Kana Conqueror

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Hiragana. Katakana. The major basics of basics. How to write in Japanese. If you want to study Japanese, there is no doubt that you have to learn kana. It’s the beginning. We all have to start somewhere. And you want that start to be as meaningful as possible.

Luckily, kana isn’t considered to be too overwhelming. Most people seem to say that they learn kana in anywhere from several days to a few weeks. Is there that much to it?

Yes and no.

You can “learn” it in a short amount of time. But can you “wield” it freely? Can you take that kana and dominate it? Can you conquer it?

There are a lot of methods for learning kana. But one of the complaints I’ve heard most often from beginners is that when they enter J-E, their kana ability still waivers a bit. When you move to the basics of learning the language, it becomes time to focus on grammar, vocabulary, and meaning. Not dealing with remaining frustration and lingering issues from your first Japanese battle.

Enter Kana Conqueror

Absolute mastery of kana, never giving them a second thought again, making them a natural part of your arsenal, and tying them in beautifully with your next phases of study. This is an Anki deck/PDF, designed for the beginner or anyone still feeling they would like a little more practice with kana.

It fixes issues that I don’t like and does much more than your standard entry level kana learning tools. Here’s what it’s all about:

1. Sentences for all!

You know I like sentences, rather than just words or characters. Right from the beginning, you will not just have single kana cards. You have full sentences, for every single new kana. These sentences are coming from most of the vocabulary and grammar that you will learn on the next part of your journey, Jalup Beginner.

Testing yourself on one kana at a time just isn’t enough practice. Sentences solve that. No more shaky ability due to inadequate time with it. By the end of Kana Conqueror, you will have seen the kana over and over again, in so many different contexts and ways that it will no longer give you any pause.

2. Building one unknown at a time

From the very first surprise expression sentence “あ!!” you are setting up your kana in a building block manner. The sentences start off short, grow longer as you progress, and only use kana that you have already covered.

3. Powering up Jalup Beginner

Since many of the words and sentences are composed of what you will soon be learning in Jalup Beginner, you are getting a nice early start. You’ll get used to it and a feel for the flow of how the words and sentences sound, before you even start studying them.

4. Sets you up for solo travels

For the words that aren’t found in Jalup Beginner (which are mostly in the katakana section), you still have the nice and easy sentences you are used to. Just started created your own J-J cards? You now have a bunch of sentences with only one unknown word that you can easily branch on your own.

5. All kanji is included

While kanji is not the target of this tool, every sentence is written in normal kanji, with the kana readings in parentheses. You get to see kanji and readings from day 1. While the goal of Kana Conqueror is not to actually deal with the kanji just yet, it makes a major difference in your reviews a little later on down the road.

6. Long term value that will increase over time

This deck was designed to evolve as you progress.

– In the beginning, the focus of this deck is to only learn the kana.

– As you enter Jalup Beginner, this deck will act as a kana review, a source of alternative sentences for what you are learning, and kanji reading reinforcement.

– As you finish Jalup Beginner, your reviews will feel like normal sentence cards, expanding your ways of expressing what you know.

– As you enter J-J on your own, they will act as sentence cards that you can expand upon for the unknown words that you don’t know yet.

7. Full native audio of both the kana and the sentences

Everyone loves a little extra audio practice. In addition to each kana spoken out loud by a native speaker, the full sentence audio follows it.

8. Notes and tips

There are a few confusing, head scratch moments when studying kana. I’ve written in some short tips or points to help where I think most people struggle.

9. Stroke order diagrams

While you may be unsure about how in depth you want to be able to write kanji, the ability to write kana is usually needed. For every kana that is introduced, you get a large and colorful stroke order diagram so you can practice your writing.

How to use Kana Conqueror

Here’s what a card will look like on the front.

1. Try to read the full sentence out loud (ignore the kanji, which you’ll know are kanji because they are followed by parentheses)
2. Try to write out the sentence (ignore the kanji)
3. Press the answer button

You’ll get:

– Stroke order diagram
– Romaji (English characters used to express Japanese) for the hiragana. For the katakana section, the hiragana is listed instead of the romaji, as romaji is best removed as soon as possible.
– A pronunciation hint in between ( ).
– The kana read out loud, followed by the full sentence read out loud.

Romaji is included for the hiragana section because when you type in Japanese on your keyboard, you are using romaji input, so it is good to at least see how romaji works. Also, some people are more visual learners, and just having the audio alone might make things unnecessarily difficult.

4. You are only testing yourself on pronunciation. For now, kanji/meaning is irrelevant. If you forgot a kana, hit “again.” Otherwise hit “good.”
5. Move to the next card and progress through the deck.
6. When you move to Jalup Beginner, at first you may want to keep the decks separate for ease of use. While the ( ) marks in sentences show this is testing your kana ability only, to prevent confusion you may want to wait before merging them.

A katakana example:


What’s Inside?

– 232 Anki cards, covering every aspect you need to know about hiragana and katakana.
– Excel file, which easily lays out the sentence, meaning, notes, readings, audio, etc.
– The ability to ask me (Adshap) personally any questions related to Kana Conqueror. I usually respond fairly quickly.

Buy now:

Kana Conqueror: $14.99


Didn’t find it to be of use? Not quite what you thought you needed? No worries. Send an e-mail to adshap (at) japaneselevelup (dot) com within 30 days after your purchase date to ask for a 100% refund, no questions asked.


Do you want to start kicking ass from day 1 and set yourself up for the best journey possible? Yes.

Updates (2/22/2017)

1. Audio is completely redone and in high quality.
2. Kana appears now as furigana over kanji, instead of (parentheses), making it easier to discern what you are expected to do.
3. Audio is split up into kana solo audio and sentence audio. Both will play on the card in order. You can use the media collection folder if you want additional practice with just the sounds, or create a playlist.
4. Sentences adjusted for は and へ, so it is easy to figure out which pronunciation it is, despite having zero knowledge of how these pieces of grammar work.

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Kana Conqueror — 27 Comments

  1. This looks great! I wish I had had something like this back in the day. Kana was a battle and I could find no smooth way to move from it to kanji afterwards. This seems to create a natural leveling up process. Thanks for all the work Adam!

  2. Between this, the JALUP B/I/A decks, and the Kanji assist, it seems like you have a more or less comprehensive way to learn Japanese to a great degree of competency here.

  3. This is really awesome. Now in one spot anyone learning Japanese has everything they need to level up from the absolute beginner to advanced. I’m going to get this to help my production and my girlfriend who’s struggling with the Kana in JALUP beginner. This stuff really deserves more exposure. I guess a lot of people are attracted to snake oil, rather than a systematic learning tool that actually works. Sick of websites making all these empty promises about fluency in some ridiculously short time frame getting all the attention. This site has grown so much, it’s gone from a detailed guide to an actual tool to learn. I’m really proud to be a part of this community, though it deserves to be much larger. I wish there were tools like this out there for all languages.

    Can’t wait for the future of JALUP! I know there’ll be even more great products out there for all to use :)
    Thanks again.

    • Thanks for the support as always James. It’s taken a long time for Jalup to gather the elements needed to help those trying to master Japanese. There’s a lot more coming up, and I’m hoping to have the site continually evolve into something better.

  4. Once I learned kana, even though I forgot them alot the more I read them and wrote them in sentences the more they stuck in my head. Now they are second nature :D But now I can’t look at romanji anymore and if a book has only romanji in it I won’t by it.

    Also there seems to be so much Japanese learning material for beginners but less for intermediate and advanced. There are tons of beginner audio courses for Japanese but not many intermediate or advanced

    • Luckily the only books you’ll ever run into with romaji will be beginner level textbooks.

      I think there is a lot less audio for intermediate and advanced levels because at that point, you’d rather listen to native media, not stale listening activities.

  5. When I first started studying Japanese I thought I didn’t need to learn the Kana. I guess I was focused more on speaking and listening. But it became very apparent that Kana (and Kanji) are essential for studying. It really isn’t that hard luckily, but man does Katakana slip from my mind if I’m not careful.

    • Even the people that just think they only want to be able to speak and listen should at least learn the kana. It’s such a small time investment for such massive returns.

    • Yes definitely. However it’ll depend a bit on how much writing you continue to do on to sentences in J-E and J-J. A tactic I used to use and many others did as well is to hand write out a sentence when you get it wrong in Anki. This can get tiring quickly, but doing it every once in a while is a nice refresher.

  6. This helped me conquer it fully, thanks! Just katakana I had trouble with, I guess anki will keep drilling it in my brain now. Nothing is more annoying than seeing katakana and having trouble reading it. And I tried other methods and they got boring fast — no anki no life. Feels good having captured them. I’ll look forward to branching the cards with just one unknown.

    Great tip, I’ll probably do that once a week.

  7. Hey Adam, Im just becoming interested in learning Japanese.. I’m on the step where I need to learn and memorize Hiragana and Katakana, is that something I need to do on my own before purchasing and using this? Or does the Kana Conqueror teach me Hiragana and Katakana?
    Currently, I don’t know the pronunciations or the symbols of either alphabet.

    • It teaches it to you. It’s great.
      Note that you will see the kana in the context of sentences and that the sentences include kanji. Don’t let that faze you. You can ignore the extra complexity and just read the kana.

  8. got it a few days ago and i really like the detail that went into the cards.
    the only problem i have is that i don’t know which kana i’m being asked to remember.
    not sure if that is because i am a total beginner or if i’m not seeing the pattern yet.

    • Regardless of what the card that you are reviewing had initially introduced, say お for example, your goal should be able to read/pronounce the entire card for a review. So in the initial お card sentence: おお!会(あ)おう! you would read the entire sentence (passing if able to recall all of the kana in the sentence). This will also be good reading practice for when you’re first starting off in retaining the other kana in the sentence, in this example being あ and う.

    • Just to add to the great answer Jacob gave you:

      You are being asked to remember all the kana. Each card builds one Kana at a time, but also acts as a review when it appears again on later cards. So to pass a card you should be able to read (remember) all the kana that appears on that card.

  9. I got this even after doing Jalup Beginner and theoretically knowing the kana because my katakana was weak.

    It has definitely helped.

    But I still see a huge gulf between hiragana and even kanji, and katakana. I think this is just because I am exposed to a far smaller volume of katakana in the sentence decks.

    Is this a common problem? Can anyone recommend a resource with tons of katakana? Is this something not to worry about as it will just improve over time?

    • I have the same problem with Katakana. I’ve been fighting with myself to just learn it, but right now it’s so easy to just skip over it lol. I think I’m just going to have to bite the bullet and learn it. I get enough exposure with Manga, but instead of skipping over it I should stop to look up the correct pronunciation. Honestly, I don’t think there is a short cut, we just gotta learn it like we did Hiragana. I’m gonna put it on my next month’s goals, never skip over Katakana again and start using Katakana flashcard apps on my phone. Btw, I’m like half way through Jalup intermediate lol.

    • I think it’s like this with everyone at least to some extent. As long as you don’t avoid it when you come across it, it really does just get better with time I think. It certainly did for me, though I’d say material is still easier to read in hiragana than in katakana.

      You won’t see a whole lot of katakana usage in the Jalup sentence decks in comparison to the other writing systems though, so you might want to consider reading more native sources like manga that have katakana in them. Even then though, the amount of katakana usage will still vary between series.

  10. I’m at a kanji-learning phase, but songs with subtitles have always been helpful for my reading.
    ひらがな: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrXHizFaol0
    カタカナ: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzNWu89pn_I
    ドレミのうた (Do-Re-Mi song): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLAgyLrT9uU
    Popular kid songs: https://www.youtube.com/user/seesr2/videos
    Traditional kid songs: https://www.youtube.com/user/takanonfc/videos

    Not sure if you’re at this point, but when I was polishing my kana readings, drill games like these helped me a lot:
    There’s even a cool retro-style one: http://www.valiantls.com/games-for-learning-japanese.html

    For word practice, you might also enjoy this multiple-choice quiz:

    It’s okay to make mistakes, though! We’re all works in progress. For example, just the other day, I randomly forget how to handwrite the カタカナ character ヌ (nu), even though I can read it perfectly fine. I felt embarrassed at the time (I could only think ぬぬぬ from ひらがな), but hey, now it has my attention, and I will remember better the next time! ^w^

    Also, hands-down the best tip for telling apart the katakana シ(shi) and ツ(tsu):
    You write し(shi) by going downward and curving right, same with シ(shi)
    You write つ(tsu) by going across and curving downward, same with ツ(tsu)

    ン(n) is like the Nike logo swoosh, which swooshes from the left. [and the little part on top is more horizontal, like your (Nike) shoe/foot is flat on the ground]

    ソ(so) is like sew(SO)ing with your right hand… you swoop from the right (b/c you’d break your wrist trying to do it any other way…just thinking about it, ow!). [and the little part on top is more vertical, like a sewing thimble on your thumb saying thumbs up for doing a good job studying katakana!]

    Lastly, ノ(no) is like the slash through a no-smoking sign. NO! ノ![Or if history/politics lights up your brain, it could be a sash someone is wearing at a protest while shouting NO! ノ to something awful — like what some suffragettes wore while fighting voting inequalities. :P]

  11. メキシコ人(じん)の友達(ともだち)がたくさんいる。

    This card. The one for メ. The reading is too fast. It sounds like, to me, at the さんいる part she is only saying さいる. Maybe it’s my untrained ear. I was expecting SANIRU. Is the ん really so soft? If so, why?

    Can someone else give a listen?

    • You might be having this problem because the ん sound in たくさん is nasal. I read the sentence out loud a few times, and the ん in たくさん is not the same n sound as the の in メキシコ人の友達. If you’re listening for the same n sound as the の, it’s not there, so you won’t hear it.

      I also tried having my sister, who does not speak Japanese, listen for the ん in that part of the sentence (as I read it out loud), but she could barely hear it the first time she heard it and could not hear it the second time. Probably the best solution is to get used to hearing the nasal n sound through immersion so that it’s easier to pick up in the future.

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