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Teaching Japanese Kids Alphabet through Hiragana? 
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Joined: Mon Nov 17, 2008 3:21 pm
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Post Teaching Japanese Kids Alphabet through Hiragana?
Ok, I teach elementary school kids once a week. Lately I've been getting the 5th and 6th graders to do the alphabet, using a lot of phonics and what not.

I am thinking about introducing my 4th graders to the Alphabet. Unlike my 5th and 6th graders, the 4th graders have 0 experience with the alphabet. I was thinking about starting by teaching them to write their names.

To do this, I thought about creating an alphabet chart that matches up with a hirigana chart:

A / Ka / Sa Etc.
I / Ki / Shi
U / Ku / SU
E / Ke / Se
O / Ko / So

The advantage is that they can then immediately learn how to match hirigana with romanji and write their names (and also all other Japanese words) in the alphabet.

The downside, is that I'm afraid this might reinforce their katakana pronunciations of English.

What do those of you who have taught Japanese kids think? Any suggestions on how to start them off on the alphabet?


Thu Apr 23, 2009 11:11 am
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Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2006 1:36 pm
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Location: Tohoku Japan
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hhmm? yes, I would imagine doing it that way would lead to hiragana pronunciation?

also I think its in the 4th grade ciriculum to learm the alphabet anyway? (later in the year)

if it was me, I would do it later in the year after they have done it in class


Thu Apr 23, 2009 11:29 am
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
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Location: Nagano, Japan
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I don't think that would be so good. The problem I see with that is if you are teaching the students using their L1 for association, they will also associate the sound the letter represents to the sound in L1. That's OK if the sounds are the same, but the Japanese grapheme 'a' doesn't make the same sound the English grapheme represents.

Chinese has a Roman letter system for writing chinese words, but I can't make sense of the pronounciation system used. I think it's best to separate those Roman systems as their L1, not English.

So, I tell my Japanese students 'Romaji' or the Japanese Roman alphabet is Japanese, not English. They use the same writing system, but they are different.

What is it that you're trying to achieve? Is it just to get them to write their name or are you going to be moving on to reading?

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Thu Apr 23, 2009 10:00 pm
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Location: Gunma, Japan
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So, I think Kiwione is right about the 4th graders studying romanji. I think the teacher's are doing romanji in the Japanese classes, because when I went into my class the teachers had already taken them through writing their names and making name tags (something they wouldn't have been able to do the week before). I usually keep the homeroom teachers updated on the lessons and I dropped off the name tag materials the week before, and I guess they just decided to get a jump on them.


So that pretty much avoided me having to make any decision. But I'd say Mark is right about separating romanji and the alphabet, but the romanji chart does seem like an easy way out to get them to write their names in 5 minutes. I certainly wouldn't have extended it beyond writing names.

I think the hard answer would be to make tracing exercises tailored to each of their names, but with 3 classes of 30 kids, that is a pain in the butt.



Anyways, I think the teachers are just starting to throw romanji their way, and I don't have to worry about the name tags or getting them to write their names anymore.



From here on out I'm going to start short vowel sounds slowly, maybe with 5 minutes of exercises at the beginning of each class. Short vowels are easy enough for fourth graders if we work on one or two letters a lesson. This will go good along with their romanji studies, since the short vowels make it clear that the sounds are often different from the romanji sounds.


Mon Apr 27, 2009 6:08 pm
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I think what hasn't been said yet, which is kinda off-topic but still on-topic is that while the kids learn romaji in 4th grade, the stroke order is quite questionable, looking more like a kanji than anything.

While stroke order isn't as quite important when writing the alphabet, creating new stroke orders that follow how kanji is written, in my opinion, shouldn't be encouraged. So, just keep in mind that if you relate the alphabet back to the kids' L1 language, you make the argument stronger for them to keep writing alphabet stroke orders weird.

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Mon Apr 27, 2009 9:25 pm
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Joined: Fri Oct 16, 2009 2:54 pm
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I don`t think this would be beneficial to the students at all.
My pet hate in Japan is katakana English, i.e. pronouncing letters which don`t appear in the words and the terrible spelling that comes from it.

This I think would just make this worse and possible create bad habits.

The alphabet song is the best thing to teach them the alphabet, im not sure it can be bettered. Even my 3rd graders sing it when flicking through the dictionaries etc.

Then you can play games where the students make the letter shapes with their bodies to get the shape and stroke order sorted perhaps?

Just a thought :mrgreen:


Fri Nov 27, 2009 3:13 pm
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Post Problems with pronunciation
great advice from mark to suggest that Romaji is Japanese, my 4th grade students get confused because their schools teach them different reading from what they learn in class. I sometimes get Sukuru for School or naisu for nice. Kids get confused often because of the usage of romaji in Schools.

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Tue Dec 01, 2009 1:00 pm
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Post Writing the Alphabet
I'd follow the advice of everyone here and not teach the alphabet in romaji form. For all the reasons mentioned, as well as keeping it clear to the homeroom teacher that romaji and the alphabet are two different systems.

Just off topic a bit but kinda related to the topic. I used to teach how to write the alphabet in the traditional way of A to Z. Then I saw a great program on T.V recently where kindergarten teachers were teaching Hiragana and Katakana to 4 - 6 year olds. They rearranged the kana-bets so that children learnt the easy to write kana first before progressing to the more difficult kana last.

I tried this with the alphabet with my Elementary grade 4 students and it has been a big hit. Students remember how to write the easier letters (i, l, t, f, etc) quickly with good form and actually look forward to the 'challenge' of writing the more difficult ones (g, s, e, etc).


Thu Dec 03, 2009 12:30 pm
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My opinion is to avoid any of the Japanese association when teaching the alphabet. This will only hurt them in the long run.

Try teaching the alphabet in only English. It will get the best results.

I teach Japanese adults in Canada, and I would love to meet one student who learned English in English and not with all that Japanese. Then I wouldn't have to spend forever correcting their pronunciation.

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Wed Dec 16, 2009 2:38 pm
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