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Story Notes:
This is not meant to replace a real language education. Please use this as a supplement to other material if you are serious about learning Japanese. There are many, many free resources online for learning. I am making this as practice for myself as well as to help others in their learning endeavors.
Author's Chapter Notes:
Well, this is my first try at this. Let me know if it's understandable or not.

Also, if any of you other Japanese learners out there want questions answered, or would like a lesson catered to what you feel you'd like to learn, leave it in a review and I will do my best to help you understand better :D
As far as languages go, Japanese is fairly easy when it comes to pronunciation. Almost all of the sounds are either vowels or consonant-vowel pairs. The exceptions are:

- 'chi' ち
- 'tsu' つ
- 'shi' し

and their variants. The lone consonant 'n' (ん) can also be considered on that list.

All vowels are short vowels, and their order is A, I, U, E, O. The Japanese syllabary, known as Hiragana, begins with these vowels in this order and combines them with all of their possible consonant pairs. There are 46 characters on the modern Hiragana chart.

When you begin learning Japanese, Hiragana is the first place you should start. Even if you never learn any kanji, the hiragana will help you get by in understanding basic reading, as well as understanding word pronunciation. Resist the temptation to use only romanized characters. It's easy at first, but if you really want to learn, becoming dependent on 'romaji' will hurt you in the long run.

Here is one such Hiragana chart:

http://www.tanos.co.uk/jlpt/jlpt5/kana/kana1.jpg

However, the list does not include all of the possible pronunciations in the Japanese language. The pronunciation for a certain character can change when given one of two symbols, ten-ten (”) or maru (○).

For example: 'ha' (は), when given the ten-ten marking is changed to ba (ば) and with maru becomes pa (ぱ). As you can see, the ten-ten gives a harder sound than ha, and maru a harder sound than ten-ten. Try sounding them out yourself and you'll see your mouth is used more for each one.

Not all Hiragana characters can be changed in this way, however. For example, there is no ten-ten or maru pronunciation for 'mo' (も). And for something like 'su' (す) you can use a ten-ten to create 'zu' (ず) but there is no maru pronunciation. Knowing which one you use when is something you will have to memorize.

You can also combine certain characters to create new sounds. 'Ya' (や) 'Yu' (ゆ) and 'Yo' (よ) have a smaller version that is tacked to the end of one character.

For example: 'ki' (き) when combined with a small 'yo' becomes 'kyo' (きょ). It's like the two were squished together and the k and y bumped the i right out of the sound. Be careful though. If you see the 'yo' in normal size, you pronounce them separately. (きよ) is 'kiyo'

The other character that can be combined is 'tsu' (つ). Its smaller version creates a stop.

For example: 'katsute', meaning 'formerly' is written (かつて) But if you write it like this (かって) it sounds like 'katte', where the double tt represents a stopped sound. The meaning also changes. 'Katte' means 'one's own convenience' so be careful!

Easy, right?

Now, to test yourself, see if you can pronounce じゃ without cheating!
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