Beginning Lessons – Detailed Contents


These lessons cover the basics of grammar, pronunciation, and writing, along with several sentence structures and useful vocabulary and expressions. The material covered is roughly equivalent to a first semester college course or a first year high school course.

All Japanese text in the Beginning Lessons is provided in both Kana and Romaji, so you can easily skip to any lesson even if you haven't yet mastered Hiragana and Katakana.


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The Preliminaries

Introduction to the Japanese Language
Background information for would-be Japanese learners. Japanese and its dialects, common misconceptions, and the question: "Is Japanese a Hard Language?"

A Guide to Japanese Pronunciation
The basics of Japanese pronunciation – basic sounds, syllable structure, and a few other pointers.

Politeness and Formality in Japanese
The issues of politeness and formality in Japanese, levels of formality. The three basic styles of spoken Japanese: informal, formal, and honorific.

The Structure of a Japanese Sentence
An overview of basic sentence structure. Basic word order, word categories, subjects and objects, the particles ga and o, and modifiers. All necessary general grammar knowledge covered in context.

Writing and Pronunciation

It's recommended that you start learning Hiragana and Katakana as soon as possible, but feel free cover these lessons alongside the rest rather than all up front.

Introduction to the Japanese Writing System
An overview of the multiple scripts used together to write Japanese. Introduction to Hiragana, Katakana, Kanji, and Romaji. Notes on punctuation and horizontal and vertical writing.

Hiragana and the Japanese Sound System
An introduction to the first phonetic script along with Japanese pronunciation. Syllable structure and basic syllables.

Hiragana and the Japanese Sound System, Part 2
Voiced sounds, combination syllables, doubled vowels and consonants. Also a couple spelling rules and notes on romanization.

Pitch Accent and Vowel Devoicing
Two very important topics in Japanese pronunciation.

Coming Soon:

Katakana and Borrowed Words

See Also:

Hiragana and Katakana
Additional resources to help you learn the Kana syllabaries.

Basic Expressions

 These lessons require no grammar knowledge, and can be covered at any point during the beginning lessons. They are listed here for those who like to learn common expressions up front.

Names and Introductions
Introducing yourself in Japanese, asking "What's your name?", name suffixes, Japanese name order. Also introduces honorifics and rank.

Greetings and Other Expressions
Ways to say hello and goodbye. Ittekimasu and etc., specialized greetings and sendings, "Genki?" and etc. Other common expressions.

Classroom Expressions
Expressions for starting and ending class (kiritsu, etc.), commands and requests.

Part 1 – Nouns and Adjectives

The Topic Marker "Wa"
An introduction to the Japanese topic and how it differs from subject. Using the topic marker.

The Copula "Desu"
Understanding the Japanese copula. Using wa and desu in your first Japanese sentence structure.

Nouns, Pronouns, and Plurals
How to interpret Japanese nouns and use Japanese pronouns. The "plural" suffix -tachi.

“No”, the Modifying Particle
Creating possessives and modifiers using no. Understanding its various translations.

Demonstratives: the Ko-so-a-do Series
Words like kore, sore, are, and dore. What ko/so/a/do mean, using different suffixes. Chart of common demonstratives.

Coming Soon:

And Also "Mo"

Questions and Negation
The question marker ka, yes-no questions, negation, using hai and iie.

The Sentence Ending Particles "Ne" and "Yo"
When to use ne, when to use yo, and what it means to use both. "Sou desu" expressions.

Question Words
How to use question words (who/what/etc.), question words as subjects, common question words.

Beginning Vocabulary: Classroom Objects
Writing utensils and surfaces, arts and crafts, tools, books, electronics, around the room.

 Counting in Japanese
Numbers up to 1000, the multiple pronunciations for 4, 7, and 9, the counters ban and banme.

Telling Time
Time in hours and minutes, saying what time it is, intervals and durations of time.

Japanese Adjectives
Introduction to the multiple classes of Japanese adjectives and how to use them as predicates and modifiers. Also introduces the negative form for adjectives.

Beginning Vocabulary: Adjectives
Adjectives by topic. Notes on usage.

Colors in Japanese
Japanese words for basic colors, the difference between "aka" and "akai", "ao" (blue/green) and it's shades, asking "What color is it?".

Suki and Kirai: Likes and Dislikes
How to understand and use these two adjectives.

Making Comparisons: Yori, Hodo, and No Hou Ga
Two particles and a compound particle. How to say "X is more ___ than Y" and "X is not as ___ as Y".

Japanese Words for Food
Common food items in western and Japanese cuisine.

Coming soon:

Japanese Counters

Talking About Shopping

Conjunctions and Compound Sentences
The conjunctions "ga" (but) and "kara" (because). The sentence-initial conjunctions "soshite" (also), "demo" (however), and "dakara" (so).

Talking About School Subjects
Practice with suki and kirai, comparatives, and conjunctions.

Part 2 – Verbs and Conjugation

Japanese Verbs and Conjugation
Japanese verb classes. Verb roots and auxiliaries. Inflection vs contraction. The conjugation process.

Masu Form and its Conjugations
Conjugating from dictionary form to masu form. Past, negative, and volitional forms of masu.

Beginning Vocabulary: Verbs
Verbs by topic.

Mashita: Past Tense in Japanese

Mashou: Volitional Form

Basic Japanese Verbs

Particles for Location and Direction: De, Ni, E

Another "De": By What Means?

Invitations and Suggestions

Expressing Desires

Relative Time Words

Talking About Daily Activities

Talking About Language

Various Topics

Japanese Verb Conjugation

Japanese Adjective Conjugation

Te Form: Commands and Connectives

Verbs for Giving and Receiving

Verbs of Existence: Iru and Aru

Talking About Family

Various Topics


Basic Japanese Vocabulary
Quick links to vocab lists from throughout the beginning lessons.

Coming soon:

Basic Japanese Particles

Japanese Word Classes
Brief overview of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, and particles. Links to more detailed lessons.

Coming soon:

Masu and Te Form Quick Reference

Expressions Quick Reference


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