Learning of Basic Japanese Scripts
As any other language learning, Japanese learning also begins with its two scripts named Hiragana and Katakana.
Hiragana/Katakana are phonetic alphabets that is mainly used for native Japanese words and foreign loan words respectively. A total of 46 each hiragana/katakana alphabets are used in contemporary Japanese writing. They also have 25 diagritics (which when written above a letter indicates a difference in pronunciation from the same letter when differently marked). Hiragana Example - あ (a) い (i) う (u) え (e) お (o) か (ka) が (ga) き (ki) ぎ (gi) く (ku) ぐ (gu) け (ke) げ (ke) こ (ko) ご (go) ぱ (pa) ぴ (pi) ぷ (pu) ぺ (pe) ぽ (po)
They also has 21 diagraph (a pair of letters that make one sound) along with their diagritics. Hiragana Example - きゃ (kya) ぎゃ (gya) きゅ (kyu) ぎゅ (gyu) きょ (kyo) ぎょ (gyo).
The stroke order also assumes a lot of importance in Japanese scripts. So, learners are requested to pay attention to it. Sample of first Hiragana character which consists of three storke is given below:-
There are Hiragana and Katakana charts with stroke order are available for free on the internet. Learners can download them and practice them with stroke order. And also, flash cards (too available on the net) help learners to memorize and recognize the characters. One can learn both Hiragana and Katakana by spending 10-12 hours each using various tools and techniques available on the net. Usually in Language schools, teacher would start off with language learning with these two scripts with examples (words using each character) to practice in 8-10 hours each.
Difficulty wise, Katakana would be little tougher than its counterpart Hiragana. Because Japanese Language has adopted many foreign words and customized them according to their pronounciation which may be difficult in the beginning for the foreign learners. For example, the word RESTAURANT is written in Katakana as レストラン (re-su-to-ra-n). But over the period of time, one can get used to them with more practice.