Fifty Sounds (Gojūon)
Gojūon ("the Fifty Sounds") is the foundation of Japanese learning. It is the
Japanese "alphabetical order" and its name refers to the 5×10 grid in which the
characters are displayed. By using a Gojūon chart, Hiragana and Katakana can be
learned and memorized pretty fast.
1. A Gojūon chart consists of five columns and ten rows. The first row contains
the five Japanese vowels and they are considered the most important of all,
because the Hiragana in the other nine rows is pronounced based on a combination
of consonants and those five vowels.
2. For each row, it’s named with the first "Kana"(Hiragana, Katakana). For
example, the first row is called "a-row". And for each column, it is also named
with the first Kana (Hiragana, Katakana). For example, the first column is
3. In Gojūon, each Kana is represented in Hiragana, Katakana and Romanization
4. Romaji is Japanese writing in Roman letters for the convenience of
transliteration for speakers of other languages who don’t read any Kana. Apart
from being broadly employed in signs or slogans aimed at international
audiences, Romaji is also a very common way to input Japanese into computers. In
the beginning phase of learning Japanese pronunciation, Romaji would be greatly
helpful as well.
There are two Romanizations in use today, the Kunrei-shiki and the Hepburn
System. They are slightly different in marking the reading of some Kana:
The Kunrei-shiki system is very orderly and traditional in nature and is
primarily used inside Japan, mostly in domestic textbooks. The Hepburn system is
a direct reflection of Kana’s pronunciation. For its simplicity in grasping
Japanese pronunciation, the Hepburn system is extensively applied in Japanese
(Note: LingoDeer uses the Hepburn system by default.)
5. Pay special attention to the pronunciation of the Kana in the penultimate row
(ra-row). The Japanese "r" is non-rhotic. Though Romanized as "ra, ri, ru, re,
ro", they should be pronounced like "la, li, lu, le, lo".
6. Note that the bracketed Kana in the third row to the last (ya-row) and the
last row (wa-row) are the same as the Kana in the first row (a-row).
7.The last Kana
in Gojūon usually doesn’t appear on its own, but rather in combinations with
other Kana (go to Hatsuon for detailed reference). While inputting on a
keyboard, double-type "n" for "ん".