Hiragana vs. Katakana: What Is The Difference Between Them?

Hiragana vs. Katakana: What Is The Difference Between Them?

Getting yourself familiar with Japanese characters is one of the first things you need to do when trying to learn Japanese in Singapore. Japanese actually has three various writing systems: Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana. Many people consider Kanji as the hardest system to learn and master primarily because of its sheer volume.

On the other hand, Hiragana and Katakana are relatively easier to be familiar with. Generally, Hiragana and Katakana can be considered as two sets of Japanese syllabaries or alphabets. Unlike Kanji, they do not represent unique meanings. They are phonetic letters that represent one of 46 unique syllables. To understand more about these Japanese writing systems, here are some important things you should know about Hiragana and Katakana.

The difference between Hiragana and Katakana

Hiragana is the most common standard system of Japanese writing. It is ordinarily used either on its own or in conjunction with Kanji to create words. However, for beginners, it is advised to start writing only in Hiragana since Kanji can be rather difficult. Like English cursive, Hiragana has curly characters, but they function more like print – they are used more for easy reading. Hiragana is essentially the standard means of writing for clarity.

On the other hand, Katakana characters are more like print in their appearance – they are sharp and more blockish as compared to Hiragana. Usually, Katakana is used to signal readers that a Japanese word is originally foreign and adopted from another language. It is also often made use of for emphasis and onomatopoeia.

When it comes to their usage, Hiragana is more frequently used for native words, while Katakana is often used in loan words. Hiragana is also usually utilised as grammar notation, whereas Katana is typically used as phonetic notation.

Are Hiragana and Katakana easy to read and understand?

The simple answer to this question is yes. One of the best things about reading in Japanese is that both Hiragana and Katakana are phonetic, so they are always read the same way. In contrast to English where the letters can have numerous varying pronunciations, the Japanese alphabet is read exactly the same at all times.

Even when placed together in words, Hiragana and Katakana never change. While Kanji readings will change, Hiragana and Katakana will not. Therefore, if you think it is impossible to learn Japanese characters, you should take note that they are actually easier to learn than English since English has a lot of inconsistencies in pronunciation.

Which one should you learn first?

If you are wondering which between Hiragana and Katakana you should learn first, the answer is that you need to learn both of them within a brief period of time. Hence, starting with either one is absolutely fine! Once you have already learned one writing system, you can begin remembering the other one almost immediately. In fact, you can learn both syllabaries within just a few days.


Overall, the main difference between Hiragana and Katakana lies in their functions. While Hiragana is a more common and basic way of writing Japanese, Katakana is often used for emphasis and different stylistic purposes. Nonetheless, despite their differences, Hiragana and Katakana are also similar in several ways. Therefore, learning both of them together will surely be less complicated than you think.

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