Hiragana & Katakana

Welcome to the first book review.

Today I will take a closer look at Japanese HIRAGANA & KATAKANA for Beginners by Timothy G. Stout. This book as described by the author includes memorable picture mnemonics, examples, and entertaining exercises.  The book is laid out with hiragana(ひらがな) being the first half of the content then katakana(カタカナ)being the last half of the content.  Along the way there are areas for practicing writing the character and also vocabulary using that character.  At the end of each writing system there is a section which includes games, readings, matching, and other activities to have fun and test your new skills.

The first thing that is covered is the basic strokes. There are three different strokes that comprise both hiragana(ひらがな) and katakana(カタカナ).  They are: Stops, Jumps, and Brushes.   Here is one of the examples from the book. This is the katakana(カタカナ) sound “o” as in “oak”.  In this example the strokes are numbers and arrows show which way the stroke is written.

1.Stop 2.Jump 3.Brush

In this image you can see the basic character lesson layout. Starting at the top left of the page you will see the character with its stroke order and directional arrows. Directly under the character is a description of the sound, in this case “a” as in father.  To the right of the main character you find an cartoon that relates to the saying below it and incorporates the character.  Here you see a bunny with its mouth open wide.  The saying below reads, ” “Open your mouth and say ‘Ah’ ” says the dentist.”  Before you get to writing the character on your own, they tell you the type of each stroke then give you eight spaces of tracing practice.  After which you are on your own for sixteen more spaces of freehand practice.  Lastly, it provides a few vocabulary words that use this character providing you additional practice writing while learning a use for the character making it meaningful.

Final Thoughts

As a whole I find this book to be a useful tool to learning the characters of both writing systems.  I especially like the vocabulary usage at the bottom of each characters page.  This seems to help me make a connection with the character.  It may just be me but the “picture mnemonic” i could do without.  Although this might help some people remember the sound to seeing the funny little picture, I personally found it distracting my eye from the actual character.  If you are looking for a book to get you started with Japanese I think this is a good place to start.  Here is a link to the authors other books that you may want to  check out:



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