Learn to Read! Japanese Reading Lesson 004: は ま や ら わ ん

Posted by meronpan on March 10, 2009

Welcome back, to the stage of history!  … sorry.  Welcome back to another Japanese reading lesson!  This week we’re going to finish off hiragana! (well, almost, one more lesson to cover some extra sounds after this, but they’re just slight modifications of the characters you already know.)  This is probably one of the few nsfw Japanese lessons you’ll find online (sorry but a few pantsu shots made it in as study material ^^;;;).  On the other hand, if you can study Japanese at work, you can probably look at pantsu :P

祈 (inori) sensei from tsuyokiss

祈 (inori) sensei from tsuyokiss

Are you ready?  Be prepared for H, M, Y, R, and W characters, finishing up with the only solo consonant in the language!  Brace yourself, this is going to be a long lesson… lots of things to explain!  It may be best to cover a little at a time rather than trying to absorb everything all at once ^^; If you’re behind, here you can find all the previous lessons or click here for quick access to lesson 3.

kana Pronunciation Romanization

H/W + (‘a’ in father, ‘o’ in otter, ‘a’ in saw), ‘ha’ in ha ha ha!, sometimes ‘wa’ in water ha, wa

H + (‘i’ in ski, ‘ee’ in flee, ‘ie’ in sieze), he in he hi

F/H + (‘oo’ in food, ‘ue’ in clue, ‘e’ in grew), ‘foo’ in fool, sometimes ‘hoo’ in hoot fu, hu

H + ‘e’ in egg, ‘e’ in pressure, ‘e’ in blend), ‘hay’ in hay, sometimes the same as え he, e

H + (‘o’ in glow, ‘o’ in own, ‘o’ in stoke), ‘ho’ in home? ho
kana Pronunciation Romanization

M + (‘a’ in father, ‘o’ in otter, ‘a’ in saw), ‘ma’ in maw ma

M + (‘i’ in ski, ‘ee’ in flee, ‘ie’ in sieze), ‘me’ in me mi

M + (‘oo’ in food, ‘ue’ in clue, ‘e’ in grew), like a cow, ‘moo’ in moooo mu

M + ‘e’ in egg, ‘e’ in pressure, ‘e’ in blend), ‘ma’ in may me

M + (‘o’ in glow, ‘o’ in own, ‘o’ in stoke), ‘mo’ in molten mo
kana Pronunciation Romanization

Y + (‘a’ in father, ‘o’ in otter, ‘a’ in saw), ‘ya’ in yacht ya

Y + (‘oo’ in food, ‘ue’ in clue, ‘e’ in grew), ‘you’ in you yu

Y + (‘o’ in glow, ‘o’ in own, ‘o’ in stoke), ‘yo’ in yolk yo
kana Pronunciation Romanization

R + (‘a’ in father, ‘o’ in otter, ‘a’ in saw), ‘ra’ in ramen ^^, ‘ro’ in rotten ra

R + (‘i’ in ski, ‘ee’ in flee, ‘ie’ in sieze), ‘re’ in reek ri

R + (‘oo’ in food, ‘ue’ in clue, ‘e’ in grew), ‘ru’ in rude ru

R + ‘e’ in egg, ‘e’ in pressure, ‘e’ in blend), ‘ray’ in ray re

R + (‘o’ in glow, ‘o’ in own, ‘o’ in stoke), ‘ro’ in road ro
kana Pronunciation Romanization

W + (‘a’ in father, ‘o’ in otter, ‘a’ in saw), ‘wa’ in water wa

‘o’ in glow, ‘o’ in own, ‘o’ in stoke o, wo
kana Pronunciation Romanization

n (yes, just like a normal n.  Though when alone, don’t say, ‘en’ like you would in English, just make the sound as if it was at the beginning of a word) n

Now that I’ve overloaded you (not overloaded? excellent!), time to talk about all the characters that aren’t quite what you’d expect.

は (ha)

You probably noticed that I strangely listed this as having either an H or W sound.  The reason is that for whatever… reason, it is pronounced as ‘wa’ when used as a particle in a sentence.  A little aside, you can think of particles as grammatical glue that hold the words of the sentence together.  Some have translations, but others don’t… は is one of the more difficult ones to translate.  Anyhow, I think it’s easiest if we have some examples.

やて (hayate) is a name, so we stay with the h sound.

Click for gelbooru source

Click for gelbooru source

んぶん (hanbun) is a noun meaning half, so again, h.

な (hana) means flower, still h!

おれ  ばか だ。 (ore wa baka da) – in this example, は isn’t part of a name, noun, adjective or anything.  It simply is part of the sentence, falling between おれ (ore, an informal (and hence potentially rude) way of saying ‘I’) and ばか (baka).  You guessed it, it’s a particle in this case, denoting the subject of the sentence. だ (da) is the verb to be, so ばかだ (baka da) means, {something} is stupid.  To specify what is stupid, we choose a subject, おれ (ore) and place the subject particle は after it.  As such, this sentence translates to ‘I am stupid.’

If you wanted to say ‘This class is stupid’ you simply replace ‘I’ with ‘this class’.  ‘this class’ is このくらす (kono kurasu), so the sentence becomes, このくらす  ばか だ。

Perhaps you’re thinking of asuka and her well known, あんた ばか? (‘anta baka’?)  Just thought I’d mention that in informal speech, lots of parts of the sentence can be dropped, in this case, は and だ.  This is fairly complex and I imagine I’ve already overcomplicated things, so I’ll just leave you two things: 1.) anta is an informal way to say, ‘you’ and thus can be rude.  2.) the full sentence would technically be あんた  ばか じゃないの? (anta wa baka jya nai no?) (Update: Thanks to Hifumi for catching my previous error (used to say ‘anta wa baka da’, completely ignoring the fact that the original is a question ^^;;;) and providing a nice detailed explanation of the male/female nuances.)

While we’re at it, let’s talk about simple sentence struture:

Forming Simple Sentences

In English grammar, you often have a subject and a verb:

I am an otaku.  ‘I’ is the subject and ‘am’ is the verb.

You are an otaku.

Nanoha is flying.

Yami eats taiyaki.

With that in mind, let’s look at the same sentences translated to Japanese:

わたし おたく です。 (watashi wa otaku desu.) watashi = I, desu = am

あなた おたく です。 (anata wa otaku desu.) anata = you, desu = are

なのは とんでいます。 (nanoha wa tonde imasu.) tonde imasu = flying


やみ たいやき を たべます。 (yami wa taiyaki wo tabemasu.) tabemasu = eats


Note how in each case, the subject is followed by は (wa).  As you can see, the basic sentence structure is:


Using the verb ‘to be’ (です (desu, polite form) or だ (da, regular form)), we have:

X Y ですor 。(X is/am/are Y.)

Basically, when は is being used in a sentence like above, this is when it’s pronounced ‘wa’.  Otherwise, it has an H sound, ‘ha’.

And with that, I’ve probably made the most convoluted lesson for understanding when は is pronounced ‘wa’  ^^;;; On the bright side, you can make simple sentences now!  Just pick a subject and a verb and string them together as above.

Signum の ぱんつ くろい です。 (signum no pantsu wa kuroi desu – ‘Signum’s pantsu are black.’)


ふぃぎゅあ たかい です。 (figyua wa takai desu – ‘Figures are expensive.’)


Back to hiragana!!

ふ (fu)

This character is generally prounouced with an F sound even though it’s in the H row.  However, there is no F row, which makes this character the only one with an F sound.  In another lesson we’ll talk about how you can combine characters to get other F sounds… but don’t worry about that for now ^^;

A ふふふ moment from あかねいろ に そまる さか

A ふふふ moment from あかねいろ に そまる さか (end of ep 6)

Depending on regional accent, certain words, or whatever random things I don’t quite understand, you may hear this character pronounced ‘hu’.  As your exposure and knowledge of Japanese increases you’ll probably get a better feel for when/why the pronunciation differs from time to time… but for beginners it’s fine to just think of it as ‘fu’.

へ (he)

Time for another particle lesson!  Just kidding, no not gonna burden you with that this time.  は was enough as is ^^;;  But just know that へ can also be used as a particle, and when it is, it’s pronounced the exact same as え (‘e’).  …well, and let’s just throw an example out there for fun:

わたし は がっこう へ いきます。 (watashi wa gakkou e ikimasu. – ‘I go to school.’)

Another note about romanization… sometimes I romanize へ as ‘he’ even though it’s a situation where it’s pronounced as ‘e’ – the reason being that it helps me remember that it’s the particle へ rather than the character え.  For these lessons I’ll try to stick to romanization that matches the pronunciation though, like above.

や ゆ よ (ya yu yo)

There’s nothing really weird about these characters… except that there’s only 3 of them!  That’s no mistake, there’s no yi or ye characters, so 2 less to memorize ^^

ら り る れ ろ (ra ri ru re ro)

Nothing weird about these characters either, but something to know is that there’s no L row in Japanese either.  What’s that have to do with the R characters?  Often times these characters are used to approximate L sounds and I think in some accents the R characters sounds a little more like L.  Like ‘fu’ though, you can’t really go wrong just thinking of these characters as having a pure R sound.


るーこ・きれいなそら。。。るーるる るーるる るーるーるー

わ を (wa o)

Two things – again, missing characters!  Firstly, no need to memorize wi wu or we… those characters don’t exist!

Secondly, を is another pronunciation anomaly.  Luckily it’s really simple, just pronounce it as the character お (‘o’).  Sometimes it’s romanized as ‘wo’, but I’ve only rarely ever heard the ‘w’ actually pronounced (think once in a song…).  を is also a particle, but again we’ll leave that alone, especially since it has no bearing on the pronunciation.  を is always pronounced お.

There was actually an example above that used this character:

やみ たいやき  たべます。 (yami wa taiyaki o tabemasu.) tabemasu = eats, so this is ‘yami eats taiyaki’

ん (n)

The final character!  This is the only character in the Japanese syllabary that doesn’t have a vowel attached to it.  Also, it can have an M sound if it comes before B, P, or other M sounds.

TADA!  You know all hiragana… well, almost :P  We’ll cover those troublesome compound characters next week ^^;;

Time for some vocab!

  1. はは
  2. やめて
  3. ふふふ
  4. ゆうやけ
  5. ほんとう
  6. まな
  7. ひめ
  8. むかつく
  9. わわわわすれもの
  10. もむ
  11. へんたい
  12. らき☆すた
  13. よゆう
  14. みみ
  15. りみ
  16. みる
  17. れい
  18. もちろん

Don’t let Yoshimi distract you :P


  1. め – ‘me’ means ‘eye’ (or ‘eyes’, since you don’t have separate plurals).  In the danny choo community, that gives this word yet another meaning…
  2. はは – ‘haha’ is one of the ways to say ‘mother’. (another is おかあさん, oksaasan). Haha is the humble way of saying it. Why would you need a humble version? Well, in Japanese, it is polite to humble yourself when talking to others, especially people you just met, business acquaintances, etc. In these situations, you humble your self (and family) by using the humble term, ‘haha’ to talk about your own mother.
    Hmm perhaps the above pic wasn’t the best example since it’s pretty much nanoha-まま (mama) the whole time ^^;;
  3. やめて – ‘yamete’ – a regular/non-polite command form of the verb stop.  i.e. yamete == “stop!”  A more polite form would be やめてください (yamete kudasai).  You’ll hear this in cases like, 「じょうだんやめてください。」 (Please stop joking around!) Other situations like… wellll… you know… *ahem* moving on…
  4. ふふふ – ‘fufufu’ – covered above ^^  If you were wondering how to write out that devious laugh, this is it. fufufufu
  5. ゆうやけ -‘yuuyake’ – sunset.

    ゆうやけ in ep 9 of shigofumi, love that episode ^^

    ゆうやけ in ep 9 of shigofumi, love that episode ^^

  6. ほんとう – ‘hontou’ – really. Often combined with に to make an adverb. In renai stuff you might’ve come across the following cutesy conversation:
    「ほんとうに?」 (really?)
    「うん。」 (yeah)
    「ほんとうにほんとうにほんとう?」 (really, truly?)
    「うん。」 (yeah)
    「ほんとうにほんとうにほんとうにほんとう?」 (really, surely, truly??)
    「ああ。ずっとそばにいるさ。」 (aa.  zutto soba ni iru sa) (yeah, i’ll always be by your side)
    hahaha alright, enuf cheese out of me :P
  7. まな – ‘mana’. As in magic power :P Actually it can be a name, like in sola – いしづき まな (ishizuki mana).

    まな in one of the OVA

    まな in one of the OVA

  8. ひめ – ‘hime’ – you know this one, right? Princess!


    Best to end with さま ^^hime-samaaaaa!  (technically henrietta was a queen at that point in the show, wasn’t she? ^^;)

  9. むかつく – ‘mukatsuku’ – characters will often mutter this when feeling annoyed + offended + angry… it means to feel irritated, offended or angry ^^  Kagamin uses this a lot to describe her feelings towards konata ^^;
  10. わわわわすれもの – ‘wawawawasuremono’ – ^_^ If you’re not familiar with the phrase, the first part, ‘wawawa’ is just a stylistic repetition of the first syllable. wasuremono means ‘forgotten things’.
  11. もむ – ‘momu’ – to rub, massage… though in otaku circles more often heard in the context of oppai – there meaning more like to squeeze, grope, fondle ^^;

    From boy meets girl?  Not familiar with it ^^; At any rate click for gelbooru ...

    From boy meets girl? Not familiar with it ^^; At any rate click for gelbooru ...

  12. へんたい – ‘hentai’ … … now you know. And knowing is half the battle.

    The sekirei author is probably へんたい ^^;  Click for gelbooru

    The sekirei author is probably へんたい ^^; Click for gelbooru

  13. らき☆すた – did the star give it away? ^^; ‘raki ☆ suta’ – Lucky Star. If you’re wondering how to type the star, simply type  ほし (err this assumes you can type hiragana), then press space once to get a kanji (will probably be 星, which means, ‘star’ ^^), then press space again to get the list of all possible kanji. There should be a star in the list ^_^

    Scene from Lucky Star OVA

    Scene from Lucky Star OVA

  14. よゆう – ‘yoyuu’ – Dan says this a lot ^^ Literally it means, ‘surplus’, ‘excess’, ‘margin’, ‘flexibility’… in context, said as a taunt, it’s short hand for, “pffft, you’re not even worth my time.” i.e. So powerful that he has excess strength/awesomeness/etc to slack off and and still beat you.

    Surprisingly there was a pic of dan on gelbooru ^^; Click for source.  Alas, he's definitely not in a 'よゆう’ moment :P

    Surprisingly there was a pic of dan on gelbooru ^^; Click for source. Alas, he's definitely not in a 'よゆう’ moment :P

  15. みみ – ‘mimi’ – ear/ears. Now you can read, ’ねこみみ’ – nekomimi! ^^
    Click for gelbooru

    Click for gelbooru

    Need to get back and caught up with negima, but I remember there was like a couple volumes it seemed where all the students were wearing nekomimi for the school festival or something. …I have a feeling that pic I found is from a doujin? ^^;

  16. りみ – ‘rimi’ – another name, in this case, that of an Okinawan singer, なつかわ りみ (natsukawa rimi). She has a lovely voice, and here she is performing shima uta, one of my favorite songs ^^
  17. みる – ‘miru’ – the verb to see!
  18. れい – ‘rei’ – tons of meanings, this is where kanji can actually help you (the following all read, ‘rei’). 令 – command, order. 例 – example/said/aforementioned. 礼 – thanking, expression of gratitude, 零 – zero. 霊 – soul, spirit. Any don’t forget as a name, need I remind you of あやなみ れい? ^^

    click for gelbooru

    click for gelbooru

  19. もちろん – ‘mochiron’ means ‘of course’. As in, 「フィギュアかいたいの?」 (figyua kaitai no?, do you want to buy figures?) 「もちろん!」 (of course!)

That’s it!  Better late that never.  Alas, these lessons will end up being most useful for those who slack off and wait until I’m finished ^^;; On the otherhand, if you’re learning independently, these ramblings might help test your knowledge and augment it with random trivia ^^

Until next time! (it’s slight detour that covers random tidbits, for the next regular lesson click here)



24 Responses to “Learn to Read! Japanese Reading Lesson 004: は ま や ら わ ん”

  1. kesenaitsumi said

    ^^. Read through

  2. Shiddo said

    etto….WOW oO ;

    Some stuff is very usefull ^^

  3. phossil said

    I signed up for Iknow (smart.fm) but now is offline temporarily. Thanks for my diary dosis of japanese language!! I think its very usefull.

    • meronpan said

      i’m also using iknow/smart ^^ my handle is kuihoudai (all you can eat), can’t remember but meronpan must’ve been taken.

      i haven’t tried the hiragana lessons, but i hope i’m filling some gaps in the material they have there ^^;

  4. Q said

    Nice to see that you’ve covered the rest of the hiragana~ Good to refresh some memories and phrases too~

    I really need to go back to iKnow soon or later (too much things to do orz……..)

    • meronpan said

      also a relief on my part to get that out of the way. now i can start what i wanted to do from the beginning – walk through pages of manga ^_^ errr dang, as i mentioned i still need to cover the compound characters and g, b, p, etc… orz close though ^^;

  5. JefLebowski said

    I have found a way to visit Japan on state-expense before studying…
    you can do social service (or how is it called in english) there \o/

  6. lovelyduckie said

    MIT is offering free Japanese lessons. After I finish my Masters I think I’ll take the courses.

  7. […] Why are you learning Japanese Learn to Read! Japanese Reading Lesson 004: はまやらわん […]

  8. cody said

    where can i learn the Japanese equivalents to this slang?
    http://japansugoi.com/wordpress/vermilion-pleasure-nights-naughty-one-point-english-lessons/ :P

    • meronpan said

      hahahah welll … ^^;; the best thing would probably be getting some subbed ero anime :P

      those videos are hilarious ^^;; i think they all have the translations but you need to know japanese to pick out the phrase ^^;

      not sure how serious you were, but well, here’s two of ’em –

      ‘you make my juices flow’ – sugoi nurechau ^^;;

      ‘i give good head’ – atashi kuchi de suru no ga umai no yo

  9. […] here we go!  Lesson 4 is here or start from the beginning if you’re […]

  10. […] Next lesson we stop messing around and finish off the rest of the hiragana! […]

  11. […] Learn to Read! Japan… on Learn to Read! Japanese Readin…Learn to Read! Japan… on Learn to Read! Japanese Readin…Learn to Read! Japan… on […]

  12. hifumi said

    Hello.I am a Japanese. please excuse my broken english.
    I guess full sentence of Asuka’s 「あんた ばか?」 is
    「あんた は バカ では ない の?」( Aren’t you idiot?).
    “の?” is soft and faminine style of “か?”. “あんた~か?” form is for the use of wild guy caracters.「あんたはバカなの?」 is used when she really doubt that he is idiot.
    This sentence reflect Asuka’s caracter. because the subjective is not dropped and “の?” is dropped.
    common real high school girls offen use 「ばっかじゃないの?」.
    「(あなたは) ばか では(=じゃ) ない の?」

    • meronpan said

      日本人はこのブログでコメしてくれるのは珍しいです! というか初めてかな
      とにかく、詳しい(むしろ正しい^^;)説明書いてくれてありがとうございました。 僕は「あんたばか?」ってのは質問ってさっぱり忘れました。 何考えてた、僕…^^;; では、ちょっと直してみる…

      • hifumi said

        Thank you for your reply.
        youtubeを見ていて「あんたバカぁ?」が外国人にも良く知られていることに驚き “anta baka”でgoogle検索したらここに来ました!
        Japanese 終助詞(だ です ね なの etc)add varied infomation to the sentence (polite level, social position, emoton, jender ,question form etc).
        It’s very uniqe feature of Japanese.especially in anime and manga this feature is magnified.
        even only a sentence can tell who talked it.

        • meronpan said

          Once I started learning about all the different endings and ways of speaking I loved the language even more ^^ it’s kinda confusing when you start out but once you get the hang of it you can easily recognize the nuances of different characters

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