Japanese Lessons

The Japanese alphabets, the Kana

The first step in learning the Japanese language is to learn the character sets that are used. The two phonetic character sets that you need to learn first are the hiragana and the katakana. Both these character sets describe how a word sounds, so they are used in the same way that we use the Roman letters in the English alphabet. Note, in general the hiragana is used to describe words of Japanese origin, while the katakana is used to describe words of foreign origin.

Click on a character set to begin learning.

The kanji, symbolic characters of Chinese origin

Once you have learned the hiragana and katakana you should start learning the kanji. Most kanji can be pronounced in several different ways, and they can be used to convey either meaning or sound. This means that when reading a word written in kanji, it may not be possible to know how to pronounce the word without prior knowledge of how the word sounds. There are around 1,945 kanji in the Japanese government's list of recommended characters (the Jouyou Kanji), though around 3,000 kanji are in common use in newspapers. Learning to read and write kanji should be an ongoing task while you learn the Japanese language.

Click on the character set to begin learning.


The key to learning a new language is to learn the vocabulary that you need to communicate in everyday situations. As you progress through your studies, keep increasing your word knowledge and keep practising until you can instantly recognise and use the vocabulary you have learnt.

Click on the lesson below to begin learning.