Katakana Lessons

Katakana Lessons

Katakana is very similar to Hiragana; you should be able to pick it up without too much trouble. Actually [begin: Clay's confession] I have never studied Katakana. But I can read it just fine. What do I mean - you ask? Well, in real written Japanese, Katakana is used very sparcely unless the subject has a lot of foreign words or names. So I picked up Katakana when I needed it. That is, when I came across katakana I would look it up. Because I read a lot, I was able to learn Katakana without specifically studying it! Sounds like I am trying to discourage you from studying, huh? Ok I will stop. Gambatte!

There are tons of FREE resources on the web. I encourage you to use them. Or if you really want to spend money, please take a look at the Kana section of our online shop.

KATAKANA LESSONS:

SUGGESTIONS: Tackle 2 or 3 katakana a day (or as many as you feel comfortable with); Be sure to write each one down many times; Look for katakana you have studied elsewhere while you study and try to recognize the ones you've already learned. This helps build your memory.

You may want to hear all hiragana pronounced before beginning. However, if you've already learned the sounds for the hiragana, the sounds for katakana are exactly the same!

Click on the chapter title or green button in any box below to jump directly to that chapter.

→ Chapter 12 - Helpful hints
And to finish up, a few closing pointers to cover the loose ends and bring it all together.

Download our FREE Katakana Flashcards and Practice Writing Pad

An Introduction:

Katakana is known as the more 'masculine' of the Japanese writing systems. This is because it is rigid with sharp turns. Katakana is mainly used for foreign loan-words and onomatopoeia (sound effects). For example: Cola is コーラ ko-ra. You will notice the dash in the middle of コ ko and ラ ra. This makes the コ ko longer in sound. If this is written in Hiragana, it would look as such: こうら koura. (In Hiragana the う u lengthens the previous character) Other than that, Hiragana and Katakana work and sound in the same way.

NOTE: You will need to be able to view Japanese Characters - Click here to find out how

Most sounds in Japanese are found also in English. Unlike English, the 'letters' in Japanese only have one sound, with a few exceptions that will be mentioned later on. Please click on the sound files to get a feel for the sounds. The most important to master are the vowels (the first row). The sounds are all found in English. Please repeat the sounds many times. If you spend a few moments looking at the chart, you should be able to see a clear pattern (each column has the same vowel sound and each row has the same consonant sound). チ (chi), ツ (tsu), ヲ (wo), and ン (n) are the only ones that deviate from the pattern.

- almost never used.

wo Usually the hiragana is used as a particle.

These are all the basic katakana letters. The rest are simply combinations of two katakana. (For Example: to make the 'sha' sound - add (shi) + ヤ(ya) = シャ(sha) - Notice how the second letter is smaller; but we will look at this later.)

Katakana Page 01

KATAKANA PART 1

So you want to learn Katakana? Great! You will soon notice how similar it is with Hiragana. However there are some important differences. Although you don't have to learn Hiragana before doing this page, I recommend it if you are not living in Japan. Hiragana is used much more in writing. But Katakana is used when writing foreign loanwords and in advertizing. Therefore, Katakana is very useful for the foreigner IN Japan.

Download our FREE Katakana Flashcards and Practice Writing Pad

Each Lesson will tackle 5 characters. If you haven't studied Hiragana yet, I would recommend starting with it.


Today's lesson will teach you the vowel sounds in Japanese.  These are the SAME SOUNDS as the Hiragana vowels.

Basically, like Spanish, there are 5 vowel sounds.  a, i, u, e, o.  



- a    - as in fAther, Ah
it looks like a capital A leaning over (doing exercises)



- i    - as in fEEt
It looks like a lowercase i with a hat on instead of a dot



- u    - as in fOOd
It looks like a mouth about to eat fOOd



- e    - as in eh? or hAte
It looks like a capital I but it is really an Eh sound



- o    - knOw  
It looks like someone kicking something "OH OH!"

These are the first 5 letters in katakana.  Write them out 10 times a day and soon you will get it.  To aid memorization, make silly associations to go with them. You can use the above mnemonics or you can make your own!

 


STOP!!!

Did you write the above katakana 10 times? Did you sound them out as well? Well, do it again! And then take the following test & Javascript quiz (see link below)...


TEST

How do you read these Katakana characters? What English words are they?

エア ____________    This means ____________
アイ ____________    This means ____________
イア _____________   This means _____________
オア _____________    This means ______________ (think of a row boat)

Click here to check your answers


Perhaps you can recognize these 5 in just one day of practice.  

 

 

 

 

 

ANSWERS:

 

エア     ea This means AIR
アイ  ai This means EYE
イア    ia This means EAR
オア   oa   This means OAR

Think you have it all down pat?
Click here to take the Quiz

Katakana Page 02

KATAKANA PART 2

So you survived the first part. Take a deep breath and jump on in!


In today's lesson, we will look at the K sounds.


- ka    - as in CAr
it looks like the hiragana ka (か), just remove the line.



- ki    - as in KEY
This also looks like a hiragana ki (き) without the base.



- ku    - as in COOl
It looks like guy giving a thumbs-up. That's COOl!



- ke    - as in Kay or CAke
It looks like someone's CApe



- ko    - COld  
It looks like a refrigerator door, that's COld!

Write them out 10 times a day and soon you will get it.  To aid memorization, make silly associations to go with them. You can use the above mnemonics or you can make your own!

 


STOP!!!

Did you write the above katakana 10 times? Did you sound them out as well? Well, do it again! And then take the following test & Javascript quiz (see link below)...


TEST

How do you read these Katakana characters? What English words do they sound out?
キー ____________    This means ____________ [The ー means to make the previous sound longer (like the hiragana う often does)]
カウ ____________    This means ____________ [Think of an animal]
ケーキ _____________   This means _____________ [Something to eat]
コーク _____________    This means ______________ [Something to drink]

Click here to check your answers


Perhaps you can recognize these 5 in just one day of practice.  

 

 

 

 

 

ANSWERS:

 

キー    ki- This means KEY
カウ  kau This means COW
ケーキ    ke-ki This means CAKE
コーク   ko-ku  This means COKE

Think you have it all down pat?
Click here to take the Quiz

Katakana Page 03

KATAKANA PART 3

Let's take a look at the S's. You may want to make flashcards to practice by.



- sa    - as in SOlitude
it looks like a squished SAW blade. (Backwards Hiragana SE (せ)).



- sHi    - as in SHE
NOTE: This is the first 'irregular' pronunciation. You would think it would be 'si' but don't forget the middle 'H'. Someone is pulling down a SHEet from a closet. Or SHE always smiles tilting her head.



- su    - as in SUE
It looks like SUE standing up.



- se    - as in SAY
It looks like someone with a huge mouth SAYing something.



- so    - SO 
NOTE: be careful - it looks simlar to another katakana character (ン n) we will study soon. Just remember the drop on ・#92; points down. Someone is touching something on a pedestal. It's SO pretty?

Write them out 10 times a day and soon you will get it.  To aid memorization, make silly associations to go with them. You can use the above mnemonics or you can make your own!

 


STOP!!!

Did you write the above katakana 10 times? Did you sound them out as well? Well, do it again! And then take the following test & Javascript quiz (see link below)...


TEST

How do you read these Katakana characters? What English words do they sound out?
キス ____________    This means ____________
サケ____________    This means ____________ [This is usually written in hiragana and is a traditional Japanese drink]
サイ _____________   This means Rhino [Sorry, you probably couldn't guess this meaning, but try to read it!]
アシ _____________    This means ______________ [means a body part in Japanese (again usually written in hiragana or kanji]
ケース _____________    This means ______________ [something you carry - remember the ー means to make the previous sound longer]
アース _____________    This means ______________ [No, it doesn't mean a body part! Remember Japanese doesn't have a 'TH' sound and think of a planet]

Click here to check your answers


Perhaps you can recognize these 5 in just one day of practice.  

 

 

 

 

 

ANSWERS:

 

キス    kisu This means KISS
サケ sake This means SAKE
サイ   sai This means Rhino
アシ   ashi  This means LEG
ケース   ke-su  This means CASE
アース  a-su  This means EARTH

Think you have it all down pat?
Click here to take the Quiz

Katakana Page 04

KATAKANA PART 4

Let's take a look at the T's. You may want to make flashcards to practice by.



- ta    - as in TOm boy
it looks like an invisible TOm boy hitting a TAmborine (the American pronunciation of Tambourine is off a little, but say it with 'tah' pronunciation)



- chi    - as in CHEEze
NOTE: This is another 'irregular' pronunciation. You would think it would be 'ti' but it is 'CHI'. It is a CHEAp and CHEEzy umbrella turned inside out.



- tsu    - as in caT SOUp
It looks like someone smiling at such a ridiculous mnemonic as caT SOUp. Don't confuse this with ・#92; (so)



- te    - as in TApe
It looks like someone is putting down a roll of TApe.



- to    - TOE 
Someone is kicking something with their TOE.

Write them out 10 times a day and soon you will get it.  To aid memorization, make silly associations to go with them. You can use the above mnemonics or you can make your own!

 


STOP!!!

Did you write the above katakana 10 times? Did you sound them out as well? Well, do it again! And then take the following test & Javascript quiz (see link below)...


TEST

How do you read these Katakana characters? What English words do they sound out?

テスト ____________    This means ____________
アイス ____________    This means ____________
コート _____________   This means ____________
アート _____________    This means ______________
アウト _____________    This means ______________
ツアー_____________    This means ______________
タコス _____________    This means ______________  [This is a Mexican food]

Click here to check your answers


Perhaps you can recognize these 5 in just one day of practice.  

 

 

 

 

 

ANSWERS:

テスト   tesuto This means Test
アイス aisu This means Ice (or Ice Cream)
コート   ko-to This means Coat
アート  a-to  This means Art
アウト  auto  This means Out
ツアー  tsua-  This means Tour
タコス  takosu  This means (Mexican) Tacos

Think you have it all down pat?
Click here

Katakana Page 05

KATAKANA PART 5

Let's take a look at the N's. You may want to make flashcards to practice by. "Na Ni Nu Ne No" is fun. Sounds a bit like something Mork would say to Mindy... Also there are no unexpected sound forms here.



- na    - as in NOt
It looks like someone is NOdding off for a nap.



- ni    - as in NEAt
It's someone's KNEEs again! (ChiNEse Kanji for 2 (knees))



- nu    - as in NEW
It's a brand-NEW scythe



- ne    - as in NEIGHbor
It looks like a cross-section of a NAval ship. Or an arm growing out of your NEIGHbor's NAvel



- no    - NO!  
This looks like the curve of someone's NOse.

Write them out 10 times a day and soon you will get it.  To aid memorization, make silly associations to go with them. You can use the above mnemonics or you can make your own!

 


STOP!!!

Did you write the above katakana 10 times? Did you sound them out as well? Well, do it again! And then take the following test & Javascript quiz (see link below)...


TEST

How do you read these Katakana characters? What English words do they sound out? (Some may be easier than others to guess)

ナビ ____________    This means ____________
ニット ____________    This means ____________
カヌー _____________   This means ____________
シチー _____________    This means ______________
ナース _____________    This means ______________
ソナー_____________    This means ______________

Click here to check your answers


Perhaps you can recognize these 5 in just one day of practice.  

 

 

 

 

 

ANSWERS:

ナビ   nabi This means Navigator (usually someone who gives directions in the passenger seat or the Navigation systems found in newer cards)
ニット nitto This means to Knit, knitting
カヌー   kanu- This means Canoe
シチー  shichi-  This means City [Both syllables are not found in Japanese so SHI instead of SI and CHI instead of TI]
ナース  na-su  This means Nurse [Usually in Katakana English words the 'r' sound is implied by a ー but not spoken]
ソナー sona-  This means Sonar

Think you have it all down pat?
Click here to take the Quiz

Katakana Page 06

KATAKANA PART 6

Let's take a look at the H's. What you would expect to be 'HU' is usually pronounced 'FU'



- ha    - as in HA!
It looks like a capital 'H' laughing "HA!" so loud, its middle fell off



- hi    - as in HE
HE's sitting down with his arms out.



- fu    - as in FOOd
It's the end of someone's FOOt.



- he    - as in HEY!
It looks same as the Hiragana!



- ho    - as in HOE 
This looks like two people scraping a HOE on the ground in a field.

Write them out 10 times a day and soon you will get it.  To aid memorization, make silly associations to go with them. You can use the above mnemonics or you can make your own!

 


STOP!!!

Did you write the above katakana 10 times? Did you sound them out as well? Well, do it again! And then take the following test & Javascript quiz (see link below)...


TEST

How do you read these Katakana characters? What English words do they sound out? (Some may be easier than others to guess)

ハニー ____________    This means ____________
ヒット ____________    This means ____________
ファン_____________   This means ____________ ( ン is the katakana nasal or "n" )
ヘア _____________    This means ______________
ホテル _____________    This means ______________  (ル is the katakana for ru)
ハーフ_____________    This means ______________

Click here to check your answers


Perhaps you can recognize these 5 in just one day of practice.  

 

 

 

 

 

ANSWERS:

ハニー   hani This means Honey (the food, or a nickname for your spouse!)
ヒット hitto This means to hit
ファン   fan- This means a (sports) fan [note the small ア after the フ. This makes the sound FA instead of FUA. You will see simliar small vowels. When you do, simply drop the first character's vowel sound and substitute it with the small vowel sound.]
ヘア  hea  This means Hair
ホテル  hoteru  This means Hotel
ハーフ ha-fu  This means Half

Think you have it all down pat?
Click here to take the Quiz

Katakana Page 07

KATAKANA PART 7

Let's take a look at the M's. These five are as you should expect... No big surprises



- ma    - as in MAMA
It's someone's MAma kicking someone out with her foot.



- mi    - as in ME
It looks like a MEteor shower.



- mu    - as in MOOd
It's an upside down MA, pronounced MU.



- me    - as in MAY
It looks like a man with his legs tied who MAY fall if he doesn't stop leaning over.



- mo    - as in MOE 
This looks similar to a lawn MOWer.

Write them out 10 times a day and soon you will get it.  To aid memorization, make silly associations to go with them. You can use the above mnemonics or you can make your own!

 


STOP!!!

Did you write the above katakana 10 times? Did you sound them out as well? Well, do it again! And then take the following test & Javascript quiz (see link below)...


TEST

How do you read these Katakana characters? What English words do they sound out? (Some may be easier than others to guess)

マン ____________    This means ____________
ミート ____________    This means ____________
コーム_____________   This means ____________
メキシコ _____________    This means ______________
モーア _____________    This means ______________
イニ、ミニ、マイニ、モ_____________    This means ______________

Click here to check your answers


Perhaps you can recognize these 5 in just one day of practice.  

 

 

 

 

 

ANSWERS:

マン   man This means Man
ミート mi-to This means Meat
コーム  ko-mu This means a Comb
メキシコ mekishiko  This means Mexico
モーア  mo-a  This means Mower
イニ、ミニ、マイニ、モ ini, mini, maini, mo  This means Eeinie, Meenie, Minie, Moe

Think you have it all down pat?
Click here to take the Quiz

Katakana Page 08

KATAKANA PART 8

Let's take a look at just 3 characters the Y's. As with Hiragana, modern Japanese doesn't use Yi or Ye.



- ya     - as in hiYA!
This looks like a YAk stepped on something



- yu     - as in YOU
It looks like a number 1 - You are #1!



- yo     - as in YO!
It's someone doing that gangster sign and saying YO!?

Write them out 10 times a day and soon you will get it.  To aid memorization, make silly associations to go with them. You can use the above mnemonics or you can make your own!

 


STOP!!!

Did you write the above katakana 10 times? Did you sound them out as well? Well, do it again! And then take the following test & Javascript quiz (see link below)...


TEST

How do you read these Katakana characters? What English words do they sound out? (Some may be easier than others to guess)

ヤフー ____________    This means ____________
ハレルヤ____________    This means ____________
ユタ_____________   This means ____________
トヨタ _____________    This means ______________
ユース_____________    This means ______________
ヨーヨー _____________    This means ______________

Click here to check your answers


Perhaps you can recognize these 5 in just one day of practice.  

 

 

 

 

 

ANSWERS:

ヤフー   yafu- This means Yahoo
ハレルヤ hareruya This means Halleluyah
ユタ  yuta This means Utah (State)
トヨタ toyota  This means Toyota
ユース  yu-su  This means Youth
ヨーヨー yo-yo-  This means Yo-yo

Think you have it all down pat?
Click here to take the Quiz

Katakana Page 09

KATAKANA PART 9

Let's take a look at Ra, Ri, Ru, Re, Ro. The dreaded "r's" are probably the most challenging sounds for English speakers. Listen to the sound files over and over...



- ra     - as in hoRAH!
It looks like a monster going RAAA!



- ri     - as in REal
It's almost a REpeat of a hiragana い (flipped around)



- ru     - as in RUE
Someone is putting his or her foot out to trip someone. How RUde!



- re     - as in RAY
It looks like a RAY of light.



- ro     - as in ROW
It's a tunnel on the ROad.

Write them out 10 times a day and soon you will get it.  To aid memorization, make silly associations to go with them. You can use the above mnemonics or you can make your own!

 


STOP!!!

Did you write the above katakana 10 times? Did you sound them out as well? Well, do it again! And then take the following test & Javascript quiz (see link below)...


TEST

How do you read these Katakana characters? What English words do they sound out? (Some may be easier than others to guess)

アイスクリーム ____________    This means ____________
アメリカ ____________    This means ____________
ローソク_____________   This means candle (not from English)
キレイ _____________    This means pretty in Japanese (you may know this one already)
テレビ_____________    This means ______________ [NOTE: If you have studied Hiragana, you are familiar with the tenten marks (looks like quotes over the ヒ). It changes the sound from hi to Bi - more on this later...]
ハロー _____________    This means ______________

Click here to check your answers


Perhaps you can recognize these 5 in just one day of practice.  

 

 

 

 

 

ANSWERS:

アイスクリーム    aisukuri-mu This means Ice Cream
アメリカ amerika This means America
ローソク  ro-soku This means Candle (ro-soku)
キレイ kirei  This means Pretty (kirei)
テレビ  terebi  This means TV
ハロー haro-  This means Hello

Think you have it all down pat?
Click here to take the Quiz

Katakana Page 10

KATAKANA PART 10

The final page... After years of procrastination (yes, I started these katakana pages years ago...), we are finally posting the last katakana page! (well almost, there is a recap page) It goes without saying, but to really get these characters inside your brain, you need to read, read and read more! Look for katakana on the internet; try to sound out what you find; see if you can figure out what the word means or at least where it came from - Ganbatte!



- wa - as in WOn
It looks like a baby with only one tooth crying. WA!!!! 
[be careful: looks like katakana ウ u - you can remember ウ by a baby with only one tooth and one hair COOing]



- wo    - as in WOE (or sometimes Oh)
OK FIRST OFF: You don't need to learn this one right now. In fact the ヲ is almost never used. I am including it for two reasons: 1) it does pop up occasionally and 2) it is on the chart to the top right which Spaztick kindly created for us. :) Again, it isn't incorrect, just isn't used very often. Usually を is used and only as the direct object particle
WOAH! It has two horizontal lines!



- n - as in N
A one eyed joker just smiliN'

Write them out 10 times a day and soon you will get it.  To aid memorization, make silly associations to go with them. You can use the above mnemonics or you can make your own!

 


STOP!!!

Did you write the above katakana 10 times? Did you sound them out as well? Well, do it again! And then take the following test & Javascript quiz (see link below)...


TEST

How do you read these Katakana characters? What English words do they sound out? (Some may be easier than others to guess)

ハワイ ____________    This means ____________
タワー ____________    This means ____________
チキン_____________   This means ____________
コーン _____________    This means ______________
マン_____________    This means ______________
ワシントン _____________    This means ______________

Click here to check your answers


Perhaps you can recognize these 5 in just one day of practice.  

ANSWERS:

ハワイ   hawai This means Hawaii
タワー tawa- This means tower
チキン  chikin This means chicken
コーン ko-n  This means corn
マン  man This means man
ワシントン washinton  This means Washington

Think you have it all down pat?
Click here to take the Quiz

Katakana Review

KATAKANA REVIEW

This part is a little different... Take it slow and you should be able to catch on

PART ONE - ADDING THE "TEN TEN"

How to make the 'ten-ten' letters. A 'ten-ten' is like a double- quote (") It changes the sound of the letter to a harder sound. You can ONLY 'ten-ten' the 'K' row, the 'S' row, the 'T' row and the 'H' row. (look at the chart to the right - the red ones are the ones with slightly difficult pronunciation)

Now look at the chart below. You will see that

  • the 'K' row becomes 'G' (still the same good ole ka only with a ten-ten ; notice it is a harder sound)

  • the 'S' row becomes 'Z' (again harder sound)

  • the 'T' row becomes 'D'

  • the 'H' row becomes 'B' or 'P' ('B' is with a ten-ten (ex. ba) and 'P' is with a circle (ex. pa))

  A I U E O
K -> G ga - ガ gi - ギ gu - グ ge - ゲ go - ゴ
S -> Z za - ザ ji - ジ zu - ズ ze - ゼ zo - ゾ
T -> D da - ダ ji - ヂ zu - ヅ de - デ do - ド
H -> B ba - バ bi - ビ bu - ブ be - ベ bo - ボ
H -> P