A long long long long time ago i started to learn Japanese and the first thing my teacher had me doing was learning the Kana…. i remember this as writing and reading aloud what i was doing to drill this into my mind however that was 4+ years ago! technology has changed and its easier than ever to learn hiragana and katakana in under a week each!
I’ll outline what i’ve done and where i’m at with hiragana so you can see the progress one can make with this method in such a short amount of time.
Firstly i’ll let you know that i started learning hiragana 4 days ago and this is the method i’m using to learn them i’ll share with you some tips and tricks along the way becuase you get about half the alphabet for free when you learn it the right way…
Currently i’m spending about 5 minutes 3 times a day following these steps….
Start by reading aloud the columns and writing them down on a piece of paper:
A I U E O
KA KI KU KE KO
SA SHI SU SE SO
TA CHI TSU TE TO
NA NI NU NE NO
HA HI HU HE HO
MA MI MU ME MO
YA YU YO
RA RI RU RE RO
WA WO N
As the rest of the hiragana you will encounter are just combinations of these… i do this THREE times a day… once before work….. once during lunch and once before bed it takes about two minutes to write down and read aloud the basic hiragana and the same for katakana.
Now… as for the rest don’t bother memorising Combo Hiragana like I said before these come inherently from combinations… memorise the rules to create these combinations since you already have everything you need to read, reproduce and memorise them by learning the basic ones.
KI + YA = KYA (KIII YA)
SHI + YA = SHA (SHHHH YA)
CHA + YA = CHA (CHHH YA)
NI + YA = NYA (NIII YA)
See how they kind of sound like what they become?…. Easy! you will learn and memorise these as you read them in various texts and study tools.
Dakuten however are a little different but still very easy to memorise without actively studying them… when you add a tenten (the double quote looking thing) to ka… sa… ta… it will ‘soften’ the sound
ka becomes ga…. sa becomes za…. ta becomes da…. in each case the sound gets ‘softer’ on the ears and becomes lighter to produce with your mouth if that makes sense
ha however becomes stronger sounding…. and it has a one other case the maru (the little circle)… so HA can become BA with a tenten or PA with a maru (the little circle) as a quick side note if you ever see a hiragana with a maru… you know it has to be a P sound EASY!
As you can see its much easier to simply remember the 2 or 3 rules that construct Combo Hiragana and Dakuten than it is to actually memorise an extra 40? characters lol
Now to supplement all of this knowledge you’ve just learnt download a flashcard app onto your phone called “Sticky Study: Kana” which you will find and get here http://www.stickystudy.com/kana.html and use this whenever and wherever you can fit it in! on the toilet….. waiting in the car park to pick someone up…. anywhere! you can fit in a quick 5 minute session!
Just load it up and hit study the app will take care of everything for you the great news is in your study session the great news is this app when it recognises that you’re memorising a character it stops showing it so often and lets you focus on the ones that you are failing to get correctly. It does this in an interesting way by creating 5 buckets of cards placing the ones you fail most often at the first bucket and the ones you get right all the time in the last bucket then it prioritises the ones your failing most often so that you can learn them!
Finally i’ll share with you a little bit of neuroscience and psychology enter… ebbinghaus’s forgetting curve (see right) this is a curve of learning and memory over time. let me explain this simply, consider that above 60% memory retention is called ‘active memory’ and anything below is considered ‘forgotten but recallable with effort’ as you can see the moment you learn something new a few hours later it has moved to the back of your brain and is now considered ‘forgotten but recallable with effort’ however 3 days later you see / study the topic again with the forgetting curve on average you will now retain this information for about… 10 days!
So in 10 days you should study the information you learnt on day one again and now the information will be stored in active memory for about 30 days however this time the information is becoming more and more permanent lasting for about 30+ days and each time reducing the amount of information lost over time leaving you with (if you didn’t restudy) about 65% retention of the subject.
One month later (the 4th review) you should consider studying the topic again just a brief review is all it takes to bring that information back to your active memory and this time it will stay for about 90 days or 3 months basically considered permanent now because you will most defiantly enter the subject in question again before 3 months is up and if you don’t…. then what you were learning in the first place probably wasn’t worth the effort… right?
In the case of a language’s alphabet you will be reviewing these characters daily so the information should become stored permanently in your brain after a month or so with 100% accuracy and each day more that you read something in the target alphabet the information will only be retained longer and stronger than before this is just how the brain works smarts… talent… giftedness have nothing to do with it. every time you repeat something you are forging a pathway in your brain between the subject and the meaning the more often you repeat the study the stronger the pathway becomes until it becomes something that your brain can access without conscious thought.
Now just as a bit of a testimony to this method here i’ll show my progress over the past 4 days learning hiragana. I’ve used sticky study to graph and track my hiragana knowledge over the past 4 days so that i could show it to you and share how and why this method of study works.
As you can see i started on day one with about 5% knowledge of the subject in question but following the steps i outlined above and being aware of the forgetting curve concept each day you can see an exponential increase in knowledge gained and retained 5% 10% 36% and now 90%
The large jump between 36% and 90% was nothing extra on my part…. it was just easier to remember the things i failed at the day before and get them correct on the fourth day
Right now i am able to read albeit slow…. 90% of hiragana characters and my conscious effort was only spent to learn the basic characters and the rules to construct the Combo’s and Dakuten.
You might be thinking that the characters i am struggling with are the Combo’s and Dakuten? but you’d be wrong I’m struggling with characters like Ne… Nu… Yu and Me since they all have a very similar design but i can guarantee that by the end of the week these will be downed and my score will be closer to 100% theoretically you could extrapolate that tomorrow I will hit closer to 100% based on the rate of growth and exponential improvement.