Phil Gyford


Thursday 2 October 2003

PreviousIndexNext Hiragana and Katakana practice page

I’ve been learning Japanese for a while now, and needed a better way to learn the characters that I don’t yet know. Repeatedly going through a list means you learn the sequences, rather than the individual letters. So I’ve made a page that displays characters randomly. It lets you choose to practice Hiragana, Katakana or both at once and gives you a score. Maybe one day I’ll move onto Kanji…

Writing a page with foreign scripts in was interesting. Once I’d worked out how to actually enter the characters, the most peculiar problem was a PHP oddity: The Katakana character for “so” seems to cause a PHP syntax error if it’s used within PHP (eg, if you try and assign it to a variable, or use it in an array). All the other characters were fine.


makes me want to learn japanese

Posted by anno on 2 October 2003, 2:27 pm | Link

Neat page, I can see it being really helpful as a replacement for the flash cards that I use to keep me sharp in katakana. I might even show it to Kawamura-sensee next time I see him. I do have one suggestion though:

I do not know PHP at all, but I wonder if it would be difficult for you to also allow use of other romazi systems such as Shin-kunrei-shiki which provides a romanization that bears a much more direct relation to Japanese structure than Hepburn which is based on Western languages. If you ever decide to add Shin-kunrei-shiki to your program, I would be more than happy to help you.


Posted by セオドアブラ&# on 9 December 2003, 10:29 pm | Link

Yes, it would be possible, and I'd like to do this when I can find the time - it's currently just a quick thing I built for me and hope others find useful.

However, I don't know much about the different systems, so if you can point me at any resources that show the alternatives I'd be very grateful!

Posted by Phil Gyford on 10 December 2003, 12:20 am | Link

Sorry to be a pedant, but katakana and hiragana are *not* "alphabets", they're syllabaries. Calling them "alphabets" may actually make it harder to learn them, since the word may help to set up an unconscious block against the practice (unfamiliar to westerners and many other non-Japanese) of writing and reading syllable by syllable, instead of letter by letter.
But that's trivial, really: more importantly, congratulations on, and thanks for, this practice page, and, by the way, the Pepys Diary site too.
Happy New Year!

Posted by Patrick Heenan on 5 January 2004, 6:15 pm | Link

Thanks for the great practice page! I'm at my second year of study (part time) and I was stuck in a pattern, wondering what I could do to add a little challenge and not get too rusty. Your practice page came in handy.

I'll be sure to show this to my colleagues & my sensei.


Posted by Julie on 6 January 2004, 5:19 pm | Link

Just found the random character test page and had to thank you for creating it. I've recentely taught myself Hiragana and taking this test daily will help keep them fresh in my mind as I start on Katakana next.

Posted by Jeff on 30 January 2004, 11:21 pm | Link

Phil San - great stuff - just what I need - see you at class!

Posted by Nick San on 12 February 2004, 1:41 pm | Link

Love the practice page! Had some free time so i learnt the hiragana syllabery yesterday. I was testing myself today when the character "wo" appeared. I typed in "wo" but i was told i was wrong several times. I was just wondering whether there is a mistake in the software, if not, then i'm very sorry sorry, was probably just my internet going wrong.

Posted by Daniel on 8 February 2005, 1:25 pm | Link

Hi. I just realised that "wo" can also be the symbol for "o". It was my fault, so i apologise. The site makes for really good practice though. thanks

Posted by Daniel on 8 February 2005, 1:48 pm | Link

I noticed on Hu/Fu you only allow for Fu to be the correct romaji. I'm still a first year student (three weeks into the class), but aren't hu and fu both exceptable?

Posted by Justin Pedigo on 13 September 2005, 5:24 am | Link

I think there are different ways of interpreting the characters. It's a pretty simply page, so it only accepts one of the options.

Posted by Phil Gyford on 13 September 2005, 8:19 am | Link

Hey, Patrick Heenan. Katakana and hiragana *are* alphabets. An alphabet is just a set of written characters that represent spoken sounds. The fact that hiragana and katakana characters represent entire syllables instead of a single sound doesn’t change that.

Posted by Adam on 1 February 2006, 4:15 pm | Link

Great job. Very useful.

Perhaps this is unreasonable, but it would be great if you could also do this for Greek and Cyrillic.

Posted by Stuart Locke on 5 March 2006, 2:05 am | Link

Extremely helpful in all aspects. I support the request of adding other romanji systems, but of course that could be asking too much XD.

Posted by Carl on 21 June 2006, 4:53 am | Link

The system displays the incorrect hiragana for "cho".

Posted by Martin on 24 August 2006, 2:19 pm | Link

Thanks Martin - I must have introduced that error last week when I moved servers and had to re-do all the characters due to some file corruption. It's fixed now.

Posted by Phil Gyford on 24 August 2006, 2:28 pm | Link

Was using your fantastic Kana practice utility and ran into a problem when the katakana "shu" came up. Entered "shu" and was told that it was wrong. Hmmm....but it must be right! Tried "syu" on the odd chance, but that was wrong too. Now I'm stuck, and cannot skip the question...a nice feature to have. Just for kicks I entered "ju", in case the (") was missing.....and that was it! The "correct" answer according to the program was "ju"....but that is should be "shu". Perhaps the same problem as Martin had with the hiragana "cho"?

At any rate, thanks for this fantastic tool! As it is not multiple choice, it really tests your knowledge of the kana! And agree wholeheartedly about studying "lists".....

Looking forward to introductory kanji someday?!?!


Posted by Bill Ash on 27 August 2006, 8:28 pm | Link

Sorry...seems to be the same with the katakana "sho" (ショ). Must enter "jo" to get the "correct" answer. I imagine that "sha" (シャ) will need to be answered with "ja", as I'm not sure if I've come across it yet.


Posted by Bill Ash on 27 August 2006, 8:40 pm | Link

I had "sho" displayed twice in the katakana test.
Once it took "sho" and the other time it wanted "jo", even though the same katakana symbol was displayed both times (ショ).
Where it wants "jo", change the シ to ジ and it'll be fine.
Same little mix-up with "shu".
I believe "sha" is fine though.

Posted by Martin on 28 August 2006, 4:18 pm | Link

Bill, Martin - sorry about the mix up. I was obviously using too small text when I re-entered the characters recently! I've corrected those now, so it should all be fine. Hopefully! Thanks for pointing these things out.

Posted by Phil Gyford on 29 August 2006, 8:25 am | Link

One last observation I made while taking the kana test.
If you get the first 101 symbols right, the system stops there and fails to display the 102nd symbol. As you know there are 102 syllables in the japanese language.
It seems the system "forgets" one of them if you get to 101 without making a mistake. I wonder if it's the same symbol each time or a random one.
This little quirk applies to both the hiragana and the katakana test.

Posted by Martin on 3 September 2006, 11:43 am | Link

sorry, I am new here, this practice is just great!!! But I got really stuck on じよ.

thank you !!!

Posted by Mila on 19 September 2006, 7:51 am | Link

I have not memorized all of the hiragana yet and the block feature is frustrating to say the least. Can't we just choose to get it wrong? Nice concept though, but it just doesnt work for everyone.

Posted by Shirubi on 13 November 2006, 5:14 pm | Link

Fantastic practise page! Thank you so much for making it. There are many online flash card games to help you memorizes the Hiragana and Katakana but all seem to suck. This is simple and clear. I use it everyday!!!

However have you considered including some of the modern katakana combinations such as va, vi, vu, ve, vo? There are also 12 more combination characters (tsa, di, du, tso etc) that could also be included.

Posted by James on 5 December 2006, 8:57 pm | Link

James -- we didn't cover those combinations when I was learning Japanese, so I never thought to include them. I'm no longer learning so I'm afraid I probably won't get round to including them. I'm glad you like it all the same.

Posted by Phil Gyford on 7 December 2006, 3:48 pm | Link

Commenting is disabled on posts once they’re 30 days old.