The Yokomine Method of Learning The Kana

Japanese kana (hiragana and katakana) is the first thing you learn. There’s no way around this. Whether it takes you a few days or a few weeks, it is an acceptable challenge and time commitment. While you can do this through Anki, games, songs, or even Doraemon, the learning order is the same. You go one kana at a time, starting with あいうえお, かきくけこ, and so on. This is the way every Japanese child learns it, so that’s the way you should learn it.

Right? Right…?

Completely Changing The Way You Learn The Kana

When was the last time you heard something like that? Kanji ring a bell? Taking 12 years to learn all of them starting with complicated kanji even in first grade? Most modern kanji learning systems for foreigners completely ignore this. The learning order is rearranged based on simplicity. And it works beautifully.

Well, why not do the same for the Kana?

That’s just crazy (I’m sure Heisig was told this) you say? Good news: they have already started. In Japan.

It’s called ヨコミネ式95音 (Yokomine Style 95 sounds).

It does the obvious. It takes the kana and rearranges them for children to learn in an order that makes sense. You know the first kana you normally learn, あ? It’s also one of the hardest. With Yokomine, it comes at the end. Know what comes first?

Completely Changing The Way You Learn The Kana 2

A horizontal line: 一

That’s a little easier to write. The system was based on one major principle. Children like to do something just a little difficult. Any more then that and they get frustrated. Well adults are the same more or less.

The Yokomine system, while fairly new, is starting to be implemented into some preschools with fantastic results. Kids are learning to read and write faster. While Japan is slow to accept change to the old traditional learning methods, this could help loosen up that firm grip.

Their site also gives a downloadable PDF where you can trace the characters. Turn it into an Anki deck for even more success. Who knows, maybe schools in Japan will also start changing the way kids learn kanji (not likely)…

Give it a try?

Anyone who gives this system a chance, please leave a comment and let us know how it goes!

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Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.


The Yokomine Method of Learning The Kana — 5 Comments

  1. I’m definitely going to use this with my son. We haven’t spent much time on writing (in Japanese) and this looks like a perfect approach to it.

  2. Are the first three actual kana?

    Sure sounds like a great idea to adapt the learning process to something that makes sense for learning purposes. Good news for future students of kana, Japanese children and foreigners alike :)

    • They are kanji (and/or kanji radicals). They explained that they started with them because vertical/horizontal lines are the easiest for children to draw.

      • Good… Just wanted to make sure I hadn’t missed something in my kana studies long ago. I knew 一 and 十 but the vertical line stuck out. As a radical it makes sense (it is Heisig’s walking stick primitive as well). And surely straight(-ish) lines are the easiest thing to start out with.

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