こんにちにゃあ～！Welcome to Kiki+Koko: Let’s NihonGO!! Online! We hope you’re in the mood for another seasonal blend. This lesson would serve helpful if you fancy a cuppaーa bit of 茶, cha. That’s right, if you speak British English or just know a bit of it, you may have already been speaking a bit of Japanese. Though the origin of this loan word is Chinese, Japanese takes the same word for ‘tea’, being 茶, ちゃ,ー你喝茶吗? ーThat tea being the tea one drinks, of course, not after school tea. But, we digress! (Though it is certainly interesting to think of how small this planet is, after all.) One of this lesson’s blends may be drinkable, but these hiragana blends certainly work best as written characters. We’re bringing back some of those tasty ひらがな五十音, hiragana gojuuon, and adding a dash of 小さい, chiisai,「やゆよ」, which creates an entirely new flavour, 拗音, youon. So, if you’re only just visiting us for the first time, or perhaps you haven’t learnt ひらがな五十音, hiragana gojuuon, we recommend you familiarise yourself with them. Learning too far ahead is like an acquired taste– your palate will only truly appreciate it after you’ve familiarised yourself with the different components before you can truly enjoy the blend. In such a case, it’s important to suss out exactly 「拗音とは？｜What is youon?」(which is linked in the previous text.) Then, after you’ve had a go at 「きゃきゅきょ」and 「しゃしゅしょ」, you should be ready to have a taste of today’s blends!
Now, we always want to emphasise as lessons continue that each of them are built atop of one another, leading you from one concept to the next to make each concept less of a leap and more of a step. If you’re attempting to learn a new language, it can be difficult enough, and we don’t want you to find yourself becoming overwhelmed. That’s why, if you haven’t already, again, we recommend that if you’re even dabbling in Japanese language, you’ll want something to guide your linguistic palate. Being presented with a smörgåsbord of various teas and coffees may leave you interested but if you’re unsure which is which, it’ll all just be a sea of hot beverages that you can’t make out. But, if you have a proper guide, you’ll immediately be able to perceive the intended flavours and minutia whilst being able to get to that higher plane of enjoyment. So, if you’re just getting started, we recommend you have a look at our super quick guide: How Do You Write in Japanese? | Japanese Writing System Demystified . It’ll give you a basic look at what you can expect out of the Japanese writing system so that you won’t just see a bunch of lines and squiggles, but different sets of writing that we’ll break down into proper digestible serving sizes for you currently and in future. It’s an important and essential skill, knowing how to read which we explain in the linked article, but one should still be familiar with romanisation spelling, which, again, we explain in the linked article, but it’s just important not to rely on it. You can, however, rely on us to assist you with these concepts and more during each lesson! We’ll take you by the digital hand and lead you down the journey towards your Japanese learning goals! The first step can be taken right here: Let’s Read HIRAGANA!! | with Kiki+Koko &QUIZBO™.
Though the second round of lessons listed are of the large version of 「やゆよ」ーnot the small version we’ll be using today, which is 「ゃゅょ」ーit’s important to go back and keep these fresh in your mind. Though it can be helpful when it comes to stroke order when characters are utilised in different ways, it can become a bit muddied when it comes to differentiating them, especially in some fonts where the small characters may not be extremely tiny. So, just be sure to use this as an opportunity to be sure you’re comfortable with the initial characters before moving onto these new blends. And, here to help us introduce you to these new blends, we should probably welcome back your computer friend and ours, QUIZBO™くん！(The ™ is silent)
If you remember from previous instalments, this is a portable version, QUIZBO™ Mini, who lives here on the site. He’ll be here to help sound out these hiragana for you. You can click the sound ‘bytes’ as many times as you’d like, QUIZBO™ won’t mind. ( Get it, bytes? … Computer? ……..bytes? ………sound bites….? …..Yeah, we’ll be holding off on our stand-up careers. ) Afterwards, you’ll be able to take a quiz with QUIZBO™ to help you review them or test your knowledge!
Are you ready!?
Let’s NihonGO!! ちゃちゅちょ!!
We’re going to show you the character(s), then you you can click the play button to hear QUIZBO™ sound it out for you. But, as a better visualisation of each sound, we also have the romanised pronunciation of each character so you have something in English to which you can compare it.
In romaji, 「ちゃ」 is transliterated as「cha」which sounds sort of like「chahh」or the British slang 「char」without the schwa or diphthong.
Helpful Hints with Kiki+Koko:
Just as in the previous lesson, it’s important to remember this is one singular syllable when spoken. Rather than the incorrect ‘✖chee-yah’, it is pronounced as simply ‘〇chah’. With time, it will become easier to automatically see characters ending in a い vowel next to a tiny ヤ行, y-row, character which automatically negates the い vowel, leaving you with a proper blend.
Also, you’ll notice that when romanised in revised-hepburn, it shows the pronunciation rather than the spelling. This is another instance where it’s very important to learn how to read the hiragana spelling as only simply seeing ‘cha’, though it may leave you with a half-way decent pronunciation, you’ll find it impossible to recognise in its actual Japanese form. So, now that you’re learning it, you’re already ahead of the curve, now! Good on you!
**NOTE: You’ll sometimes see this romanised as ‘cya’, but you won’t have to know this for quizzes, here.
In romaji, 「ちゅ」 is transliterated as 「chu」which sounds sort of like the saying the English word「chew」.
Helpful Hints with Kiki+Koko:
You can use the sound of the English word’s equivalent in order to get used to the single syllable of 拗音, youon！When many say ‘chew’, there’s no gap betwixt the ‘ch’ sound and the ‘yu’ sound. So, just be sure to keep the middle 「い」sound out of the equation when you encounter it with a small 「ゃ」「ゅ」or「ょ」
**NOTE: You’ll sometimes see this romanised as ‘cyu’, but again, you won’t have to know this for quizzes, here. Many Japanese typists using romanised input will use this as a typing shortcut just as in the previous cases.
**Another Note: 「ちゅう」is also a smooch onomatopoeia and a colloquial term for ‘kiss’ or 「ちゅうちゅう」(チューチュー) is another way of making a mouse sound or a colloquial baby word for a mouse . So, if you’re sitting in a Japanese library and you’re saying 「ちゅう、ちゅう、ちゅう」to yourself, you may get some interesting looks whether being about a mouse or a kissーbut, then you can reassure them you’re just practising your hiragana youon and that should clear up any confusion.
In romaji, 「ちょ」 is transliterated as 「cho」which sounds sort of like 「choh」or the surname「Cho」.
Helpful Hints with Kiki+Koko:
There’s not much more we can add that we haven’t said in the previous hints, however one helpful hint is that you’ll often find this one paired with う in長音, chouon. So, it’s important to always be able to differentiate whether it’s simply ちょ, romanised 「cho」, or if it’s been romanised with a long vowel as in original Hepburn with the macron above: 「shō」which can be confusing as to know whether it’s 「ちょう」,「ちょお」or even 「ちょー」! However, you needn’t worry about that after you learn to read hiragana. Though, this does bring up 長音, chouon, which is a useful concept you can read about in our previous article: 長音とは？｜What is chouon?
**NOTE: You’ll sometimes see this romanised as ‘cyo’ on some Japanese sites which you won’t have to know here, but again, it’s just an interesting shorthand for the ローマ字, roomaji, input which is helpful for typing, but not so much for beginners trying to understand the pronunciation, which is why it’s so important to have a good grasp of these characters.
**NOTE ABOUT NOTE: Also! This shortcut doesn’t work with the character 「ち」alone. It only works when typing ちゃちゅちょ, 拗音、youon. If one were to type 「ｃ」＋「i」, it ends up turning into 「し」unless one programmes their IME input otherwise. But, again, this is just for fun extra informationーno need to memorise these fun facts.
And, there you have it! That was 「ちゃちゅちょ」! These are certainly quite fun and useful 平仮名拗音, hiragana youon, and hopefully it won’t be too terribly much for you to study. We hope that this pacing and our hints will assist you and help you in a relaxing and positive studying environment and process. Always remember that it can be both a positive point and a difficult one when learning very similar characters. The similarities mean you can just store one form in your mind without having to think too much more about it, but the differences, though minute, are the things that will hopefully remind you to give as much thought and care to these as the original characters. (We’re sure you will, though!) And, again, we want to always mention how proud we are of you, expanding your horizons and delving into a new language that may be quite different to your own (and according to the fact Japanese is its own language branch, it’s more than likely it’s entirely different to your native language.) But, even still, with a positive attitude, patience and time, we’re sure these characters will become second nature to you. And in the meantime and in future, we’ll be there for you, assisting you along your Japanese language learning journey, every step of the way.
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