January 17, 2011 | Japanese

Write Write Write!

Help, I can't stop practicing kana!

One of my earliest childhood memories is of writing the alphabet. The English one, I mean.

I can see myself sitting on the floor at the edge of a sunny living room, I think with wall-to-wall carpeting and glass doors, and I am writing letters not in order in neat rows, but in random positions all over a piece of white paper. An A in one corner, a B in another, and so on. Each pointing in a different direction, and therefore collectively messy (even though I was very careful to form the individual letters correctly).

Something about placing the letters randomly around the page was exciting, I remember. It was…fun! And a little rebellious, perhaps? As an adult, I often take notes that way: in chaotic swirls rather than rows.

Practice Makes...Better Than Totally Lame

Practice Makes…Better Than Totally Lame

I have been spending a lot of time practicing my Japanese writing skills, and it gives me feelings similar to the ones I associate with that early memory: profound joy, resulting from the placement of representations of sound on paper.

I am in fact writing the Japanese kana in tidy rows, but I find many of the symbols inherently messy in appearance. Some of the kana are sort of random-looking.

One of the two katakana symbols for the syllable ji, for example, is almost ugly to me. Like a deformed smiley face with an extra pair of eyes!

It is, by the way, only one of four ways I have encountered to write the syllable ji in Japanese!

A Deformed Smiley Face?

A Deformed Smiley Face?

In any case, I am now like a woman obsessed.




Amid the obsession, I am still getting other non-writing-focused language-learning tasks accomplished. Today I advanced to the second of three Pimsleur levels, and I have continued with Rosetta Stone. Still, my focus on learning to write the Japanese kana is definitely encroaching on the time I would normally spend developing my oral skills through Pimsleur.

I have therefore decided I need to come up with mnemonic devices that will help me remember some of the characters I have not been able to get into my head. It is harder work to come up with mnemonic devices than to copy things over and over, and I am sometimes lazy, so I will have to make myself.

Okay, here is a mnemonic device I just came up with for the hiragana symbol for yu. Although I have been able to remember that the syllable starts with a y, I keep mistakenly thinking it is yo, not yu, so I need something to help me fix the vowel portion in my head.

How You Write Yu

How You Write “Yu”

How You Write Yo

How You Write “Yo”

Since yu looks kind of like a fish, I came up with, “Ooooooooo, a fish!” (“Oooooooo” being read here as a long u sound, not as an “oh.”)

Silly, I know, but it will probably work!

Comments (1)

Kayle • Posted on Thu, April 19, 2012 - 1:45 pm EST

For “yu” I use, “Hey look, yu caught a fish.” As for yo, I think the symbol looks like a dog sideways so I think, “Yo, dawg!” haha. Worked for me:]

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