“Japanese Language” by Ichika, General English Course student

Today I was asked by a teacher in breakfast club ‘How do you use three types of Japanese letters?’

It’s very difficult to explain. Do you know all Japanese letters? We have three types of them, Kan-ji (that is from China), Hiragana and Katakana. Hiragana are the easiest letters of Japanese because it is phonographic. So Japanese children learn Hiragana first in Elementary schools.

Kan-ji is the most difficult. It is used to appear on person’s names, some words that have been in Japan since the old era, etc.

Katakana is easier than Kan-ji because it is phonographic, too. But Katakana is used to appear on words of foreign origin. For example, chocolate, bag, computer, etc.

However we aren’t usually careful with how to use these three types of Japanese letters. So I can write my name with all types. When I use Kan-ji, readers can understand the meaning because it is ideographic. In Kan-ji my name means ‘one’ and ‘flower’.

You must be thinking why Japanese has three types of, letters won’t you?

Originally, Japanese people used only Chinese in the old days because there was a master-and-man relationship between China and Japan. After that, Japanese people made Katakana from Kan-ji. And then, they made Hiragana from Katakana. In that era, women couldn’t use Kan-ji becasue there was a big gap between women and men. So, women who wanted to write stories, diary or anything else made the two types of letters. In other words, men couldn’t use Hiragana and Katakana, because they might have seemed to think like women by others. Of course we can use all types of letters now.

Well, I said before, we use Kan-ji as we want to write person’s name. But it’s only for Kan-ji users. So, almost all foreign’s names are written in Katakana. And we always use all letters types together, especially Hiragana and Katakana. So if I want to write @I listen to music’ in Japanese I would mixed those two types.

the reason why we use all types of letters together, I think, is to be able to describe the details. I’m not sure. Although you are thinking you shouldn’t have read this article, I’m thinking i shouldn’t have tried to explain such a difficult theme.


THANKS Ichika for writing such a lovely article! 🙂


Ichika is from our Intermediate General English Course in EC London.