STUDY
COLLECTIONS
KATAKANA

Katakana

Katakana is one of the two Japanese 'syllabaries', the writing systems used to represent the sounds of Japanese syllables. (The other is hiragana.) Katakana symbols are used to spell out words phonetically, especially non-Japanese terms.
The term katakana is usually written in katakana - as カタカナ, but it originally comes from 片仮名, which means 'fragmentary kana' - most of the characters are fragments of more complex kanji with the same reading.
If you are just starting out with your Japanese studies, learning katakana is one of the most useful first steps you can take. For more information on how to go about learning written Japanese, see our detailed guide, How to master the kanji.
Hiragana 4f5dea4e46f8c98ec95b20eadf5fff36c27e89c567fba1e5101c30094ae121da
Study the katakana now with free Kanshudo flashcards! Click here.
×

Create katakana flashcards

Kanshudo flashcards are free to use, but you need to be logged in to the system. Please LOG IN now.
If you have not yet registered, please REGISTER. It's free, fast and easy, and brings many benefits in addition to the flashcards, including lessons, favorites, and the Daily Kanji email.
Warning df51d3161def14ff6f6ea4a6cb9b54242ffd6951bd5720ea3c8218b2f4d18acc
The basic katakana chart is as follows.
a ka sa ta na ha ma ya ra wa n
     
i ki shi chi ni hi mi   ri    
   
u ku su tsu nu fu mu yu ru    
   
e ke se te ne he me   re   dakuten
o ko so to no ho mo yo ro (w)o handakuten

Dakuten and handakuten

The 'dakuten' symbol ( ゛) and the 'handakuten' symbol ( ゜) are not used on their own - they are used to modify the katakana symbols they appear after.
When ゛is displayed after another katakana symbol, it indicates that the symbol should be 'voiced'. 'Voicing' is a linguistic term for a sound that makes the vocal cords vibrate - as opposed to just emanating from the mouth. In Japanese, this means that the sound of a consonant moves further down your throat. So, for example, the unvoiced sound カ (ka) becomes the voiced sound ガ (ga).
When ゜is displayed after a katakana symbol, it changes the sound to a 'p' sound, so for example, ハ (ha) becomes パ (pa).
ga za da ba pa
 
gi ji   bi pi
 
gu zu   bu pu
ge ze de be pe
go zo do bo po

Yōon and sokuon

The basic katakana can be modified in a couple more ways. Katakana ending in 'i' can be followed by a small ya, yu or yo (ゃ, ゅ or ょ), which elides the sounds of the two characters. For example, キ (ki) plus ヤ (ya) would become キャ (kya). This type of modification is known as 'yōon'.
キャ ギャ シャ ジャ チャ ニャ
kya gya sha ja cha nya
キュ ギュ シュ ジュ チュ ニュ
kyu gyu shu ju chu nyu
キョ ギョ ショ ジョ チョ ニョ
kyo gyo sho jo cho nyo
ヒャ ビャ ピャ ミャ リャ
hya bya pya mya rya
ヒュ ビュ ピュ ミュ リュ
hyu byu pyu myu ryu
ヒョ ビョ ピョ ミョ リョ
hyo byo pyo myo ryo
Finally, a small tsu (ッ) can be used between two katakana to double the second consonant. For example, サッカ is read as 'sakka' (author). This is known as a 'sokuon'.

For more learning tools and games, take the Kanshudo Tour. For a step-by-step guide to learning written Japanese, see How to master the kanji.
×
Are you studying Japanese?
REGISTER for free lessons, games, flashcards, and study emails!