used for native Japanese words and foreign words, respectively. Practice and exposure to the language are essential for improving your reading skills.

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Q: How do you read Japanese?
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