Learning Japanese Hiragana and Katakana: A Workbook for Self Study

I’m no stranger to learning new writing systems. And while taking on another system gets easier after you’ve done it once or twice, the practice still needs to happen. There are no shortcuts to learning a language.

Even though the work still needs to be done, doesn’t mean that you can’t have a little fun along the way. An important part of taking on a new language is enjoying the process.

Learning Japanese Hiragana and Katakana: A Workbook for Self Study

Kenneth G. Henshall and Tetsuo Takagaki have put together a wonderful workbook in Learning Japanese Hiragana and Katakana for those looking to tackle Japanese’s kana – made up by two of its writing systems, hiragana and katakana.

It’s not only informative, but it’s a fun way to document your progress learning to write in Japanese. The book takes you through both the hiragana and katakana syllabaries, giving you the opportunity to not only learn to confidently write in Japanese, but pick up new vocabulary along the way.

Because it’s a workbook focused on teaching you two of Japanese’s writing systems, it’s short in length (128 pages).

What’s In Learning Japanese Hiragana and Katakana

Learning Japanese Hiragana and Katakana gives you an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at kana. It covers the 46 basic symbols for each system, and the 61 modifications and combinations.

The different sections include advice on spelling, the history of the two systems, irregularities in pronunciation, the original Chinese characters from which katakana and hiragana evolved, and tons of opportunities for review. It also teaches Japanese punctuation.

Each character includes the phonetic pronunciation, an English word that includes an equivalent sound, the origin of the character, the stroke order, and spaces for practice.

Learning Japanese Hiragana and Katakana: A Workbook for Self Study | Eurolinguiste

Every ten characters includes a vocabulary section where you get to practice putting what you’ve learnt together. At the end of the book is a more extensive activity section that offers you the chance to work on your listening comprehension (with the online audio accompaniment), study basic scripts for speaking, and learn even more useful, new words.

My Experience Using Learning Japanese Hiragana and Katakana

For me, writing by hand is a necessary part of my learning process. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/memory-medic/201303/why-writing-hand-could-make-you-smarter There’s something about going through that physical process that really helps me make new information – like two new writing systems – my own.

I found completing the workbook to be an excellent exercise and I certainly feel much more comfortable with both Hiragana and Katakana upon completing it. I also learned tons of new vocabulary relevant to Japanese culture.

I’m not one for writing in my books, so while the book includes plenty of space to practice, I opted to complete the practice on separate sheets of graph paper. It would have been easier to use the book – each practice square includes a dotted line through it so that you can create more uniform characters. It probably would have been better if I used the book as intended, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Learning Japanese Hiragana and Katakana: A Workbook for Self Study | Eurolinguiste

What Could Be Better

While the vocabulary is interesting – it’s unique to Japanese culture – it would be nice to learn more vocabulary that is immediately useful. While it might be fun to know the words for interview for marriage miai, bow ojigi, cherry blossoms sakura, crane tsuru, and Rising sun flag hinomaru, learning conversational terms would be equally appreciated.

My only other suggestion for the book would be to include a link to PDF practice sheets. That way, when you run out of space, or when you don’t like to write in your books (like me), you can still benefit from the large character squares with dotted line guides.


Learning Japanese Hiragana and Katakana is geared towards beginners, but it can be a great asset to anyone looking to strengthen their familiarity with kana. I enjoyed the process of writing out all of the characters by hand and getting to know them more intimately through practice and in reading about their origins in the book.

For anyone looking to get a better handle on Hiragana and Katakana, I highly recommend this book.

Book: Learning Japanese Hiragana and Katakana: A Workbook for Self Study
Author: Kenneth G. Henshall
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing; 2 edition (August 5, 2014)

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Published on: February 5, 2018

Filed Under: Language Resources

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