Do you want to learn katakana? Great choice!
Katakana is one of the essential building blocks of the Japanese language. Learning katakana will really boost your ability to read and write Japanese!
If you’re wondering how to learn Japanese, then I suggest starting with the two phonetic scripts – hiragana and katakana.
We discussed hiragana in a previous lesson. Now, this page will tell you a little bit about katakana and how to use it. We’ll also share some awesome resources so that you can start learning Japanese katakana right now!
What is katakana?
Katakana is one of the three main writing systems used in Japan. The others are hiragana and kanji.
Eventually, you’ll need to learn all four if you want to learn to read Japanese.
Like hiragana, katakana is a phonetic script, meaning each character represents one sound or syllable.
Katakana is also an easy and useful script for beginners to learn. In fact, we recommend that beginners learn katakana as soon as possible.
Ideally you will learn hiragana first, and then move on to katakana straight after!
These two scripts will be an essential foundation in your journey to learn Japanese.
Katakana is used mainly to write loan words that come from other languages.
This is awesome because a huge amount of words written in Japanese katakana originally come from English!
If you are an English speaker, you have a huge advantage. Once you know the characters of Japanese katakana, you will be able to recognise a lot of words that come from English words.
If you are planning to visit Japan any time soon, you will get a lot of practice reading katakana in things like brand names and foreign foods.
Here are some example words in katakana:
アメリカ – amerika – America
ペン – pen – pen
バナナ – banana – banana
ネクタイ – nekutai – (neck) tie
Learn katakana with this chart!
Take a look at our katakana chart, including pronunciations. Print it, pin it, study it – you will learn Japanese katakana before you know it!
I recommend you focus on learning just one line at a time, so you don’t get confused.
When you are learning how to read katakana, it helps to quiz yourself a lot with flashcards. There are lots of free katakana flashcard apps and websites such as this one. If you’re old-school and prefer paper flashcards, there’s a free set you can print out at the end of the workbook available here.
Ok, so our chart above will help you read Japanese katakana, but how about pronunciation?
Watch this video to learn how to pronounce katakana properly!
How to write katakana
When you are learning katakana, it really helps to practise writing out the characters many times until it begins to feel natural.
You can download a free hiragana and katakana workbook here!
Print out the worksheets and practise writing as many times as you like.
(You need to create a free account at that site in order to download your workbook, but there are no hidden costs – promise. You just need an email address to get access.)
5 crazy facts about Japanese katakana!
- Katakana was originally considered to be ‘men’s writing’ (women used hiragana)
- Buddhist monks first developed the script in the 9th century
- Katakana is also used to write Ainu, a language spoken by some indigenous people in the north of Japan
- Japanese computers used to use only katakana in the 1980s, before multibyte systems
- Katakana are often used for Japanese company names. Do you recognise スズキ (Suzuki) and トヨタ (Toyota)?
Well done for using the resources on this page to take the first step to learn katakana!
But if you want to really learn to read, speak and write Japanese, your journey is just beginning!
Our recommended online course for learning Japanese is JapanesePod101.
You can get a free lifetime account including new free audio lessons weekly, free worksheets, videos and loads of other content all online for free 🙂
Take the next step in your Japanese journey and check it out today!