Beginner Struggle and Questions


I’m 43 and just starting learning japanese - taking it one step at a time. I can identify and write all of the Hiragana and pronounce things pretty well (hard to grade oneself hehe). Still struggle with identifying the different sounds when I’m watching something and they are speaking. I don’t yet have Japanese brain yet, so I’m sure I’ll get there.


  1. When do you choose to use Kanji over Hiragana to write things out? Is it only if you know the Kanji? For example: 猫 vs ねこ or does ねこ have a different meaning if written with Hiragana? Is it OK to just know ねこ and skip the Kanji as to not get overwhelemed or better to associate both things together?

  2. Some of the Kanji for example are pronounced the same. Is this correct? For example: 口 (mouth) こう and I think construction/industry was also こう. If so, when you are hearing someone speak Japanese how do you know what word they are referring to? Is it just the context?

  3. When you see a Kanji that has the hiragana at the top, that is just showing you the pronunciation right?

I think where I’m having some difficulty is putting the pieces together of where to go next. I think learning a bit of Kanji might help me before I learn grammar since I’ll know some words, but I’m not sure.

What did personaly feel was a good number of Kanji so when you started writing basic grammar you had enough to play with? Also, should I learn Hiragana words at the same time or stick to Kanji? What did you do?

Sorry for all the questions, I’m read so much and watched so many videos I think I’m going around in circles.


The general preference is using kanji when given kanji are commonly known to natives, but also baring in mind the target audience of the text.

If you write ねこ everyone will know you mean a cat. However, since kana is also more related to pronunciation/phonetics, if one uses kana for a particular word, it might be an indication that the sound of the word is more important than the kanji one would use to write the word.

It’s highly recommended to learn kanji in general.

The fact the kana transcription is the same, doesn’t mean the words are pronounced the same always. See: pitch accent. That being said, the context will dictate what the word means and in conversation (based on what my teacher taught me) there is a preference for simpler language.

For hiragana, yes. It’s called furigana. However, sometimes in written language a word might have katakana above which suggests how the word should be read, regardless of which kanji is used. In that case the kanji are there to indicate meaning.

It would be good to learn hiragana words alongside, however for basic kanji around 100 would be enough to get you started with grammar, since beginner level grammar explanations will use simple words.

The TL:DR would be to grab a text book or a comprehensive online resource and just roll with it :slight_smile: .


Great and comprehensive answer!

I want to point out that it’s very common for animal names to be spelled in katakana even if the kanji is relatively well known. So you’re likely to encounter ネコ and イヌ and クモ and ハチ etc…

More generally in popular media such as videogames and manga it’s very common for authors to take many liberties with kanji/kana usage for various stylistic effects. I won’t pretend that I understand the full depth of it yet, see for instance this comment in the videogame thread.

Pitch accent can help for sure but it’s 99% about context. If you play old NES game back when they didn’t have enough RAM to store kanji, it’s 100% full kana all the time and obviously Japanese people manage to read that just fine (or fine enough, at least).

Wehn you’re a ntiave saekper you can rlleay uasdrnnetd a lot uinsg cntoext ceus eevn if, to a feiernogr, it semes lkie the txet is a haep of nnonesse.

Also pitch accent varies a lot from region to region from what I understand, so clearly it can’t be that important for ineligibility if Japanese people from different region manage to understand each other.

I agree completely with you that learning Kanji is well worth it though, at least if you don’t mind focusing your studies on the written language. If the objective is mostly to speak Japanese in the short term, it’s probably better to put the emphasis on grammar, vocab and speaking practice.



Thanks everyone for your reply is greatly appreciated and it clarifies some of the questions I had.

In my first few lessons in struggling with:

In the case of the Tent Kanji, I’m trying to understand why if it’s “new” phonetically why it would be: Ni Yu U vs Ni U.

To me they both sound so close, it’s hard to distinguish. Specially since I also speak Spanish Ni U sounds closer to new to me then Ni Yu U. I understand that when you have this case the u is more Niuuu, but what the best way or resource to get a handle on distinguishing these sounds?

Not sure if that makes sense.

Thanks again everyone!

You can hear the pronunciation in vocab associated to it. For example here 入力 (にゅうりょく). There is a female voice and a male voice.

Some pronunciation drills can be found here Japanese Dashboard - The Mimic Method

It’s nyuu not niyuu. にゅう small ゆ

Let’s not call it tent kanji, too. :sweat_smile:
Doesn’t it say enter when it’s not the radical?


It’s Kana, not pronunciation. In modern Japanese, it’s small ゅ, only to be pronounced together with the bigger Kana in the front, にゅ

In older works and sometimes Furigana, it might be written as a big ゆ as well. You simply have to recognize as such on your own. (Small っ too, btw.)

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And so is the vocabulary for high, school, anti, and many other words. High school is 高校 and pronounced こうこう. It is all about context.

Some people say Japanese is easy…

Lol sorry, meant enter!

Thanks everyone!

I think what everyone failed to mention here is that those are not words by themselves, just kanji. Mouth is くち (kunyomi reading), and 工 is usually a kanji in a compound word like 工業 (こうぎょう). Now, some kanji are words by themselves, and they will usually use the japanese (kunyomi) pronunciation. You’ll get a feel for this slowly so no need to worry about it now.


En este caso en particular el alfabeto castellano usa una letra diferente, a ver:

にゅ = ñu
にう = níu

uno es una sola sílaba, el otro es un diftongo de dos sílabas.
(con las demás combinaciones no hay equivalente, pero si la diferencia n/ñ te permite conceptualizar mejor el caso de n/ny japonés, pues es similar con los demás k/ky, g/gy, etc.)

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Just saying, don’t pronounce it like this when speaking Japanese. :sweat_smile: