If you’re a subscriber to our newsletter (which has exclusive content and is never spammy… you should sign up!), you already know about Tofugu’s latest ebook: Hiragana42. I was debating for a long time whether to give it away or charge some yens for it, but I ultimately ended up on the “you should have this for free” side of the fence. If you’re looking to learn Japanese, you’re probably going to need to start with hiragana. If this is you, I hope you give Hiragana42 a shot. Let me try to convince you!
Why I Wrote Hiragana42
If you want to learn Japanese, the most common way to start is with hiragana. I like this method a lot. First, it sets you up to learn good Japanese pronunciation. If you learn hiragana the right way it will do wonders at making you sound more fluent, right from he get-go. Secondly, learning hiragana will make 99% of all Japanese resources and textbooks suddenly usable for you. If you don’t know hiragana you’re missing out on almost everything, which makes it very hard to learn Japanese.
So, I want people to learn hiragana. That’s a given. The problem is that I’ve never thought there was a great way to learn hiragana out there. Most Japanese classes spend at least a month learning hiragana. Even the TextFugu (our Japanese textbook) hiragana method probably takes people a week (though it will be getting a converted version of Hiragana42 pretty soon). I wanted to make something that could teach hiragana to someone in a day or two. With that in mind, Hiragana42 was born.
How Hiragana42 Works
If you’ve used any of our other Japanese-learning resources (especially WaniKani), you’ll know that Tofugu ♥s mnemonics. With kanji, you can’t use image mnemonics. They get too complicated. With kana (like hiragana), images are great. Most kana are pretty simple which means pictures are just what the doctor ordered. Combine that with some text explanation to guide you and you have something that will velcro hiragana to your brain.
“But Koichi!” you say. “There are like three other hiragana textbooks that do exactly this!”
“How astute!” I’d reply. “Did you know there are three of them because you tried them all and they didn’t work?”
“Touché, Koichi, touché. Tell me more about this ‘Hiragana42′ thing.”
“I will, but only after I drink this tea.” *sip sip*
You can’t stop at mnemonics. There is something to be said about exercises and drilling, as long as you’re doing it right. The key to memory isn’t how often you try to push something into your brain. Instead, it’s all about how often you pull that memory out. Have you ever taken an exam in school, only to find that you knew the subject better after the test was over and turned in? That’s because you were pulling information out of your brain, which essentially tells your brain: “Hey, these memories are important because [your name here]-chan is trying to use them more often. I better create better connections to it so it’s easier to recall next time!”
In Hiragana42, there are exercises after you go through 5-10 image mnemonics. There are different exercises after every section is over, but all of them make you recall the information you put into your head using the mnemonics. The mnemonics help you to get to the memory in your head so you don’t have to cheat (cheating doesn’t help you to build a memory at all – struggling to remember, then remembering something is best). As you recall more and more of the kana more and more times over the length of the ebook, you’ll be creating strong hiragana memories in your head. By the end, you’ll be ready to go out into the real world to practice, whether that’s with a Japanese textbook or a Japanese children’s book.
How Fast Can You Learn Hiragana?
If you don’t learn your kana, Awesome Santa will come down your chimney to abduct you (and leave presents behind for NOBODY, BECAUSE YOU WERE ABDUCTED)
That depends on the individual, I’m afraid. My original estimate was one week. Over the last couple weeks I’ve been letting people try it out, though. I got an email yesterday from someone saying they could read all the hiragana in two days. Another person tweeted at me saying he was able to read everything in just a few hours. Many others had similar results, though mileage will vary between individuals. 24 hours is very possible, though, apparently.
I hope you enjoy it and I hope you’re able to learn a lot. Hiragana really is the gateway into learning Japanese, so if you want to learn Japanese this is the place to start.
Feel free to share this ebook as well. The point is to help as many people as possible to learn how to read hiragana so that they’re able ultimately able to learn Japanese. I think a lot of people quit when they see how different and strange hiragana is, so I’m hoping this ebook makes things easier on them.
And yes, for all those who are about to ask… eventually there’ll be a katakana version of this ebook as well. One thing at a time, though! One thing at a time…