8 Tips on How to Learn Japanese Katakana with Fun!

8 Tips on How to Learn Japanese Katakana with Fun!

I am native Japanese, and have been living in the United States since 1999. My husband is American. When he tried to learn Japanese, he started with katakana. It’s because Katakana may be the least complicated characters in Japanese. However, he had a difficult time to be able to read and write every single Katakana. During his struggle and confusion, I came up with some ideas to help him learn Katakana as easy and as fun as possible.

Today, I’m going to talk about how to learn Katakana with Fun! I have to be honest — Yes, Japanese language is very complicated. Sometimes, even for us Japanese people, we think our own language is difficult to use in correct ways. However, if we all see it from different perspectives, learning Japanese — Katakana in particular this time — can be interesting and fun!



 

8 Tips on How to Learn Japanese Katakana with Fun!

 

1. What Katakana is for?

First of all, what Katakana is for? Katakana is used mostly for writing foreign-derived words. Words imported into Japanese from English or some other European languages are usually written in Katakana. Katakana is also used when we describe sound such as 「ワンワン」which means the barking sound of a dog “woof woof” in English. If you keep these things in mind and then start learning Katakana, it will make things a lot easier and fun, because so you know your own language (English) is associated with Katakana in a way.

 

2. Memorize Simple and practical Katakana Words and Phrases.

If you are planning to visit Japan, you might want to memorize Katakana Phrases that are frequently used. It is good to focus finding those Words and Phrases for your own convenience. I recommend to imagine things you want to do, places you want to go or things/places you may be using while you stay. For instance, most of you will probably be staying in a hotel. In this case, it’s good to know how to read 「ホテル」(=hotel). You might also use a Taxi or Bus that are 「タクシー」「バス」in Katakana. Basically, Katakana is for describing words that are foreign such as English. So, you can simply imagine those things in English and then just change the alphabet to Katakana and you are good to go! Once you start searching for those Katakana words or phrases, you will be surprised how many English words are directly used as Japanese words.

 

3. Go out! Enjoy the familiarity and the experience of Katakana.

While you are visiting Japan, you will probably going for a lot of shopping. That can be a great opportunity to learn Katakana. For instance, you will find signs that say 「セール」or「バーゲン」this means “on sale” or “bargain”. Even when you see the M sign you will know for sure what that is, if you want to try the Japanese version of McDonald’s 「マクドナルド」, it will be quite fun to pronounce your order in Japanese, something like 「ビッグマック」(=Big Mac), since you are already familiar with the menu.

 

4. Watch English movies with Japanese subtitles.

If you watch movies in English, of course you can understand the story (English) with no problem. Take this familiarity as an advantage to learn how to read and understand Katakana. How to do it is simple. Just watch those movies with Japanese subtitles. You won’t have to understand all the subtitles. Just try to pay attention to as much as you can to find the Katakana in the subtitles. The more you watch the movies the more you learn Katakana. You will get the sense or the pattern of how Katakana are used.

 

5. Sports:スポーツ

Do you like sports? If you do, you are in a good position to learn Katakana! It’s because a lot of sports are written in Katakana and also they are basically the same words and pronunciations as English. For instance, the word “Sport” itself is written in Katakana as 「スポーツ」. There are whole lot more — for example, “Basketball” is 「バスケットボール」、”Football” is 「フットボール」, “Soccer” is 「サッカー」, “Volleyball” is 「バレーボール」, “Cycling” is 「サイクリング」and “Triathlon” is 「トライアスロン」. Just by seeing those examples, you may have already recognized the word “ball”「ボール」 appears quite often. So, things like that will also help you to understand and memorize the way certain vocabulary is used frequently in Katakana. Focusing on one theme like sports would be a very efficient, easy and fun way to learn Katakana.

 

6. Find “Japanese English” : ドア = Door

As I mentioned in ㈰, we use many English words as Japanese words. For instance, we say 「ドア」for “door”, 「トイレ」for “toilet”, 「ケチャップ」for “ketchup”, 「マスタード」 for “mustard”, 「ウェブサイト」for “website” and so on. It would be fun and interesting to focus finding those so-called “Japanese English”. It will simplify the learning process of Katakana for you, since they are originally from English.

 

7. Make your own language (English) to Katakana:Katakana English

As you probably already know, Japanese grammar is totally different from English. When you want to focus on learning Katakana, it could be the key not to think about anything else but Katakana. One of the easy and fun ways to do so is to practice writing your own language (English) words or simple phases in Katakana. For example — “My name is Tom” in Katakana will be「マイ ネーム イズ トム」. When you do this, you can use your list or text book of Katakana etc. The benefit of this way of learning is it is directly associated with your comfort zone. If you try it you will know what I mean. You will be able to feel fun and willing to learn more how to write Katakana. Changing English words or phrases into Katakana will boost your interest in Katakana.

 

8. Use a ruler to distinguish extremely similar Katakana:「シ&ツ」or「ン&ソ」

There are couple of Katakana that look almost exactly the same but they are not the same. For example, 「シ&ツ」or 「ン&ソ」. Can you tell the difference between them? If you put a ruler on the left side of 「シ (shi)」, those three sort of like lines will be all touching the ruler on the left. On the other hand, if you move a ruler on top of「ツ (tsu)」which also has similar three lines, they will be touching the ruler on top instead of left. This method can apply for「ン&ソ」as well. 「ン (n)」’s two lines will touch the ruler on the left and 「ソ (so)」’s two lines will touch the ruler on top.

 

Conclusion

As I mentioned here today repeatedly, Katakana has a lot of connection with English. I highly recommend to go out and experience the Katakana and not to worry about Japanese grammar or too much of the correct pronunciations. When it comes to the writing of Katakana, it might not be as easy or simple, yet compared to Hiragana or Kanji, Katakana is probably the simplest characters in Japanese. So, instead of being too nervous about proper ways to use Katakana, just enjoy and have fun using them. Having fun with it is the best way to acquire the knowledge!

 

8 Tips on How to Learn Japanese Katakana with Fun!

1. What Katakana is for?
2. Memorize Simple and practical Katakana Words and Phrases.
3. Go out! Enjoy the familiarity and the experience of Katakana.
4. Watch English movies with Japanese subtitles.
5. Sports:スポーツ
6. Find “Japanese English” : ドア = Door
7. Make your own language (English) to Katakana:Katakana English
8. Use a ruler to distinguish extremely similar Katakana:「シ&ツ」or「ン&ソ」