Lesson 5: ひらがな and カタカナ
Before we start today's lesson on ひらがな and カタカナ, we will look at how to say 'and' in Japanese.

Unlike English, Japanese has a variety of ways to say 'and', but we are specifically interested in how to say 'ひらがな and カタカナ'. Both ひらがな and カタカナ are nouns and in Japanese nouns can be connected with an English 'and' like structure called と・'to', so the title of our lessons becomes ひらがなとカタカナ. As you might imagine, Japanese doesn't use spaces to separate words, so sometimes long strings of ひらがな interspersed with particles like と can be difficult to read. In Japanese, sentence structure identifiers are called particles. English uses word position in a sentence to identify what purpose it plays in the sentence. For example, in the previous sentence 'English' is the subject and 'sentence' is the object. English is a subject, verb, object language. Japanese on the other hand uses particles attached to the end of words to define what part they play in the sentence. Particles can also do other interesting things, but for the moment, just understand that と can be placed between two nouns to link them like the English 'and' structure. 

The other thing I want to look at is 課・カ・lesson. 課 is made up of 言・デン・'de-n'・say and 果・カ・enlightenment/fruit. 課 is a phono-semantic 文字. It inherits its sound from果 on the right and its meaning from言. 言 shows sound waves emanating from a 口mouth and 果 shows 木trees growing in a 田field/paddy, or fruit trees. 果is also used to refer to enlightenment or the fruits of Buddhist practice (fruits of your labour). The idea of this 漢字 is the果 fruits or outcomes of 言 what is being said, or a lesson. 課 can also be used as a counter, so 'lesson 5' becomes 5課.

た or タ are pronounced as 'do' in 'done'; it is romanised as 'da'.

た is derived from 太・タ・very big. 太 is made up of 大・だい・'da-i'・big and the semantic丶 for excessive. In Japanese both たい と だい mean big, this is how you can remember the た 文字.

タ is derived from 多い・タ・おおい・many. The タ radical is a simplified pictogram of two pieces of 肉・ニク・meat. Unfortunately, this タ radical shares the same pictogram as the 月・つき・'tsu-ki'・crescent moon. Just be aware that タ can refer to meat or moon. 多 is used in many words that involve many things and is similar to the English prefix 'multi-'. 多数決・たすうけつ・tasuuketsu・majority rule, 多少・たしょう・tashou・amount/quantity, 多様・たよう・tayou・diverse/varied, 多数・たすう・tasuu・great number.

ち and チ are pronounced as 'chee' in 'cheek'; romanised as 'chi'.

ち is derived from知・チ・wisdom/know. It is a phono-semantic compound and shows an矢 arrow and a ‎口 mouth. The idea of this 漢字 is that people's words from their 口mouth, which hit the mark like an 矢 arrow hitting a target, are wise and knowledgeable. 

チ is derived from 千・セン・ち・thousand. 千 shows a 人・ひと・'hi-to'・ man and two 一・いち one lines, the first representing one and the second representing counting beyond one. Most kanji use the セン reading, but place names like 千島・ちしま・Kurile Islands, will use the kun'yomi reading. To remember this kana just remember the チ 漢字.

つ and ツ are difficult to pronounce for English speakers. There is an English word derived from Japanese 'tsunami', but the 'tsu' in 'tsunami' is often pronounced as 'su'. To pronounce 'tsu' say 't' then add 'su' to the end, like strong 'su'. 

つ and ツ are derived from 川・かわ・セン・river in a previous lesson when comparing it to シ・shi. The modern on'yomi reading of 川 is セン, but the old Chinese reading is /*t.l̥u[n]/, which became ‹tsyhwen› in middle Chinese and is now chuān in modern Pinyin. There is no good mnemonic to remember this kana. It is best to memorise this one by itself. 

て and テ are pronounced as 'te' in 'ten'; romanised as 'te'.

て andテ are derived from 天・テン・あまつ・amatsu・heaven. 天 shows a 大man with outstretched arms looking up toward 一heaven. Two Japanese words make particular use of 天 including 天気・テンキ・weather and 天国・テンゴク・tengoku・heaven. Another word you can remember is 天使・テンシ・angel. 

と and ト are pronounced as 'to' in 'top'; romanised as 'to'.

と andトare derived from 止まれ・とまれ・tomare・シ・stop/halt. 止 has two etymological roots, the first is a pictogram of a footprint and the second shows a 足・あし・foot stopping at a 一line. The easiest way to remember this 文字 is to think of 止まれ or stop. 

That is all for today, tune in tomorrow for another lesson.