Apparently today is “International Literacy Day” set by UNESCO in 1965.
Umm, how can I connect “Literacy” with “food”? OK, I will talk about “apples” today!
But before I jump into “apples,” I will talk about “literacy/scripts” first.
Japanese uses 4 different scripts. They are:
- ひらがな(Hiragana) – the first set of phonetic alphabet children learn in Japan. In a normal Japanese sentence, all sounds that cannot be written in Katakana or Kanji are written in Hiragana.
- カタカナ(Katakana) – the second set of phonetic alphabet. In a normal Japanese sentence, Katakana is preliminarily used to write originally foreign words in Japanese. That’s why all foreign people’s names (except for those which have kanji writing) are written in Katakana.
- 漢字(Kanji) – Chinese characters. Each character has some meaning(s) and most of these meanings are common with the Chinese language (but not all though). There is a list of about 2000 kanji characters designated for everyday use （常用漢字/じょうようかんじ/jouyou_kanji）.
- ローマ字(Ro-maji) – Japanese words written in the English alphabet. Roomaji is not usually visible in a normal Japanese sentence but many computer users use “Roomaji Input” method on a keyboard with the English alphabet. When you enable “roomaji input” on your computer and if you hit the letter “a”, your computer will automatically convert that to あ.
Most Japanese words are written in one of or in combination of the first 3 above.
Now I will go back to “apples.” The title for today’s blog, “りんご、リンゴ、林檎 and ringo,” are the example of each writing, Hiragana, Katakana, Kanji and Roomaji respectively for the Japanese word “apple.”
The other day, I made a grammar exercise for my Year 12 students and in it there was a sentence:きのう買ったリンゴはおいしくなかったです/kinou katta ringo wa oishiku nakatta desu. (The apple I bought yesterday was not delicious). Then a student asked me: why is the “apple” written in katakana, not in Hiragana? Does “ringo” come from another language?
The short answer to that is: “No, ringo is a Japanese word, but in order to make it stand out, we sometimes use Katakana for emphasis.”
The longer answer is: we normally use Kanji for most other fruits in everyday writing but 檎 for 林檎 is such a difficult one (I cannot write it myself!) and it is not included in the above-mentioned 常用漢字 list, so we use りんご. However, りんご does not stand out in a sentence like: きのう買ったりんごはおいしくなかったです. So many people write it as リンゴ to make it stand out.
In order to be able to pronounce Japanese words well, I recommend you learn Hiragana at least. Please have a look at my online course: Hiragana Learning Modules | EasyJapaneseE
In order to pass the entry level of Japanese Language Proficiency Test, you need to know Katakana and about 100 Kanji characters as well. Please check: