Learn the Japanese ‘alphabets’!

HELLO UNIVERSE!~ (If you get the reference👏)

I have a few posts scheduled to come out before this so I feel like this one will have a ‘blast from the past’ kind of vibe to it when its published because it was written a while ago (25th September). I’m currently finishing a Hong Kong rose milk tea that I brewed a little while ago and feeling a bit hyped. Why? I would blame the tea, but truth be told, I never know. Anyone new to my blog might be wondering why I’m not writing about Chinese. If that’s what you’re looking for, please navigate through my posts by using the search function or the folders on the bottom left and you should find something relevant. Older readers would remember that I’ve branched out into topics about other countries in East Asia in the past and so writing about Japanese is nothing too strange.

I decided to take advantage of my ‘tea fuelled’ madness to write this post whilst I still have the gumption. Few of you who know me well may know that I get easily bored or distracted, even fewer of you have seen this in fruition. Oftentimes when I’m practicing language work it turns into me reading the language in question in weird accents or in sing song. 不瞒你说 it’s actually a lot of fun. Sadly I think this process of writing tamed my hypedness a bit, but I can get back to the actual objective of this post.

Since I’m ‘writing this in past tense’ I’m assuming the previous post was about Japanese versus Korean. As you can see Japanese ₩on for a little while at least. Since I’m starting Japanese completely from scratch I thought I would document some of the steps I took to learn a bit of the basics so you could use that as a beginner starting point for yourself if you wanted to, or maybe to compare learning techniques etc. I’ve been learning Chinese for about 9 years now and during the process I decided not to formally start learning another language on the side because I really wanted to commit to Mandarin. E.g. I chose not to learn Korean with my friends when they decided they didn’t want to read subtitles for their K-dramas. That’s why I took the subsidiary language option (really hoping I wrote the ‘previous post’) so seriously, because I want to similarly commit to the new language on my linguistic plate.

Before you continue, after writing up most of the post already I recommend you read this through once and then a second time more freely if you want to follow my steps to learning the Japanese alphabets. If you want a learning post you can follow the first time round, click here. It will make sense soon.

I’m trying to remember the actual ‘first step’ I took. Well I looked through the resources in the email reply I got from one of the Japanese teachers (if there is a previous post, it might make sense to read it first) and read up on the Japanese alphabet systems, since the Oxford subsidiary course requires the student to learn this mostly through self study. I also talked to a friend who studied a bit of Japanese in the past and then found out that the Japanese alphabets had a lot more than I thought my fragile self could handle x.x -but mind over matter works wonders~~

The next step is the most helpful so far. I went onto this website and pressed the ‘Katakana Stroke Order’. Some of the resources I read through in the first step listed rōmaji (transliteration) spelling for kana syllables so I already tried reading them, but on this site you can also hear each letter being spoken. So I went through the audio for each syllable for Katakana. I also got distracted a bit by instantly replaying some of the audios like のand fake dj-ing. But anyway, I happened to have a spare stack of square shaped note papers available to me and so I used these to make basic flashcards.

After listening to all the audios, following the chronology of letters; I pressed the play button and watched the stroke order, and then drew the letter on to one side of the square paper. I did this using a pink marker (use whatever color speaks to you/you find first). Subsequently I did the same using the Hiragana stroke order section of the site. This time I used a red marker pen. The cards I made were for the basic syllables only and do not include the additional sounds. When I made the flashcards I tried not to stack them in a chronological pile and instead mix them up so that after they were done I could try to lay the cards out in alphabetical order. Once I got to this step I tried arranging the cards in alphabetical order and then the process of correcting the order by checking my notes (I actually mention the notes in the 2nd following paragraph, but I’m writing in a weird order today) was another good subliminal form of revision. After laying the cards out in the correct order I wrote the rōmaji for each letter on the other side of the card. I did Katakana and Hiragana at the same time in order to reaffirm what I had just revised. E.g. I wrote the rōmaji at the back of the cards for あ and アand then moved on to い and イand so on.

I realized that reading this in present tense might come off a bit weird, but I’m going to stick with this since I like experimenting. Next I shuffled the cards and tried matching the Katakana and Hiragana by placing the cards with the same sound next to eachother. E.g. ふ and フ both with the sound ‘fu’. I then checked if I got them correct and rearranged the cards I got wrong. I found this helpful pdf with a chart placing Hiragana and Katana nicely beside eachother and used that to check my answers. I wish I found that a week ago >.> Next I tried the quizzes on the site I used for stroke orders. I even made a little collage of some of the responses I received after inputting my answers…

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On to the next step. In ‘real time’, at this point, I haven’t completed all the previous steps but I didn’t want to forget my ideas so I’m writing them first #Keeping it real. In a notebook (you could use a sheet of paper or a few) I wrote down the rōmaji for all the letters, as well as all the Hiragana and Katakana letters in three sections (I recommend you writing rōmaji on the left column, followed by Hiragana and then Katakan). For easy reference. These are the notes I referred to two paragraphs ago. After that I made a game almost like ‘Pairs’. If you’ve been following my steps with me, you could ‘play’ too.

Here’s the steps to my ‘Kana Pairs’:

  • Choose what to focus on (Katakana, Hiragana or Rōmaji)
  • Have the cards faced a certain way
  • Choose a letter to find
  • Pick one of the faced down cards
  • Turn the card around to reveal if you were correct or not

Another thing to note and I can now tell you after coming from the future-ish, is that you will need 92 blank squares of paper if you plan on following the flashcards I made. However size doesn’t always matter and the environment will thank you if you decide on making these small. Do what works for you. Protip: try to write the letters quite big in proportion to the paper size, that way the letters will stick out to you when revising. For bonus points you can make 46 extra cards with only Hiragana and Katakana on either side. This makes for another exhilarating round of KANA PAIRS –kind of, as you get to target your memorization of sounds. I’ll probably make these if I continue to pursue Japanese, but if you make these then the following is how I suggest you use them. Refer to your list of letters and cover the Kana side. Pick the rōmaji letters you find difficult to remember. If you’re also a ‘beginner beginner’ and every letter is bothering you, take turns with the letters. After picking a letter, try finding the matching Kana card. After finding the Kana, intermittently flip between both sides of the Kana and repeat the sound, I would probably end up doing this in sing-song. If you couldn’t find the Kana at the start, uncover the Kana from the list and then find them. After a while you could see if you can spell random words, using Katakana at least.

This game is also versatile. Here’s some variations to help your revision:

  • Hiragana side facing up
  • Katakana side facing up
  • A mixture of both and then the next time swap them around on another round

If my game steps come across quite simple, I wasn’t being sarcastic. Simplicity works with me as I sometimes have the memory of a table. 啊 but a table is a lot in Philosophy isn’t it? Okay I’m losing myself again🙄

In general the letters look really cool to me, but being the true linguist that I am, I appreciate the form of most~ Some of my initial reactions were that certain Hiragana syllables look a bit like the & symbol. シ and ツ look like sassy smiley faces; サ looks like an inverted 也 (although せ better resembles也); ユ and ヨ felt very modern Korean, and I’ve somehow associated ふ with Squidward. What are your thoughts?

Now that I’ve finished this post I think I’ve managed to come up with some great steps for approaching the Japanese alphabet as a complete beginner. If I do say so myself~ I really enjoyed writing this 😀 Before making this I was quite put off learning the Japanese alphabets because of the large amount of letters they have; however after putting effort into making these games and trying the online quizzes I will miss Japanese a bit if I switch to Korean. Part of me wishes there was an option to study both -.-

Lastly I apologize (一点点) for writing like this today. I haven’t in the past, so let’s blame the tea. Apologizing and tea, how British 😂 (but it was HK tea, but then there’s the history of Britain and HK so…). Okay I’m DONE. x ☕️

If you try sharing your tips for learning a new alphabet whilst divulging your overactive mind, good luck 世界。

此致敬礼欣妍 – From Xinyan.


Heart vs Mind

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I’m going to tell you a secret, sometimes I overthink/procrastinate/delay things due to perfectionism. I had a post in mind for a few months and have not yet written it due to the above. I’ve also started my 3rd year at Oxford now and I’m quite busy with deadlines. However, posting this incomplete post will remind me to return and tend to it. In other words, soon re-write it with the actual content.

If you were looking forward to something new from me, I have got some good news. There’s also a certain post I wrote a few months ago and has been waiting to be posted after this ‘incomplete’ post. I’ve decided to post that in the meantime. The post touches on a decision I had to make recently and so the ‘back story’ so to speak will be detailed in this post once it has been refurbished. Also although it was hinted in this next post, the outcome of the decision will also feature here. Hope you’re following my logic.

不瞒你说 I’d rather be writing this than starting an essay. Despite what my tutor says, writing a blog post and an essay is not the same. I’ve began to drift from the focus of this announcement and will now stop filling you in on what I’m up to, for now at least. Hope you’ve been well. Check back soon for quality content.

If you’re mind feels a bit numb, good luck 世界。

此致敬礼欣妍 – From Xinyan.




Heya 🙂 It’s been a while since my last post and of course a lot has happened since then so I decided to put out a little update. I haven’t really planned anything for this, but I just wanted to talk to you without the pressure, you know?~

I did forewarn that my blog would undergo a lack of scheduling from the beginning of my year abroad in Beijing onwards, but I’ve had some topics in mind that I wanted to write about and just never did. The reasons are that I’ve been a bit ill, very busy; and kinda stopped wanting to post for a while. The last reason is probably linked to the first, but it’s nothing to worry about~ I noticed that there have been more new followers to my blog over the last few months, welcome and 谢谢!^^ I also thought you guys, and those who read my blog as a whole deserves reassuring that my page is still active~

A few more things to add. Theres a post that I gradually compiled notes for during my first term in Beijing and should have been up at least a month ago, but hopefully sooner rather than later 😁 The theme is something to do with identity and I have a feeling that you’ll like it, so please look forward to that~ Recently I have been reflecting more actively about taking a subsidiary language during the next academic year of my course (Chinese Studies) and I am deciding between Japanese and Korean. If you have any opinions or advice on this decision than please do share! 🇯🇵🇰🇷 If I can convince myself to translate my thoughts into words, you could expect a post on that too once I return to Beijing for my second term. Fyi: I’m on ‘Spring break’ at the moment and have returned to England, but due to return soon! 🇬🇧🇨🇳

I have lot’s of stories from what’s happened so far this year, but we can save them for another time😋Let me know how you’ve been and if you want me to research anything specific whilst I’m in China etc!

If you have a lot to do, good luck 世界。

此致敬礼,欣妍 – From Xinyan.

Beijing beginnings


It’s been just over two weeks since I’ve come to Beijing and I can’t believe we’ve managed to 办so many事’s. Unfortunately the domain of my blog seems to be one of the many sites blocked in China (shout-out to the people who I see reading my posts from within China…I see you👀), which is why this post is coming to you later than I had planned. I’ll leave it at that for now but this does tie in well with my previous post~

Whilst I’ve travelled a lot in the past (within the UK and to other countries) there’s usually been at least one ‘adult’ figure travelling with me, so this was my first time taking a flight on my own. But China is only around the corner, right?

Our course can seem a bit strange for many reasons. It’s very independent in that you have to book a plane ticket and organise your own accommodation etc. Whilst it may seem like this is because it’s an Oxford course, this seems to be unique to Chinese Studies o-o 好奇怪 For the first few nights a few of us stayed at a hostel we booked in England prior to arriving. It wasn’t amazing, but it also wasn’t bad. For one night there was a complication with my booking and due to that I can now at least say that I’ve experienced what living in a Chinese dorm would be like. I’ll leave it open to your imagination😉

Every year a handbook of ‘Studying at Beida’ is given to students at the end of first year before embarking on their Year Abroad. The year above has the task of editing the handbook with details that may have changed each year and I think I will put forward a note to warn that there will be a lot of walking. We walked a lot during the first week especially, but I guess its good it was before the health-check…

On our first night we went out to have dinner with the rest of our classmates who had also arrived in Beijing. Perhaps the restaurant we went to had a busy day because the waiter kept returning to our table to let us know that a meal we ordered had sold out. Most of our food eventually arrived and it was quite nice, but quite an interesting experience for most of us xD I think the waiters were equally confused since we ordered singular meals as it’s common to share dishes in China.

The first few days involved looking at apartments, looking for banks and 找到-ing Western Union for classmates to withdraw money, and then withdrawing the maximum from ATMs to save up for our initial instalment of rent. Due to all of this money business I had to restrict my purchases, but I recently went shopping with a friend from Oxford who came to Beijing^^ I also went to the ‘Electronic City’ in last week with a classmate to check out things like phone-cases (although all the nice ones seem to be for Iphones -.-). I hope to explore that area more since it’s nearby to 北大附中 – The Affiliated High school of Peking University, which is where I stayed last time I came to Beijing. –Btw we’ve now rented a penthouse apartment!

What else has happened? I turned a water canister into a recycling bin using a cleaver, a craft knife and a lighter. I was offered a job by a woman who was impressed with my Chinese sounding ‘like a Beijing person’ and subsequently met her daughter the next day to teach her English. A lot of cool things happened that day (I got to see Qinghua University which is to Beida how Cambrige is to Oxford) but I don’t plan to continue with that particular job. We registered our residency at a Police Station, and we plan to register at Beida as soon as possible. We have Collections taking place fairly soon (Oxford termly assessments)…which is just cruel T.T

I’ve also been speaking a lot of Chinese, which is great fun! I engage best with spoken elements of a language and speaking Mandarin has always been my favorite part of learning Chinese. The rest if my class prefer the written element of our course like our history paper the ‘East Asia Survey’ and practicing written Chinese. However I’ve been trying to create a lot of opportunities to practice my spoken Chinese like in Taxis for instance and I’m grateful to have been complimented on it quite a bit^^ People have been telling me to make vlogs (video logs) with my new camera and so it’s something I’ve been considering. My flat mates also told me I should start a blog about fashion or photography but I’m not so sure 😅 I’ve been told to make vlogs and a fashion blog in the past, but we’ll see *害羞*


Another interesting thing that happened was our health checks. It seems like people staying in China for a long duration are required to take part on a health examination. A friend of mine who is doing an internship in Beijing over summer was required to do a health check aswell. It was quite strange and parts of it definitely were not accurate. We took a taxi to the center (we got there an hour early😴) and filled in a form, once that was given in we went into different rooms divided between two floors in which different examinations were set up. We had a blood test, x-ray, ‘eye test’ (the doctor just pointed at a letter on a board and let us walk off once we immediately identified it), ECG and more. All of this for £40~ But at least I now know my blood type!

The theme of the day (that I originally wrote this at least) is probably otherness and optimism. As I’ve mentioned before I’m on the team of the ‘glass being half full’ and so whilst there may have been stresses about things like adjusting to our new life I’ve been reminding myself and others of how far we’ve come and that we needn’t worry about things that are out of our control so long as we continue trying our best. Also people have rightly been a bit self conscious for sticking out as a foreigner, which brings me on to the theme of otherness. Personally I don’t find it a big 问题 since I’ve pretty much always been different, but I have been asked things like ‘你是哪国人’ (where are you from) a lot more than my classmates, and have had a lot of questions about my headscarf and religion. It can be awkward depending on the situation but I see it as pursing my duty to educate people about a curiosity sparked from lack of opportunity to experience other cultures. -Although I have seen quite a few Muslim women wearing headscarves since being here~ During the taxi ride from the health check our 司机 asked about my scarf and why my friend in the backseat wasn’t wearing one as well despite her being British like myself. He was in disbelief when I simply said that it’s because we’re different people. Adamant as he was and also curious as to whether my dad wears one as well as my mother (a headscarf is only worn my women but the concept of the hijab of general modesty applies to both gender, fyi), to which I asked if he was ‘the same’ as the man in the car ahead of us since he was presumably Chinese. He claimed that he was because they both had black hair -.- but sometimes you cant win. My point is that no two people are exactly the same and that’s amazing. Your differences make you as unique as your fingerprint, so embrace them ^-^ A quote that came to mind today is that you should be yourself, since everyone else is already taken~ Ameen.

A lot has happened since we’ve been here, and whilst it’s nice being occupied it sort of makes you feel like you’re losing your head sometimes. On a side note I’m quite pleased with how my writing style has been progressing. It fluctuates along with my general progression, but that’s kind of like growing up, and lately I’ve felt more and more like an adult.

If you have moved to another continent and have to be an adult, good luck 世界。

此致敬礼欣妍 – From Xinyan.

Also I’ve just uploaded a similar post written in 简体字 Chinese, check it out here if you want to try reading it!~

Year abroad✈️

我在这个品台几乎过了三年!噢!如果你是‘新的来这儿看我帖子的人’我欢迎你!How has your summer been? I realised recently that mine is being cut short by 2 months this year, but that’s because of the subject of this post.^

The commencing academic term will mark the start of my year abroad in you guessed it…China! Beijing to be more specific, and I’ll be studying there for the second year of my degree. I haven’t spoken much about my course but perhaps you might be able to venture a guess? It of course has something to do with China in that it is Chinese Studies. What does that actually mean? 首先 I think it’s best to think of it as ‘China Studies’ as we learn spoken Mandarin as well as both forms of written Chinese; Classical Chinese (which deserves a whole separate post one day); philosophy; history; literature, and a bunch of other nerdy things related to China! *Exhale*

Another detail I have missed out thus far is where I’ve been studying. For the past year I’ve been studying at The University of Oxford, 其实 it feels a bit strange to reveal. Of course due to the esteemed reputation of the institution along with the ‘unique’ subject I’m reading, I will gladly accept your questions and try my best to answer them^^ In the meantime you can read about some of the radical stories I’ve noted down from my teachers this year in my previous post.

When I applied for the course I did find that there was less material to prepare myself for what to expect in comparison to other courses with a greater amount of students. For that reason I have been considering talking a bit about what my course entails as well as some other 有意思的 details in another post once I receive authorisation. -I do have some materials prepared…

I also wanted to 谈一谈 about what my year abroad will mean for my blog. If you haven’t already realised, since creating this blog in 2014 I’ve been uploading posts at least once a month~ However for the coming year I do not plan to follow this regularity as strictly as I previously have done. I’m sure my list of topics will grow due to my lifestyle being immersed into Chinese culture, I will just give myself more 自由 over scheduling, at least that’s the aim😝

I think that’s it for now~ Rather than uploading my post a few hours before a flight as I’ve done in the past, today I’ve gone for just a day before😅.

If you are going to study abroad, good luck 世界🌏🇨🇳

此致敬礼欣妍–From Xinyan.


Well looky here, I was tagged by 我的朋友 nakedstreetkid to take part in the ‘CREATIVE BLOGGER AWARD’ tag 谢啦🐼

The official rules are that you must: Nominate your top 10 blogs; 
Notify them by WordPress, Social Media and their links; 
List 5 facts about yourself
; List the rules. I invite anyone who is reading this and is interested to participate themselves! 😉

首先我是一个独生女。First fact, I am an only child. I think having no siblings was compensated by the fact that I had a lot of cousins and close friends who I grew up with. Being an only child has its pros and cons, as does everything else. On one hand it definitely made me quite self-reliant, and explains my unique personality. However when I was younger and I wanted someone to play with, I did imagine inventing a toddler sibling that I could play with and then “turn off” and store away in my cupboard once I got bored.

Second fact is about music (其次我跟音乐有特别的关系). I could probably talk about ‘music’ for a while, but I won’t get into a deep answer. In terms of my religion, I recognise that many Muslims may say that it’s sinful to listen to music, but as Islam advocates that sins are derived from intentions (to keep it short),  I’m hoping that I should be in the clear zone. When I was younger I gained the skill of memorising song lyrics from a couple of listens (gift or curse?), and now singing is still a hobby of mine. 我喜欢的音乐是形形色色的 I listen to a variety of types of music and I can rely them in tough times 💪

For the third fact I should probably tell you a bit about my personality. I find it awkward to describe myself so I asked a friend to tell me some of my personality traits etc, but I still feel a bit awkward about sharing what she said😅. I know that I get excited easily, but can also become bored easily. I’m usually introverted, clumsy (真的跟一部电影一样), thoughtful, ‘weird’/different, and 98% of the time I believe that ‘the glass is half full’ 杯子是半满–an optimist.

4: I have a deep interest in art. I’ve always been quite creative so I enjoy crafting from random resources, painting, scultpting etc. But I think even simple things can be seen as art. Such as words or Chinese characters because they each have their own stories. If this sounds strange 对不起 it’s in my nature.

Hmm what about number five? Something I am certain that you know by now from reading this post alone, and if you know me personally, is that I’m very enthusiastic about languages. I went into a mini back story in one of my first posts, but languages interest me because they all somehow link, everything has its own story (I did a lot of creative writing in the past but it sort of stopped when I started college), and of course languages are integral to communication. Perhaps it’s related to my ability to learn song lyrics, but I also tend to pick up on vocabulary and nuances fairly easily.

If you read all of my facts I hope you enjoyed getting to know me a bit better and please tell me some of your own facts. 根据我的经验 it’s surprisingly difficult to list facts about oneself on the spot, but nonetheless this was a fun tag.

If you need to list five facts about yourself, good luck 世界~

从欣妍 – From Xinyan.

2014 in review

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新年快乐!Happy new year! (it’s not technically the new year here in the UK, but it depends on which country you live in). WordPress has created an overview of my blogging year and I think its kind of adorable >.< There’s a little extract below but in essence it summarised my statistics from the year (although I’ve had this for half a year) and presented them with diagrams and facts. There was an option to publish the review but I think it’s a bit private (对不起这是个秘密) so instead I will show you some of the extracts…

“The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

…There were 36 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 61 MB. That’s about 3 pictures per month”.

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have mentioned before that I have a list of posts that I plan to write, but for one reason or another I have not been able to complete them yet. The other day I did the photography for a post I planned to put up yesterday (trying to maximise primary sources😁), but a movie marathon came along and well now it is likely to become the first post of 2015. Stay tuned 😉

I would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone that has engaged with my posts in 2014! It’s been half a year but feels like only 2 months have passed. Thank you to the silent supporters, as well as those of you who are subscribed to my blog; thank you for the comments, and thanks for the likes (翻译:谢谢为你们对我博客的称赞). Hopefully you can stick around to help me through 2015 so that we can continue to learn new things. 一起学习比自己学习是更好,你们同意呢。

If you take the time to review your year, good luck 世界 .


[Also if you haven’t noticed, I occasionally include short phrases in Chinese like I have done in this post but I wanted to point out that what follows in english usually is not the translation. If you’re bored you can try translating them using a search engine, but I will leave that to you].

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