February 7, 2011 | Japanese

Handwriting Advice Needed!

In which font variations stymie this language learner.

To improve my conversational skills, I am on a tear to try to finish all available Pimsleur Japanese lessons as quickly as possible, as these are by far the most valuable self-help resource I have encountered to aid my speaking abilities. It is slow going. Japanese is not easy. So I guess what I am on cannot properly be termed a “tear.”

And I continue my writing practice. As I move from one workbook to the next, I keep noticing that the way certain kana are rendered is often significantly different from the way I learned them in my main source of lessons on Japanese writing, the Easy Kana Workbook (by Rita L. Lampkin and Osamu Hoshino). 

This is an issue that has recurred frequently throughout this project: when you are learning a new alphabet or writing system, the difference between a handwritten sample as opposed to a machine-generated sample, or from one font to the next, causes certain letters or symbols to become unrecognizable to the neophyte.

Me at Multilingual MOMA

Me at Multilingual MOMA

In English, Don't These A's Look Pretty Different?

In English, Don’t These A’s Look Pretty Different?

The katakana look consistent enough to me across the different books I have encountered; my problems so far lie entirely with the hiragana. I first really noticed this issue at the Museum of Modern Art a couple of weeks ago, when I couldn’t recognize certain characters on their customer-friendly multilingual signs.

Please Help

Please Help

The hiragana characters shown here are the biggest troublemakers.

I am wondering if the six in the left-hand column, which are what I learned from my Easy Kana Workbook, are not the standard or ideal, and if I should reform my writing to look more like the versions on the right, which are what I see frequently in other sources. Help!

Today I wrote my first sentences in Japanese. Well, kind of. I looked at transliterations and rendered them in kana. That was exciting.

I love seeing how different cultures punctuate. There is much more global variety than I ever realized.

In Japanese, periods are cute little circles. And the Japanese comma slants from upper left to lower right. It looks like an English comma taking a nap.

Comments (4)

Jenny • Posted on Tue, August 21, 2012 - 2:01 am EST

You probably already figured this out, but since nobody answered, I will!  The right column are the more handwriting-y forms, and the left aren’t. With most of them, you can handwrite them either way (whichever you like better) with the exception of き and さ.  Those should be handwritten the way they are in the left column.

Good luck!

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Tue, August 21, 2012 - 7:33 pm EST

Thank you so much, Jenny! I appreciate it!

Jenny • Posted on Wed, August 22, 2012 - 1:20 am EST

Oops, with this sentence “right column are the more handwriting-y forms, and the left aren’t”’, I meant to say that the LEFT are more handwriting-y! 

You’re welcome!  I’m sure that you’re way past this by now, though :)

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Wed, August 22, 2012 - 12:50 pm EST

Thank you for clarifying, Jenny!

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