Japanese Katakana -
another Japanese Alphabet you need to know

Japanese katakana (片仮名 or カタカナ), another Japanese alphabet, are more straight and have more angular corners in terms of shape as compared to hiragana.

1. Katakana are mainly used to express foreign words, foreign places, foreign countries, foreign names, things "loaned" from foreign languages.

For examples, エアコン (eakon) derived from the word air-con, ラジオ (rajio) derived from the word radio.

The foreign languages here refer not only to English, but also to languages like German, French, Dutch, etc. For example, アルバイト (arubaito which means"part-time job") comes from the German word "Arbeit".

2. Japanese katakana are also used to describe sounds, what we called onomatopoeia, or 擬音語 (giongo) in Japanese.

For example, ザーザー (za- za-) describes the sound of heavy rain. In a Japanese quiz show, when someone give an correct answer, the host will say ピンポーン (pinpo-n), indicates the answer is correct. If the answer is wrong, ブー (bu-) is used.

3. They are also used when someone wants to emphasize words in a sentence, the same effect as bold words.

See the katakana chart for the basic katakana characters, plus additional characters with 濁音 (dakuon), 半濁音 (handakuon), 拗音 (youon), and some descriptions on 促音 (sokuon) and 長音 (chouon).

Some basic katakana examples

Japanese katakana

Below are examples of some useful Japanese katakana...

Katakana Romaji Meaning
トイレ to i re Toilet
ライオン ra i on Lion
テレビ te re bi Television
バス ba su Bus
テニス te ni su Tennis
クラス ku ra su Class
ドラマ do ra ma Drama
スーパー su- pa- Supermarket
ビール bi- ru Beer
ケーキ ke- ki Cake
コーヒー ko- hi- Coffee
アイスクリーム a i su ku ri- mu Ice-cream

If you are looking for a related book, I recommend this book on katakana "Let's Learn Katakana (text only) 1st (First) edition by Y. K. Mitamura".

Some rules on katakana notation

There are some rules governing how Japanese katakana are used to represent English words.

For long vowels 長音 (chouon)

Add 長音 (chouon) to the katakana for the following cases...

  1. English words ended with "~er", For example,
    コンピュータ (computer)
    プリンタ (printer)
    シャワ (shower)

  2. English words ended with "~or", For example,
    エレベータ (elevator)
    エラ (error)

  3. English words ended with "~ar", For example,
    カレンダ (calendar)
    ギタ (guitar)
    Exception: ウェア (wear)

  4. English words ended with "~y", For example,
    エネルギ (energy)
    アクセサリ (accessory)

  5. English words with the phonetic symbols of [ou] or [ei]. For example,
    ト (boat)
    ナー (owner)
    ル (mail)
    ジ (page)
    Exception: メイン (main)

  6. English words with the phonetic symbols of [u:] or [i:]. For example,
    スクル (school)
    プ (soup)
    ム (team)
    ティ (tea)

For 促音 (sokuon) (ッ)

Add 促音 (sokuon) to the katakana for the following cases...

  1. English words ended with "~ck" and the katakana will be represented with "ック". For example,
    チェック (check)
    ック (knock)

  2. English words ended with "~sh" and the katakana will be represented with "ッシュ". For example,
    キャッシュ (cash)
    フレッシュ (fresh)

  3. English words ended with "~shion" or "~ssion" and the katakana will be represented with "ッション". For example,
    ッション (cushion)
    ッション (mission)

Again, spend some time to get yourself familiar with Japanese katakana by studying the katakana chart.

› Japanese Katakana

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