Reading Japanese for beginners (katakana) - repost

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Reading Japanese for beginners (katakana) - repost

Post by SonicTempest » Tue Dec 13, 2005 03:41

Just reposting Gojira's katakana tutorial for everyone's benefit.
I might start posting some basic Japanese tutorials if anyone is interested.


I felt like this forum needs something, and since nobody posts lessons any more (or anything for that matter) I figured I might as well bring it back to basics for the newer members. I'm no expert but I've taken enough to teach up to an intermediate level, and knowledge is power as they say. Believe me, if I can do this, anyone can.

So, hajimemashou. (Let's get started)

First, let's make a few preparations.

Windows XP:
Go into your Regional Settings, click the Languages tab and click on Details. Then click on Add and select Japanese from the drop-down box. Then below there should be a line showing the IME (Input Method) version. Check the box next to it and OK out of everything. It may ask you to insert the install CD; just do whatever it says. Return to this page and right click, then go to Encoding->Japanese(auto-select). Now everything should be proper.

Windows 98:
Go to and type "Japanese IME" into the Search box. You're looking for JAMONDO, which will install the Japanese language support on your computer. Once you find it, just download and run it. Return to this page and right click, then go to Encoding->Japanese(auto-select). Now everything should be proper.

If you have a Mac, sorry I can't help you. Maybe someone else can.

I'll have a brief tutorial of how to use the IME at the end of this lesson.


Now, there are four basic alphabets in Japanese. There's katakana, hiragana, kanji, and romaji. For now I will cover katakana.

For a non-Chinese foreigner, katakana is usually the easiest system to understand. The reason is that most foreign-adapted terms are written in katakana except for those taken from China, which use kanji. Also many products and businesses will use katakana to make the names easy to recognize and remember.

Here is a listing of katakana characters:
アa イi ウu エe オo
カka キki クku ケke コko
サsa シshi スsu セse ソso
タta チchi ツtsu テte トto
ハha ヒhi フfu ヘhe ホho
ナna ニni ヌnu ネne ノno
マma ミmi ムmu メme モmo
ラra リri ルru レre ロro (also used for la,li,lu,le,lo)
ヤya ユyu ヨyo

Now, many characters have alternate pronunciations, which are indicated by placing two dots in the upper-right corner.

ガga ギgi グgu ゲge ゴgo
ザza ジji ズzu ゼze ゾzo (also used for tha,thi,thu,the,tho)
ダda ヂzhi ヅtzu デde ドdo
バba ビbi ブbu ベbe ボbo (also used for va,vi,vu,ve,vo)

Also, h-sound kana have a third pronunciation, indicated by a small circle in the upper-right corner.

パpa ピpi プpu ペpe ポpo

There are other sounds, made by combining kana. When this is done the first kana's pronunciation is interrupted by the second one (which is written smaller in this case).

ウィwi ウェwe ウォwo イェye
ファfa フィfi フェfe フォfo
チャcha チュchu チョcho
キャkya キュkyu キョkyo
リャrya リュryu リョryo

Finally, two important things to remember about words in katakana are the dash and the small tsu (sokuon). The dash extends the end of the previous kana to make the long sound, while the sokuon extends the beginning of the next kana.

ハト HATO - pigeon
ハート HAATO - heart
ハット HATTO - hat

Notice that forgetting these in pronunciation can change the meaning of some words completely, so be careful... if you want coffee (koohi) don't walk into a Japanese kissaten (coffee house) and ask for kohi... they might think you're ordering a carp (koi).

That's it for katakana.

How to use IME for katakana:
Basically, in IE, MS Word or Mozilla you will notice a small blue box appearing on the taskbar. When you click in a typable area, click on that box and select JP. Now a few more things will appear. Click on the 'A' icon and select the second option for full-width katakana, then type normally in the window. If the proper character doesn't come up after typing it, press the space bar twice to bring up a dialog and select the character from there.


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