65: A start on Japanese.

Today I finally started learning Japanese. I got up reasonably early, some time around seven in the morning, it was a bitterly cold day, I remember because I had to haul a ton of clothes into the dryer… in the garage. It was ice cold as I said and the only reason I really mention it is because, whilst I was out there, it started to snow. I love the snow, always have and more than likely always will; when I was younger I used to love playing in it, snow ball fights, sledging and building snow men fuelled its allure to me, but, now it’s the quiet that draws me in.

When the snow settles and it’s thick enough underfoot, coupled with a heavy enough deluge of the white stuff everything just becomes so… peaceful. Most people don’t share my affinity for snow, so not many people are out and about in it, everything is quiet, especially at night; sometimes I like to go and stand in it, and hold my head up, even the cold flecks of snow feel good, I feel happy and at peace.

That was the exact feeling I had when I used to study and it was precisely the reason why I started Learning Hiragana today.

As far as remembering the characters, I can sort of picture a few in my head, though I spent most of the day transcribing the rules that they follow.

Diacritical Marks

With the addition of a diacritical mark (sort of like a quotation mark, but slanted like a back slash) the sounds for Hiragana starting with these letters, below, turn into these letters.

  • K → G
  • S → Z
  • T → D
  • H → B

It’s a small rue but something that can drastically change the meaning of a word, so it’s good to commit it to memory early.

Double Letters

Other rules include such things as double vowels, it’s an obvious thing that a double vowel should in fact increase the length that they vowel is sounded for, however it’s not so known that this is in fact pronounced as one syllable.

With regards to double consonants the Hiragana for “Tsu” is used to denote double letters except for N where the symbol for the sound “N”, as in the start of “no” or “nostril”, a hard N sound, is placed before the Hiragana that starts with an N.

Silent Vowels

When the vowels I and E are found between the letters: K, S, T, P and H or following one of these letters at the end of an utterance they they are more often than not omitted and become silent such as in the word S(u)kides(u) which translates to, I like it.

Utterances of N

The symbol for N is pronounced differently as determined by the following rules. When the symbol is followed by the prior letters, it is pronounced as the latter.

  • N, T, D, S or Z → N
  • M, P or B → M
  • K or G → “ng” (as in the word “song”)

When the last case is relevant the “ng” sound should be nasalized such as in the French word “bon”.

For today though, that was all, it was a good day and much was accomplished. Hopefully tomorrow will be just as fruitful.

Until Tomorrow.

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