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When I was searching for a mobile app that lets you practice writing hiragana, I noticed that a lot of them uses the Gothic font, meaning that さ will be written as 2 strokes and not 3. The most common font in educational textbook uses さ with 3 strokes, and is the recommended font in Japan. So I want to ask you guys something.

  1. Do you think this is a potential problem? Because I heard some beginners being confused with differences in さ,き and り on Gothic font and textbook font. I feel this can be distracting when starting to learn Japanese.

  2. If you are a teacher who wants to teach writing hiragana to a beginner, would you prefer an app that doesn't use Gothic font?

I am trying to develop an app regarding this problem. Any answer will help me tremendously!

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  • As written, this sounds like an opinion question, which is off-topic. But the root of it concerns style/stroke count for hiragana. However, that has already been asked here (Is it standard practice, or acceptable, to connect strokes in certain characters of hiragana?). so I'm voting to close it.
    – istrasci
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 18:51
  • @istrasci Oh, didn't know opinion based questions aren't accepted in this website. Do you know any other place where I can ask something like this? SE was only the place I thought of
    – Banakat
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 23:38
  • @Banakat Not sure about the opinion-based, but questions asking for resources or practicing/learning strategies are welcomed in the meta site, I think: japanese.meta.stackexchange.com
    – jarmanso7
    Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 0:29
  • @jarmanso7 Understood. Thank you!
    – Banakat
    Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 1:02

2 Answers 2

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Do you think this is a potential problem?

English has the same problem. Some Latin characters have typographical variants, and especially 'g' has a well-known "double-story" variant that is usually not used for handwriting. According to this article, English speakers are almost unaware of this, but this is indeed a confusing problem to people who learn English as the second language. So the variation of hiragana should be a potential problem to beginners, too.

If you are a teacher who wants to teach writing hiragana to a beginner, would you prefer an app that doesn't use Gothic font?

If you target beginners, don't use ゴシック. Instead, you should choose a font designed for educational purposes.

Two-stroke さ would be understood, and it's even preferred in elegant cursive script, but it's not something a beginner should start with.

Also note that there are many Japanese gothic fonts ("gothic" in this context is essentially the same as "sans-serif"), and some gothic fonts have 3-stroke さ.

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  • So do you have a specific font to recommend? Other Q&A on this site said 教科書体, but I couldn't find it. Instead I browsed the fonts on my mac, looking for one that was clean, without calligraphic flourishes, but which did have the "broken" form of sa, ki, and ri hiragana as you suggested. There weren't many that met those criteria. Really just YuKyokasho and YuKyokasho medium. Here is how it looks on my mac. Do you think it is a good font for learning and printing teaching guides? a good substitute for 教科書体 or a good choice for writing and printing guides?
    – ziggurism
    Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 0:23
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    @ziggurism 教科書体 is a catch-all term, and many font vendors have their own 教科書体 font family. "YuKyokasho" is indeed a 教科書体 font developed by a company called Jiyu-Kobo (kyokasho = 教科書 = "textbook"). MS Windows has a different 教科書体 developed by another vendor.
    – naruto
    Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 0:39
  • ok thanks for the clarification about the term 教科書体. So I think I will use YuKyokasho. Although I could do my printing on a windows computer instead. Do you have an opinion about whether the windows 教科書体 font is better than YuKyokasho? Is it called Mincho?
    – ziggurism
    Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 0:44
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    @ziggurism Mincho (or Ming in Chinese) is basically an equivalent of "serif", and it's not suitable for educational purposes. According to the link above, the 教科書体 in Windows has more uniform line thicknesses, but either one should be fine for your purpose.
    – naruto
    Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 0:47
  • ok good. thanks again for your help my friend
    – ziggurism
    Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 0:50
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I noticed that a lot of them uses the gothic font, meaning that さ will be written as 2 strokes and not 3.

That may be true, but with the Gothic (sans-serif) font I have always considered the second stroke to be a two-part stroke. So while it's technically only two strokes, I think of it as a character written with three parts.

Do you think this is a potential problem?

No, it's just a font thing. Some fonts will change the characters in different ways, just like you see in English with the various ways to write lowercase letter 'a.' It's just one more thing for a beginning Japanese learner to learn.

Here's another post about font that you may find interesting: Weird usage of dakuten.

If you are a teacher who wants to teach writing hiragana to a beginner, would you prefer an app that doesn't use Gothic font?

I don't think that it matters too much, but most of the learning materials I used to learn Japanese actually favored the Minchô (serif) font. It's not of vital importance what font you use, so long as you are able to recognize the characters involved.

Ultimately, the better you get at reading Japanese, the less various fonts will trip you up. So I would recommend using a clean font to start, and progressing from there. There's no need to hide from the various fonts, because they'll pop up frequently.

That being said, however, since you are writing an app to help learners of the language, I would personally suggest that you use the Minchô font. This is because you will find that most newspapers and books published in Japan use the Minchô font.

You may find this forum post on duolingo interesting as well: Font Choice in App.

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