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Introduction to katakana

Katakana

Katakana is like hiragana and represents phonetic sounds. The major difference between hiragana and katakana is when they are used. Katakana is used primarily for loan words from other languages. In particular words such as foreign names, foods, places and loan words. All of these words are mostly written in katakana.


Katakana basic set

Katakana

A I U E O

a

i

u

e

o

K

ka

ki

ku

ke

ko

S

sa

shi

su

se

so

T

ta

chi

tsu

te

to

N

na

ni

nu

ne

no

H

ha

hi

fu

he

ho

M

ma

mi

mu

me

mo

Y

ya

yu

yo

R

ra

ri

ru

re

ro

W

wa

wo

n

n

n

Diacritical marks

There are a few noticeable differences in the table above. is written as ‘Shi’ instead of ‘Si’, 

is written as  ‘Chi’ instead of ‘ti’, is ‘Tsu’ rather than ‘Tu’ and finally is ‘Fu’ not ‘ Hu’. These are written this way as it is closer to the actual sounds would be written in English. This process of writing hiragana using latin letters is called romaji. When you are starting out it is completely fine to use romaji until you master hiragana.

Hiragana can also be used for more sounds, these can be created by adding softeners, these change a ‘K’ into a ‘G’ and ‘S’ into a ‘Z’ sound. Think about where your tongue is in your mouth when you say these sounds and it makes more sense. The second change is that ‘H’ can be changed to a ‘P’ as well. Take a look at the hiragana below to see the modified sounds.

Katakana 2

A I U E O
G

ga

gi

gu

ge

go

Z

za

ji

zu

ze

zo

D

da

ji

zu

de

do

B

ba

bi

bu

be

bo

P

pa

pi

pu

pe

po

There are two ‘Ji’ and ‘Zu’ sounds in this table. and are both romanised as ‘Ji’ but じ is more common. For and they are both ‘Zu’ but is used more frequently.

Katakana has one last set of sounds which are contracted sounds. These are from the original base set of hiragana but always are combinations of the   ‘Ya’, ‘Yu’, ‘Yo’ and a consonant sound.

Contracted sounds

Katakana 3

A U O
Ky

キャ

kya

キュ

kyu

キョ

kyo

Sh

シャ

sha

シュ

shu

ショ

sho

Ch

チャ

cha

チュ

chu

チョ

cho

Ny

ニャ

nya

ニュ

nyu

ニョ

nyo

My

ミャ

mya

ミュ

myu

ミョ

myo

Ry

リャ

rya

リュ

ryu

リョ

ryo

Gy

ギャ

gya

ギュ

gyu

ギョ

gyo

J

ジャ

ja

ジュ

ju

ジョ

jo

By

ビャ

bya

ビュ

byu

ビョ

byo

Py

ピャ

pya

ピュ

pyu

ピョ

pyo


A helpful hint to remember which characters can be combined with the Y-series to produce contracted sounds is to use the consonant + i + y series. For example to make A helpful hint to remember which characters can be combined with the Y-series to produce contracted sounds is to use the consonant + i + y series. For example to make キャ ‘Kya’ is ‘Ki’ + ‘Ya’. The second is to write the y-series component smaller next to the other sound. 

Katakana is also used for describing sounds and onomatopoeia, and often seen in comics. So if you like anime and want to read original manga in Japanese, it is good to know katakana for your understanding. Also your name is likely to be written in katakana unless you have a name in kanji.

Hint: The lines in katakana are much more straight and less complicated than that of hiragana, so although it is another set of characters, learners often say it is much quicker to master than hiragana. There are some letters which have a very similar shape to hiragana, so that is a bonus, too.

If you want to learn katakana and how to write it why not try it out on the Kaizen Languages app.

カタカナもがんばってください。 

Good luck with katakana as well!



March 20, 2020 10:13 AM