Asked in Japanese Language and Culture
Japanese symbols compared to the English alphabet?
Japanese symbols can either be categorized as kanji, katakana, or hiragana. Kanji comes from China, hiragana is how they first learn to use their system of the alphabet, and katakana is either used to pronounce a word that wasn't originally in their language, or is sometimes used as a replacement for hiragana to stress a particular word or meaning. Kanji is like a short hand for hiragana. It can best be compare to how in English instead of writing out the word "and", one would substitute the symbol "&". Hiragana and katakana are broken up into their version of the alphabet by what they have for pronunciations. They can be viewed at the links below.
These Japanese symbols, or pronunciations, are usually grouped with a vowel, not including the actual vowels. The pronunciations of the vowels are used exactly like the ones in Spanish and are very simple, unlike the English vowels that have a long and short sounds. But once you get down how the vowels are pronounced, reading the rest of their alphabet is a cake walk since it is based off of being grouped with those same vowels.
Writing hiragana and katakana is also similar to English in how it is written. In hiragana the "he" sound for example, is written exactly the same, just like how in English, the capital "O" and lower case "o" are written in the same way (only one is smaller in scale). And sometimes a pronunciation, or letter, is written differently. In hiragana and katakana the "su" sound for example is written completely different, just like how in English the capital "G" and lower case "g" are written differently.
Kanji doesn't get placed as part of their alphabet because it's more of a short hand way of writing.
See links for more.