Katakana 片仮名

Katakana Assignment
For your katakana assignment points, you must complete the Katakana section of the Student Activity Manual (SAM) and mail the pages in for grading. Go HERE for more information. You can work on these pages any time, but you must complete them and take your Katakana Quiz before you begin Chapter 3.

Katakana characters are used for words borrowed from foreign languages and foreigners' names. Many giongo (onomatopoeic words used for sounds) are also written in katakana. The katakana syllabary matches the hiragana syllabary, although particle wo/o is rarely written in katakana. Sometimes you will find a native or indigenous Japanese word written in katakana on a sign or ad for effect.

Most borrowed words (gairaigo) in the Japanese language come from English, but there are also some from Portuguese, Dutch, German and French. More words are added to the Japanese language all the time. Words related to food are the most numerous since that is what Japan has adopted the most from its contact with the outside world after the opening of Japan to the West and its culture. Some words, like cow's "milk," have a native version in hiragana (ぎゅうにゅう) and a Western version in katakana (ミルク).

If you do not have a Japanese name (by blood or marriage), you will write your name in katakana. Your first and last names are separated by a dot so people can tell where the first name ends and the second begins, since Japanese written language does not use spaces between words. 

The main difference between writing words in hiragana and katakana is the elongated vowels. In hiragana, you will write an extra single vowel character, but in katakana you will use an "elongation dash" instead.

Also, notice that some characters are very similar to each other (so and n, nu and su, shi and tsu). You must draw them carefully!


Katakana Characters with Diacritic Marks

Regular Combination Characters or "Glides"
Katakana combination characters work the same way that hiragana combination characters work using small ya, yu, and yo:

キャ キュ キョ (kya, kyu, kyo)

ギャ ギュ ギョ (gya, gyu, gyo)

シャ シュ ショ (sha, shu, sho)

ジャ ジュ ジョ (ja, ju, jo)

チャ チュ チョ (cha, chu, cho)

ニャ ニュ ニョ (nya, nyu, nyo)

ヒャ ヒュ ヒョ (hya, hyu, hyo)

ビャ ビュ ビョ (bya, byu, byo)

ピャ ピュ ピョ (pya, pyu, pyo)

ミャ ミュ ミョ (mya, myu, myo)

リャ リュ リョ (rya, ryu, ryo)



Katakana chart with audio (mouseover chart)
Animated katakana with sound (stroke orders and audio)
Katakana Reading Quiz (think you know them all?)
Katakana Memory Games (Flash) (also has audio for the hiragana)



With katakana, the elongated vowel is expressed with a dash:
takushii = タクシー (taxi)
keeki = ケーキ (cake)
meetoru = メートル (meter)
kopii = コピー (copy)
sunuupii = スヌーピー (Snoopy)
koohii = コーヒー (coffee)
biiru = ビール (beer)

It is very important to pay attention to these dashes! Compare:
biru (ビル) = building
biiru (ビール) = beer
notto (ノット) = knot
nooto (ノート) = note(book)

Double Consonants
Double consonants work the same way in katakana as they do in hiragana. When a word has a double consonant in the middle OTHER THAN the letter n,it is expressed using a small tsu.The first consonant is the small tsu.

Special Combinations
Another difference between hiragana and katakana is that you can make up special combinations by using small characters other than just ya, yu, or yo. This is to create sounds that the Japanese language doesn't normally have, such as "tee" and "fa."

Some words and names that use special combinations:

party: パーティ

Jennifer: ジェファ

Wendy: ウェディ

California: カリフォルニア

In order to type these different combinations on a keyboard, you may need to type stangely: dhi for dy and thi for ty. There are different input methods you need to research yourself for your particular system.