1. Learn Hiragana, 2. Learn Hiragana

"1. Learn hiragana, 2. Learn hiragana." I actually said this in a Saturday meetup. Why? Because someone who's brand new to the Japanese language joined the group and kept asking all around for books, tv shows and what not to learn Japanese when two of us had already posted separately - without knowing the other was going to post it, too - the . So I said, "1. Learn hiragana, 2. Learn hiragana," and it still didn't prevent more "What else...?" questions.

The thing is, you can't learn how to read, write, or even speak Japanese if you don't learn hiragana:

  1. All the university introductory books drop the use of rōmaji by Chapter 3,
  2. Rōmaji isn't quite standaradized so there are different ways to spell Japanese words using the Roman alphabet so you may as well read and write words the one way in hiragana,
  3. You can't even pronounce Japanese words correctly if you don't know the sounds of hiragana.

How do I know this? Because I've seen and heard all of it - a lot!

The thing is, I've seen this behavior before a lot: someone is excited to learn Japanese but, when it comes to learning hiragana, they avoid it and then just give up after realizing they're not learning Japanese by doing a bunch of other things to learn Japanese.

It's very difficult to learn Japanese by watching a Japanese show or a show in Japanese. You'd have to be very methodical like entering your new words in a database - yes, I know someone who successfully learned Japanese this way in conjuction with using Genki I and II - and have a good ear as to what's being said. If you do, then knock yourself out - learn Japanese this way. The things is, you still need to learn hiragana even if you choose to learn this way because sometimes people ask how to spell a word or you want to text your Japanese-speaking friends or you want to be able to read what your Japanese-speaking friends are texting you and nobody texts using rōmaji because it takes too long to type or too long to read or can be spelled different ways and it's so much easier to just learn the flipping hiragana and just doesn't even make sense to text in rōmaji or you want to be able to read the signs and menus in Japan and nobody in Japan uses rōmaji -- there are so many reasons to learn hiragana!

The things is, you still need to learn hiragana even if you choose to learn this way because sometimes people ask how to spell a word or you want to text your Japanese-speaking friends or you want to be able to read what your Japanese-speaking friends are texting you and nobody texts using rōmaji because it takes too long to type or too long to read or can be spelled different ways and it's so much easier to just learn the flipping hiragana and just doesn't even make sense to text in rōmaji or you want to be able to read the signs and menus in Japan and nobody in Japan uses rōmaji -- there are so many reasons to learn hiragana!

Now I know there are people who have learning disabilities which slow down or even prevent them from learning hiragana. I'm not talking about you. I'm talking about the majority of us who can remember shapes but some are, I don't know, afraid to start learning hiragana? I haven't quite figured that part out yet.

I remember at one of my first Japanese meetups, I was reading aloud greetings from Chapter 0 of Genki I. In Genki I of the 2011 version, page 35, there's a table of Japanese greetings. The first column is the Japanese greeting written in hiragana, the second in rōmaji, and the third column is the greeting translated into English. As I was reading aloud the greetings in Japanese, the person to whom I was reading them thought I was reading the rōmaji to pronounce the greetings. So they quickly covered up the second (and, inadvertently, the third) column. And guess what? I kept on reading aloud the greetings in hiragana. I was very, very slow reading the greetings, but I could do it. Yay, me!

So, just as two of us said in the meetup, it's not hard to learn hiragana. It can take two weeks or two days. It's up to you. If you follow the step-by-step instructions in , you'll learn hiragana. I promise.