Before studying the Japanese language, or from hereon referred to as Nihongo, I was never able to distinguish Japanese text from Chinese text, or kanji. Later then that I realized Japanese kanji is actually borrowed from the Chinese kanji, some of which have been simplified. Kanji actually means Chinese characters, thus, my saying Chinese kanji or Japanese kanji is actually redundant.
But before we trouble ourselves with these kanji, I must introduce to you the two other Japanese writing systems, the syllabic Japanese scripts Hiragana and the Katakana, generally known as Kana. (Click here for the History of Kana)
Hiragana chart (click image to view full size)
Katakana chart (click image to view full size)
At first glance, they may look strange AND similar. But after practice, writing and reading practice, you will get the hang of it. Although I must admit, up till now I still have difficulty reading Katakana. I even have difficulty distinguishing between Hiraganas nu, ne, and me. :”> Please read this post to know when Hiragana or Katakana are used.
Anyway I hope we all can get to memorize the two charts since in my later posts I will be writing Japanese words and phrases in hiragana or katakana. A good way to learn these characters is by actually write them by hand. Familiarization is also a good tool but learning to write is, in my opinion, still the best way.
By the way, before I forget, the romanization of Japanese text is called Romaji (Roman + character/ji ?).
Based on experience, the more you become dependent on Romaji, the less you get familiar with the Hiragana or Katakana scripts. Moreover, the more you depend on reading the Hiragana text above the Kanji (called Furigana) the less you learn Kanji. I have been suffering from this mistake for a long time now that I tend to forget my learned Kanji easily.
Anyway I have also included here a link to a site where you can learn kana playfully. http://www.aeriagloris.com/LearnJapanese/