Hiragana is one of the three commonly used “alphabets” used in the Japanese language. Hiragana and it’s brother Katakana are both considered Kana. Each symbol represents a specific syllable or sound (called a mora) that can be combined to form words, much like the English alphabet.
Hiragana is used in the Japanese language to write words that are native the Japanese language and Japanese particles. The other Kana system, Katakana, is used for words borrowed from other languages, sounds, or technical terminology. Chinese letters, called Kanji, are also used to represent native words. But when there are no Kanji, or the Kanji is not widely used in Japanese, Hiragana are used instead.
Below is a chart that shows the basic Hiragana characters.
I have found that the best way to learn Hiragana fast and quickly is to make or buy flash-cards. Then start with one row and go over it until it is firmly planted in your memory. Start with the A-I-U-E-O row and spend a day or two (or however long you need) memorizing them. Then add the next row, Ka-Ki-Ku-Ke-Ko, and go through those 10 characters until you feel comfortable with them. Keep this up for a week or two and you’ll be a master at reading Hiragana.
Of course, reading is only half of the equations. You can’t really learn Hiragana without also learning how to write the characters as well.
Likewise, it is best to start with one row of characters and practice writing them over and over again until you feel comfortable doing so.
Each character has a specific stroke order that you should write each letter in. So when you are practicing each character, get in the habit of writing using the appropriate stroke order.
Refer to the Hiragana chart above for the correct stroke order you should practice using when you learn Hiragana and practice writing the characters.
When you learn Hiragana, you are taking the first step toward truly learning the Japanese language. This is the first writing system that most students will learn to read and write.
Take it a little bit at a time to make sure you really get each one and soon you’ll be able to stop taking notes for your Japanese classes in Romaji and start writing in Hiragana.