A Step By Step Guide to Learning Katakana

If you thought Hiragana was easy, and have practiced all the letters, you’ll remember Katakana in no time! To make it easier, many of the Katakana syllables look quite similar to Hiragana syllables too.

Katakana syllables are characterized by short, straight strokes and sharp corners.

These Katakana syllables are used to write words borrowed from other languages.

For emphasis, to represent onomatopoeia, for technical and scientific terms, and for names of plants, animals, minerals and often Japanese companies.

Lex the Lion

These foreign words sometimes undergo their own transitions within the Japanese language, pushed, pulled, and abbreviated until they are no longer recognisable.

Each syllable in hiragana has a one-to-one relationship with katakana, and vice versa. Hiragana and katakana are simply two different ways of writing the same syllable. Hence for 46 Hiragana syllables, there are 46 Katakana syllables. 

Before starting Katakana syllables, let us introduce you to chōonpu first. 

Learning Katakana | What is chōonpu?

Learning Katakana | The ‘A’ Series

Learning Katakana | The ‘Ka’ Series

Learning Katakana | The ‘Sa’ Series

Learning Katakana | The ‘Ta’ Series

Learning Katakana | The ‘Na’ Series

Learning Katakana | The ‘Ha’ Series

Learning Katakana | The ‘Ma’ Series

Learning Katakana | The ‘Ya’ Series

Learning Katakana | The ‘Ra’ Series

Learning Katakana | The Last 3 Syllables

Learning Katakana | Extended Katakana

Learning Katakana | Additional Syllables

Japanese Grammar | FAQ’s

What is chōonpu?

Chōonpu is a horizontal or vertical line in the centre of the text with the width of one kanji or character. It is written horizontally in horizontal text and vertically in vertical text.

The chōonpu is usually used to indicate a long vowel sound in katakana writing, and rarely in hiragana writing.

For example:

KatakanaRomanisationEnglish
コーヒーkōhīCoffee
ラーメンrāmenJapanese noodles

Now, let’s see the Katakana syllables.

Learning Katakana – The ‘A’ Series

KatakanaRomanisation
a
i
u
e
o

Now, let’s practice some words containing these syllables.

KatakanaRomanisationEnglish
アパートapātoApartment
ナイフnaifuKnife
ウールūruWool
エアコンeakonAir conditioner
オレンジorenjiOrange

Learning Katakana – The ‘Ka’ Series

KatakanaRomanisation
ka
ki
ku
ke
ko

Let’s learn some words:

KatakanaRomanisationEnglish
カメラkameraCamera
キーボードkībōdoKeyboard
クリスマスkurisumasuChristmas
ケーキkēkiCake
コーヒーkōhīCoffee

Learning Katakana – The ‘Sa’ Series

KatakanaRomanisation
sa
shi
su
se
so

Let’s learn some words:

KatakanaRomanisationEnglish
サービスsābisuService
シルバーshirubāSilver
スマホsumahoSmartphone
セーターsētāSweater
ソニーsonīSony

Learning Katakana – The ‘Ta’ Series

KatakanaRomanisation
ta
chi
tsu
te
to

Here are some practice words:

KatakanaRomanisationEnglish
タクシーtakushīTaxi
チキンchikinChicken
シャツshyatsuShirt
テレビterebiTelevision
トマトtomatoTomato

Learning Katakana – The ‘Na’ Series

KatakanaRomanisation
na
ni
nu
ne
no

Some words for practicing the Na series are:

KatakanaRomanisationEnglish
バナナbananaBanana
アニメanimeAnime
スーパーsūpāSupermarket
ネットワークnettowākuNetwork
ノートnōtoNotebook

Learning Katakana – The ‘Ha’ Series

KatakanaRomanisation
ha
hi
fu
he
ho

Here are some words:

KatakanaRomanisationEnglish
ハンカチhankachiHandkerchief
ヒーターhītāHeater
ファイルfairuFile
ヘルメットherumettoHelmet
ホテルhoteruHotel

Learning Katakana – The ‘Ma’ Series

KatakanaRomanisation
ma
mi
mu
me
mo

Words to practice are:

KatakanaRomanisationEnglish
マンガmangaManga
ミルクmirukuMilk
ムービーmūbīMovie
メールmēruEmail
モデルmoderuModel

Learning Katakana – The ‘Ya’ Series

KatakanaRomanisation
ya
yu
yo

Here are some words from the ‘Ya’ series:

KatakanaRomanisationEnglish
ヤフーyafūYahoo
ユーザーyūzāUser
ヨーガyōgaYoga

Learning Katakana – The ‘Ra’ Series

KatakanaRomanisation
ra
ri
ru
re
ro

Words for practice are:

KatakanaRomanisationEnglish
マフラーmafurāMuffler
スリッパsurippaSlippers
ルールrūruRule
チョコレートchyokorētoChocolate
ロッカーrokkāLocker

The Last Three Syllables

KatakanaRomanisation
wa
wo
nn

ワイン

wainn

Wine

Extended Katakana

Combinations of small versions of the five vowels i.e., ア、イ、ウ、エ and オ are known as extended katakana.

These standard katakana symbols are used to create more accurate representations of the pronunciations of words in other languages. 

For example:

KatakanaRomanisationEnglish
パーティーpātīParty
ファミリーfamirīFamily
フォームfōmuForm
Katakana Chart

Additional Syllables

Use of Dakuten

GA SeriesZA SeriesDA SeriesBA Series
ガ gaザ zaダ daバ ba
ギ giジ ziiヂ jiビ bi
グ guズ zuヅ zuブ bu
ゲ geゼ zeデ deベ be
ゴ goゾ zoド doボ bo

Use of Handakuten

Handakuten converts the ハ (ha) series into パ = the Pa series.

パ paピ piプ puペ peポ po

Use of Small Alphabet – Sokuon (促音)

The sokuon (促音) is a symbol in the form of a small hiragana or katakana tsu.

In less formal language it is called chiisai tsu (小さいつ ) or chiisana tsu (小さなつ), meaning “small tsu“. It can never appear at the beginning of the word.

ッ is used to stress the word by doubling the consonant.

For example:

KatakanaRomanisationEnglish
サッカーsakkāFootball / Soccer
サンドイッチsandoichchiSandwich

Other Syllables – Youon (拗音)

Just like Hiragana, the youon (拗音), is a combination of a katakana ending in i, such as シ (shi), with a smaller version of one of the three y kana, yayu or yo.

ヤ、ユ and ヨ are often used in combination with the basic syllables キ、シ、チ、ニー、ヒ、ミ、 and リ.

For example:

KatakanaRomanisationEnglish
シャドーshadōShadow
ニュースnyūsuNews
チョコレートchokorētoChocolate

And that’s Katakana for you!

You now know another one of the 3 alphabets of the Japanese language.

If you haven’t learned about Hiragana yet, now would be a great time to do it.

And if you are confident to go a step further, here’s an introduction to Kanji.

This Japanese Grammar Bank will be updated very regularly, so make sure to come back for more lessons like this one.

Why not also come along and check out our online Japanese classes?

We teach lessons 24/7 on our online platform Flexi Classes, and all of our teachers are passionate native teachers.

Japanese grammar bank

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What’s the difference between Katakana and Hiragana?

Hiragana is more cursive whereas the Katakana letters are more angular in shape.

This makes it really easy to differentiate between which alphabet is being used on paper or on screen.

Here are some Hiragana – おはよう (this means good morning)

Here are some Katakana – カメラ (this means camera)

See the difference?

How many alphabets in the Japanese language?

Japanese has 3 alphabets which each serve different purposes.

They are:

Hiragana

Katakana

Kanji

You can find out more about the 3 Alphabets of Japanese here.

Are Japanese Kanji and Chinese characters the same?

Japanese Kanji indeed come from Chinese characters.

Be careful though!

Not only do they not have the same pronunciation, they can also hold different meanings.

Visit this article we wrote about Kanji and Hanzi you shouldn’t confuse!

Where can I learn Katakana?

You can learn Katakana in our article right here!

Don’t forget to also check out our Top 7 Tips to Learn Katakana.

The best way to learn the Japanese alphabets, including Hiragana, would be with a native teacher.

Can all Japanese alphabets be included in one sentence?

Yes and most do in fact. Here is a very basic example:

私は(ゾイ)です。

This translates to “My name is Zoe” and includes all 3 of Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji

Can I take Japanese lessons at LTL?

Yes you can!

Check out our online Japanese classes here.

All lessons are taught by professional native teachers.

Other Links

  • Flexi Classes

    Japanese

    Learn Japanese Online like never before with the LTL Flexi Classes. Book classes 24/7, with no fixed schedules and learn with certified Japanese teachers.

    Learn More

Ask us a question!
  • LTL Avatar Irene Magnosi
    Irene Magnosi , Student Advisor

    Welcome to LTL Language School!

    How can I help you?