Japanese Hiragana “S” and “Z” Syllables
The Japanese writing system is split into three parts. Two of these are syllabaries, and the last is a collection of symbols. Japanese doesn’t have an ‘alphabet’ so to speak, as it does a ‘syllabary’, or symbols associated with monosyllabic phonemes. There are two sets of symbols associated with these sounds, one called Hiragana which is used for native words, and one called Katakana which is used for borrowed words or emphasis. The third part is the Kanji, or symbols borrowed from the Chinese writing system, that make up all sort of words.
Together, Hiragana and Katakana make up the ‘kana’. I decided if I was going to learn how to (at least) read Japanese I’d start with the kana. That’s what inspired me to buy these cards from amazon (to the left). I’ve had them for years, that’s why the cover on my set doesn’t match the cover on the cards offered on amazon. They’re from the same publisher, so I would be highly surprised if they weren’t the same in spirit. To purchase these cards directly from amazon just click the image to the left. The nice thing about these flash cards is that you can use them with others and solo to practice learning your kana. I learn the best when I’m being quizzed, something about putting the knowledge in a sense of experience, so Maus quizzes (or quizzed) me over and over and over until I learned all the kana.
These are the first videos I’ve made in this manner, and we made these in a public place (Starbucks, shocker) so the sound is wonky. But, here is the video explaining the cards, and the “S” and “Z” sounds of Japanese. Please pardon my pronunciation, I’m completely self-taught and so I probably do it a bit wrong.
Below is the video of the “S” consonant syllables with a little vocabulary, and then followed by the modified voiced “Z” consonant syllables with a little vocabulary:
So those are the cards I’m going to be using throughout this tutorial series on the Japanese writing system. I thought I’d actually put some of the content on the cards in the blog, so to more easily see what’s on the cards I’ve listed below what I went over in the video. I introduce each syllable, pure and modified, and then the corresponding vocabulary (that’s in the video, the kana cards themselves have MUCH more vocabulary):
さ – sa: “sah”
さ – “sa” : difference, gap
さけ – “sake” : sake, alcohol; salmon
し – shi: “shee”
し – “shi” : death; four; poem, verse, song
しゅみ – “shumi” : hobby
しょうぎ – “shougi” : Japanese chess
しろ – “shiro” : white; castle
しゃしん – “shashin” : photo
す – su: “soo”
すもう – “sumou” : Sumo wrestler, the sport
すぐ – “sugu” : soon, immediately
せ – se: “seh”
せん – “sen” : line; one thousand
せいじ – “seiji” : politics
そ – so: “soh”
そふ – “sofu” : grandfather
そうじ – “souji” : cleaning, vacuuming
Those are the “pure” unmodified/unvoiced syllables for this series. The following you’ll notice are attached to “tenten” which indicate that the syllable should be voiced. So, sa becomes za, like the difference between “sat” and “zero.” There’s also a vocabulary word to go with each (and more in the set):
ざ – za: “zah”
ざっし – “zasshi” : magazine
じ – ji: “jee”
じゅう – “juu” : ten; gun
じょし – “joshi” : woman, girl; particle
じかん – “jikan” : time, hours
ず – zu: “zoo”
ず – “zu” : picture, plan, drawing
ぜ – ze: “zeh”
ぜひ – “zehi” : definitely; please
ぞ – zo: “zoh”
ぞう – “zou” : elephant; picture; statue
I’ve developed a little quizlet featuring JUST the “s” and “z” sounds for your practice below:
That’s it for now, have fun studying Japanese!
This post is part of a larger list of Japanese Kana tutorials.
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photo credit: Marco Crupi Visual Artist Portrait of Japanese woman wearing kimono and blue umbrella via photopin (license)