Hiragana is essential to your Japanese education.
Even if you want to learn Japanese fast, committing these basic characters to memory will open a whole world of learning resources to you.
And the best way to learn something new is to practice, practice, practice!
Here are 11 splendid resources that will get you the practice you need to know your hiragana characters like the back of your 手 (て) — hand.
- A (Really) Brief Introduction to Japanese Writing Systems
- Why Learn Hiragana?
- 11 Resources for Japanese Hiragana Practice, Because Practice Makes Perfect!
A (Really) Brief Introduction to Japanese Writing Systems
If you are just starting out with your Japanese education, it is important to note that there are four main types of Japanese character: kanji, hiragana, katakana and rōmaji.
Rōmaji is simply the use of Latin script to write the Japanese language.
Kanji are characters of Chinese origin that form the central base of many words.
Katakana is usually used to write foreign words, onomatopoeia or to emphasize something.
Hiragana is used to modify kanji, to alter the grammar of a word or sentence, to form entire words and particles and to allow younger or less experienced Japanese speakers to read kanji.
Hiragana and katakana are both comprised of phonetic characters, which means that each character represents a sound. Together, they are called kana.
Why Learn Hiragana?
If there are four different types of characters in Japanese, why focus on hiragana?
Well, if you are reading this, you already know how to read rōmaji. Kanji is complex, and it requires years of study to memorize the many characters needed for literacy. Katakana is not used nearly as often as it mostly represents foreign or borrowed words.
That just leaves hiragana!
Besides this simple process of elimination, there are many reasons to study hiragana.
Hiragana appears more frequently than other types of characters. It is right up there with kanji in frequency of use.
Since hiragana can modify kanji and serve as the grammatical structure that holds a sentence together, you will see hiragana constantly.
Even easy Japanese words and phrases use it, so it is a good idea to learn hiragana right from the beginning.
Hiragana is phonetic. This means you can look at the characters and know exactly how they are pronounced.
Hiragana is also a good starter for learning more Japanese characters. Eventually, you will want to learn hiragana and katakana along with your kanji. But for beginning students, learning hiragana is a less daunting way to start learning Japanese characters.
It can even be used to clarify how to pronounce more complex kanji, making it a useful tool for Japanese self study.
Convinced yet? Here are 11 awesome resources for practicing hiragana that will have you reading it like a native in no time!
11 Resources for Japanese Hiragana Practice, Because Practice Makes Perfect!
Hiragana Quiz is a simple, no-frills quiz that’s easy to use.
The quiz works by showing you a character. Then, you simply type in the equivalent pronunciation in rōmaji and click “correct me.”
The quiz features both hiragana and katakana but tracks your scores for each separately, making it easy to see how strong you are with either type of character. If you see a katakana character and do not even want to try, you can also click “next” to skip over it.
FluentU is an immersive language-learning program that lets you practice and learn Japanese hiragana by watching authentic Japanese videos.
These videos include interactive captions that use kanji, furigana and English, all of which you can turn on or off to suit your learning goals. Since you’re specifically learning hiragana, the use of furigana will be an especially useful feature to focus on.
While you watch, you can tap on any word to see an in-context definition, a pronunciation guide, an image and further examples of the word in use in other videos from the FluentU library. Any word can be turned into a flashcard, which can later be studied with personalized quizzes that will give you a chance to practice typing hiragana (and kanji).
Dr Lingua “Drag and Drop”
If you prefer your hiragana practice gamified, check out this interactive site.
In this game, you drag the hiragana characters onto their equivalent rōmaji pronunciations.
As you play, a timer runs. Although this can create a fairly high-pressure situation, you can use the timer to work on faster recognition. Simply make a note of your time in the game. Then, the next time you play, aim to complete the game a little quicker.
The more you play, the faster you will get—which means your character recognition is improving!
Regardless of whether you are studying hiragana, katakana or kanji, Tanoshii Japanese has a fun game to help you practice.
But let’s jump straight to the good stuff: the hiragana games.
You can choose either “multi-game” or “single-game.” “Multi-game” allows you to select multiple types of practice and progress through several games in one sitting, while “single-game” presents you with just one type of game at a time.
There are a few different styles of practice available. Your options include character recognition and matching, stroke order and English or Japanese flashcards.
If you are feeling ambitious, “multi-game” lets you select every category and play through them all.
You can also choose which lessons (from a set list) you want to practice and how long you want the game to be.
Kuma Sensei offers hiragana flashcards and exercises. Why not give both a try for some well-rounded practice?
The flashcards display images of hiragana characters. Whenever you want to see the equivalent rōmaji, just click to flip the card.
The exercises ask you to convert hiragana into rōmaji and vice versa. This is a helpful way to practice transitioning between the two.
Technically, this website contains support materials for the Genki textbooks. However, that does not mean you cannot use it to augment your learning, too!
Genki offers a nice assortment of material to help you practice hiragana.
One option is an interactive hiragana character chart. You can click any character to access an animation of proper stroke order, an audio pronunciation and even a little movie that will make the character easier to remember.
There are also “flashcards” that act more like a quiz: Each flashcard asks you to list the rōmaji for the hiragana character you are presented with.
There is even a listening quiz to help you connect hiragana with their sounds.
Finally, a fun concentration game has you find and pair matching hiragana together.
Japanese-Lesson.com has helpful practice for something you may not have fully worked on: writing hiragana by hand.
Printable practice sheets show you the stroke order.
Then, all you have to do is imitate that stroke order to form hiragana characters and repeat until it comes naturally to you.
Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese
Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese offers four different practice activities to get your hiragana skills on point.
The first is an easy flip chart of rōmaji letters. Click on any pairing to see the equivalent hiragana character.
The next two exercises are writing activities in which you are asked to convert rōmaji to the corresponding hiragana.
The final activity is reading practice. You will read characters in hiragana and turn them back into rōmaji for a well-rounded learning experience.
“Learning Japanese Hiragana and Katakana”
This workbook and self-study guide can be your go-to source for all your kana needs.
That’s because it provides a lot of information between its two covers: some background about the characters, learning reviews, practice activities and self-testing opportunities.
Plus, there is even some downloadable audio for the book available on the publisher’s website.
Available: iOS | Android
On-the-go hiragana practice? Yes, please!
The Kana Town app allows you to practice your hiragana anywhere.
The app offers a chart to help you study the connection between hiragana and the associated rōmaji characters. Practice activities reinforce your learning.
Feeling ambitious? The program even allows you to start learning some basic vocabulary.
Available: iOS | Android
TenguGo Kana is an app with all the great material you would likely find in your standard textbook.
It offers helpful lessons, easy-to-read hiragana charts and quizzes.
Plus, TenguGo Kana has some additional practice activities. Its useful flashcards feature the character, the associated rōmaji, an audio pronunciation, examples of the character in words and even instructions for the stroke order.
It is basically all you need to master hiragana in one convenient app!
So go ahead and get your hiragana on. These 11 splendid sources will give you the practice you need to read and speak better.