We’ve prepared a table that will help you learn Katakana!
We’ve already covered Hiragana, but Katakana is the other set of syllables used in the Japanese language, they work in the same way, and the same rules apply for both, there is a Katakana character for each Hiragana character, the ten ten and maru work in the same manner too, they are parallels. So, what gives then? what is Katakana and what is it for? well, initially it was only used by women, so you would know if someone was a man or a woman depending on the characters used when writing.
Nowadays it’s used almost exclusively for loan words that come from other languages, some times for animals names, not pet names, those can be seen in Hiragana too, but like トラ, tiger, even though it can be written in Kanji as well. Frequently you’ll see onomatopoeia written down in Katakana, those are sounds in text form, by the way, if you like manga, then you’ll see Katakana decorating the panels outside of speech bubbles describing background noise.
Most of the time, the titles of video games, anime, manga, TV shows, etc. are written in Katakana, and that’s because it makes use of foreign words, or a mix of Japanese words and loan words, or maybe they just want to be flashy. There have been cases when the word is not of foreign origin, and is completely made up, then Katakana is used, but it all depends on the author.
Just like Hiragana, Katakana comes from Kanji, it is often less curved, less round than Hiragana, featuring straighter lines.
Something that can be confusing when just learning Katakana is this four characters that look like each other, シツンソ. But fear not, we’re going to elaborate on them. Just notice how on “shi” and “n”, the marks are more horizontal, and on “tsu” and “so” they are more vertical. In Japanese caligraphy, the “shi” and “n” are not only more horizontal, but the strokes are written from the left. While on “tsu” and “so” the strokes are drawn starting from the right.
Learning Hiragana and Katakana is the absolute first step for learning Japanese. It’s easy, really! It just takes a little memorization. The step that follows is learning Kanji, which takes a lot more effort, and Japanese children start learning it in school. You can learn Kanji as you progress through your Japanese studies!
Newspapers are not written with Furigana (Hiragana and Katakana on top of Kanji that tell you how to pronounce the word), so being able to read them is something expecting mostly from adults. Be sure to share this with friends that are just starting to learn Japanese!