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Recommendations for studying Katakana

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Japanese alphabets

The Japanese language is often known as being one of the most difficult languages to learn since it has not one but three different alphabets — hiragana, katakana and kanji — which can be differentiated both by the method of writing them, and their uses.

In this weekly blog from one of the Japanese teachers at JOI, Itaya sensei, she explains some great language learning tips to differentiate between some similar-looking Katakana.

Please read this blog to learn some useful Japanese for free and listen to the YouTube video to hear the Japanese spoken fluently.

Recommendations for studying Katakana


By ITAYA Sayuri







最近では、仕事、医療、IT、ファッションなどの、多くの分野専門用語などでも外来語が使われているので、カタカナを使う機会はどんどん増えています。 もはや日常の会話で、カタカナ語抜きで話すことの方が難しいかもしれません。 おまけに漢字と違って振り仮名がありませんから、覚えるしかないのです。

ではここで、まちがえやすい「シ(shi)」と「ツ(tsu)」、「ン(n)」と「ソ(so)」について、どう見分けたらいいか、そのコツを教えます。 まずはひらがなとカタカナを見比べてください。









日本語には様々なフォントがあるので、活字ではわかりにくいかもしれませんが、 これらのポイントを押さえておくと間違いは、きっと減っていくと思います。カタカナ語も立派な日本語なので、嫌わずにいっしょに学習してくださいね。

To listen to this blog, please watch our Youtube video. 







 まずはひらがなとカタカナを見比(みくら)べてください。 「し」は左上(ひだりうえ)からまっすぐ下(した)へ線(せん)を引(ひ)き、その後(あと)右上(みぎうえ)に少(すこ)し伸(の)ばしますが、一番上(いちばんうえ)までは伸ばさず途中(とちゅう)で終(お)わります。カタカナも同(おな)じで左(ひだり)から書(か)いて、最後(さいご)左下(ひだりした)から右上(みぎうえ)に伸ばしますが、一番上(いちばんうえ)まで伸ばさずに途中で終わるのです。ここでは、どちらも赤丸(あかまる)でその余白(よはく)部分(ぶぶん)表(あらわ)しました。




日本語には様々(さまざま)なフォントがあるので、活字(かつじ)ではわかりにくいかもしれませんが、これらのポイントを押(お)さえておくと間違いは、きっと減(へ)っていくと思います。 カタカナ語も立派(りっぱ)な日本語なので、嫌(きら)わずにいっしょに学習してくださいね。

Recommendations for studying Katakana

I think that you all know that there are 3 types of Japanese notation, Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji. What I often hear from Japanese learners is that they have “learned to read Hiragana”. And that even though there are so many Kanji and it is tough to learn them, they find “Japanese Kanji interesting”. But I also get to hear, “Katakana is difficult ! And hard to understand!” and the like. I've heard that there are even some Japanese language learners that start to learn Kanji before they've remembered their Katakana.

However、Katakana plays an important role in expressing imported foreign words like Purezento (present) and Arubaito (derived from the German word 'arbeit' -meaning work), so you cannot afford to ignore it.

And Katakana is used for place names of different countries and of course people's names, and for those onomatopoeic words that Japanese people often use, like “Wan Wan!” or “Buu Buu”, and mimetic words,like “Kira Kira” or “Tsuru Tsuru”. A lot of Katakana words are used in restaurant menus.

Recently, within the specialist terms found at the workplace, in the medical field, IT, fashion and many other fields, a lot of foreign words are being used so the chances to use Katakana are gradually increasing. Further more, it would probably be difficult to speak Japanese without Katakana. Besides, unlike with Kanji there aren't any Furigana so there's no choice but to remember them.

So let me share with you a tip on how to differentiate between the often mistaken “shi” and “tsu” as well as “n” and “so”.

First, please compare the Hiragana to the Katakana. “Shi” starts by drawing a line straight down from the top left, then after that you extend it towards the top right, but you do not extend all the way to the top, you end part-way through. The Katakana is the written in the same manner starting from the left side and at the end you extend the stroke from bottom left towards top right, but again you do not extend all the way to the top, you end part-way through. Below the blank space section in both is indicated with a red circle.

“N” is similar in that it also has a little blank space (red circle) in the top right.

In contrast to this, with “Tsu” you draw a line from the top left to the right, and after this you extend it down towards the bottom left, but you do not extend it to the left edge, you end it part-way through. The Katakana is the same in that it starts at the top and extends to the bottom left but you do not extend it to the left edge, you end it part-way through, so that there is some blank space (red circle) at the bottom left. The top lines line up evenly.

“So” is similar in that the top lines align evenly and it has a little blank space (red circle) in the bottom left.

There are various fonts in the Japanese language and printed texts can make it difficult to understand, but if you hold onto this point, I think your mistakes will decrease. Katakana is a bonafide part of Japanese, so please study it without disliking it.

【すすめ】 recommendation; advice; suggestion; encouragement

表記 【ひょうき】 notation

学習者 【がくしゅうしゃ】 learner; student

苦手 【にがて】(1) poor (at); weak (in); not very good (at); (2) dislike (of); difficult to deal with

耳にする 【みみにする】 (exp,vs-i) to hear; to hear by chance; to hear by accident; to catch (the sound)

外来語 【がいらいご】 foreign origin word

書き表す【かきあらわす】 to write out; to express; to describe

役割 【やくわり】 part; assigning (allotment of) parts; role; duties

無視 【むし】 disregarding; ignoring

わけにはいかない impossible to do (although wants to); cannot afford to; must not; no way we can

地名 【ちめい】 place name

擬音語 【ぎおんご】 onomatopoeic word

擬態語 【ぎたいご】 phenomime; mimetic word; word that mimics an action, condition, or manner that does not make a sound

医療 【いりょう】 medical care

分野 【ぶんや】 (n) field

専門用語 【せんもんようご】 technical term

機会 【きかい】 chance; opportunity

増える 【ふえる】 to increase; to multiply

日常 【にちじょう】 everyday; daily; ordinary

抜き 【ぬき】 without; not including

おまけに to make matters worse; besides; what's more; in addition

ふりがな 《振り仮名》 furigana; kana over or beside kanji to indicate pronunciation

~しかない  (1) have no choice; (2) there is nothing but; (3) no more than

見分ける 【みわける】 (1) to distinguish; to recognize; to recognise; to tell apart; to differentiate (both figuratively and visually)

コツ know-how; secret

見比べる 【みくらべる】 to compare with the eye

伸ばす 【のばす】 to grow long (e.g. hair, nails); (2) to lengthen; to extend; to stretch

途中 【とちゅう】 on the way; in the middle of; midway

赤丸 【あかまる】 red circle

余白 【よはく】 blank space

部分 【ぶぶん】 portion; section; part

表す 【あらわす】 (1) to represent; to signify; to stand for;

同様 【どうよう】 identical; equal to; same (kind); like; similarity

に対して 【にたいして】towards; against; regarding; in contrast with

左端; 左はし 【ひだりはし; さたん(左端)】 (n,adj-no) left end; left edge

揃う 【そろう】 to be equal; to be uniform; to be even

様々【さまざま】 varied; various

活字 【かつじ】 (1) printing type; movable type; (2) printed text; print

押さえる【おさえる】 to determine (important points); to find (proof); to understand

減る 【へる】 to decrease

立派 【りっぱ】proper; respectable: decent

嫌う 【きらう】 (v5u,vt) to hate; to dislike


Hajimemashite, everyone. My name is Itaya Sayuri. I live in Sapporo, Hokkaido.
Sapporo is a really liveable city because, although we have a lot of snow in the winter, the summers are much cooler than other areas of Japan. Apart from teaching Japanese, I also hope to let everyone know about Sapporo, its beautiful nature and delicious food.
I play volleyball once or twice a week for my health and play golf on occasion. I also love watching movies.
Do you think the Japanese language is difficult? Well, come and enjoy studying with me in our online Japanese classroom?don't worry about making mistakes and just try to speak up as much as possible. I think this is the secret to success in Japanese. Ganbare!

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