Continuing The Pattern

“A consistent thinker is a thoughtless person, because he conforms to a pattern; he repeats phrases and thinks in a groove.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

Now that you have the first five kana’s pronunciation down really solidly (right?), it’s time to move on to the next column in the hiragana chart to learn how the pattern holds up.

To the left of the first five (a, i, u, e, o) you should see the next column: ka, ki, ku, ke, & ko.

Notice something? There’s a definite pattern here. The “ka-column” (which is what we’ll call ka, ki, ku, ke, ko) has kana in it that consist of two parts:

Consonant (that’s a letter that’s not a vowel. In this case, it’s “K”)

Vowel (specifically from the a, i, u, e, o column)

In hiragana, except for the first column (a, i, u, e, o) and one more exception (n), every single kana consists of a consonant plus a vowel, just like we saw in the “ka-column.” Basically, most kana in the hiragana alphabet consist of two English letters to create one Japanese one. This might be weird at first, but you’ll get used to it (and it’ll make a lot more sense in the next chapter, when you start learning how to write it).

Let’s take a closer look at the “ka-column” now to see what I’m talking about.

か → ka → This is just K + あ (a), therefore it has a “kah” sound.
き → ki → This is just K + い (i), therefore is identical to the word “key” in English
く → ku → This is just K + う (u), therefore has a “koo” sound, like “kublai khan” or cool.
け → ke → This is just K + え (e), therefore has a “keh” sound, like “kettle”
こ → ko → This is just K + お (o), therefore has a “koh” sound like comb.

Do you see the pattern here? If we go from right to left on the hiragana chart, you’ll see that the pattern continues.

  • あ (a), か (ka), さ (sa), た (ta), な (na), etc (all of these are “a” sounds)
  • い (i), き (ki), し (shi), ち (chi), に (ni), etc. (all of these are “i” sounds)
  • and so on. Take a look at the hiragana chart and see the patterns created in all the other rows, too (u, e, and o).

If you look at the “i” row that I laid out above, you’ll notice a couple of weird exceptions (like shi & chi instead of “si” and “ti”). There are going to be things that aren’t 100% perfect with what you’d expect (like the examples I just gave), but they’re all going to be close, which means they won’t be too difficult to learn.

On the next page, we’re going to look at these exceptions and get them out of the way before you go on and go through all the rest of the hiragana. That way when you run into said exceptions, you’ll be able to breeze through them instead of breaking your concentration.

Before you move on, make sure you understand how the pattern works. All hiragana “letters” use the “a, i, u, e, o” sounds, except for the one exception, “n” (you’ll learn about him soon enough).

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