I have been thinking about this idea for awhile. I wrestled with a few details, like whether to post here or on my much neglected Japanese Juku site, and how often to post this. The fact that you see it here and it is named Sunday Sound Check, tips you off that I plan to write it once a week on this site.
English letters’ names have little to do with sound; if you are teaching someone to speak, there is no benefit to teaching them the ABC song. (For reading or spelling there is some small benefit.) Japanese however has two syllabic character sets – hiragana and katakana – which are called by a name that matches their sound: how convenient is that? My plan is to introduce a character each time and give a generally useful word which starts with that character in hiragana and one in katakana.
あ, usually written in Roman letters as ‘a’ is the first hiragana character using the gojuuon (五十音) order. The equivalent sound in katakana is represented by the character ア. These characters should be pronounced as in French or Spanish, but is not to far from the English vowel in “hot”.
あんまり (anmari, sometimes ammari) is a useful reply when asked how you like something that really isn’t very good. It’s roughly like, “Not so much.” When used in a proper sentence it should be put with a negative verb: あんまり好きではない。
アンケート (ankeeto) is a survey or questionnaire. It comes from the French word “enquête”, which is “an inquiry” in English. Katakana is properly used to write foreign words. Japanese people and foreigners alike often make the mistake of assuming that means English words; however, Chinese, German, Dutch, Portuguese, Turkish, … are all foreign as well.