Learn Katakana with Katakana Charts

Hiragana chart featured image

Dear reader, I believe you have already finished learning hiragana before looking for this katakana chart. If not, feel free to check out our previous hiragana charts 🙂 

Below LingoDeer team has prepared several handy katakana charts with Latin script. You can also download the pdf and print them out. They should be a great guide and reference for your upcoming Japanese learning journey! For audio, stroke practices, or a systematic Japanese lessons, use our app LingoDeer!

Katakana Chart for PC

katakana chart
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Download katakana chart for PC here.

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katakana chart
Learn more Japanese with LingoDeer App

Download katakana chart for PC here.

Katakana Chart for phone

katakana chart for mobile users
Learn more Japanese with LingoDeer app!

Download katakana chart for phone here.

Fill-in-the-blanks Katakana Chart

Once you’ve learned katakana. Use these blank kana practice sheets and see if you can go across the sheet by yourself.

katakana chart (fill in the blank)

Download fill-in-the-blanks katakana chart here.

katakana chart (fill in the blank)

Download fill-in-the-blanks katakana chart here.

Is it enough with these charts? Not really. If you wish to learn more about their strokes, pronunciation, uses, and a bit of history, please read on!

What is Katakana used for

The Japanese writing system consists of 46 Hiragana, 46 katakana, and thousands of kanji. Katakana is mainly used to write Gairaigo (literally meaning loanwords), onomatopoeia, scientific terms, and for highlighting specific contents (e.g. eye-catching visual effects). It may have other uses, but I will only introduce several significant ones. 

As mentioned above, Gairaigo (loanwords) are mainly written in Katakana, and English is the primary source of Gairaigo in Japanese. Thus, American and British learners will feel a sense of familiarity when learning Katakana words. 

The number of Katakana words has been increasing over the years. A few Japanese friends of mine complained that they were distracted by the overwhelming number of Katakana words.

Regardless, Katakana is an essential part of the Japanese language. We are supposed to take it seriously. Without further ado, let’s start learning its uses!

To write Gairaigo (loanwords)

We will find that the Chinese language has had a profound influence on the Japanese language when learning about its history. That’s why Kanji (Chinese characters) and Kango (Chinese words) are still significant parts of the Japanese language today.

Importing words and characters from China mainly occurred during the Tang dynasty (618 to 907 AD). The Japanese language has been absorbing words from European languages since the 19th century as Western society’s influence on Japan has dramatically increased.

The words derived from European languages are called Gairaigo in Japanese, meaning loanwords. You may be wondering, “Aren’t Chinese words also loanwords?” Technically, yes. However, Japanese people prefer to call them Kango (meaning the Chinese language) rather than Gairaigo (loanwords).

According to Keio University’s survey, the proportion of Gairaigo (loanwords) in Japanese is about 8%~9%. Plus, based on my observation, most Gairaigo (loanwords) seem to come from English. It could be said that English speakers have a huge advantage in learning Japanese.

television

Loanwords in Japanese tend to refer to things or concepts that did not exist in Japan before the 19th century. Japanese people phonetically adjust these new things’ names according to Japanese pronunciation rules. For example, the Gairaigo, テレビジョン (terebijon), sounds similar to the English “television” but not identical. You will gradually grasp the pronunciation pattern of loanwords in Japanese as you continue to learn.

Abbreviating loanwords is common in Japanese. The above example is often spoken and written as テレビ (terebi). In addition, Japanese people also adapt loanwords by rearranging and combining them. The vocabulary created in this way is called Waseieigo (meaning Japanese-made English).

To write scientific terms

Technical and scientific terms in Japanese tend to be written in Katakana. The most typical example is that ingredient lists of consumer packaged goods, such as shampoo, are often a dense string of Katakana words.

a shampoo bottle with loan words written in katakana

Another example is that the names of plants and animals in Japanese are primarily written in Katakana (although they have corresponding Kanji), even though they are not Gairaigo (loanwords.) 

To sum it up, if you are a scientist or a science student who wants to study in Japan, it would be helpful to learn more scientific terms written in Katakana for your academic development.

To highlight certain content

Katakana is more angular than Hiragana, which is curly and round. Visually, Katakana gives an impression of tension, while Hiragana looks cute.

In Japan, slogans or advertisements are almost always written in Katakana to create an eye-catching effect. Furthermore, some companies or stores deliberately choose Katakana words for the names of their products to make consumers feel a sense of novelty, such as replacing お菓子 with スイーツ.

sweets

Onomatopoeia

If you are fascinated by anime or manga, you may have noticed that onomatopoeia in anime dialogue is presented in Katakana. This can be explained as a rule of thumb or an attempt to better catch the viewer’s eye.

How to memorize Katakana

Now let’s learn how to pronounce and write Katakana. Inside each Katakana, black arrows are included to guide you on how to write Katakana in its correct stroke order.

Please follow the black lines if you hope to practice writing Katakana on sketch paper. One of the most prominent characteristics of Katakana is that they are angular.

The below audios were recorded by a native Japanese speaker. It’s also worth mentioning that all recordings in the LingoDeer app are 100% recorded by native speakers, which can help you to learn Japanese excellently! Well, without further ado, let’s get started!

a-line katakana

ka-line katakana

sa-line katakana

ta-line katakana

na-line katakana

ha-line katakana

ma-line katakana

ya-line katakana

 
 

ra-line katakana

wa-line katakana

 
 

Download the Katakana Stroke PDF

(Please note: all images and files in this article are for personal use only, and commercial use is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved by LingoDeer)

If you want to download a copybook to practice writing Katakana, here are many copybooks of Katakana available to download for free. While practicing Hiragana, you can also learn a lot of basic Japanese words. How awesome!

katakana calligraphy

Practice writing

I believe now you have begun to understand the primary uses of Katakana, right? So, how should you be memorizing them? Shortly speaking, writing is perhaps the most straightforward and best way to remember the Japanese alphabet, which is universally proven by many pieces of language acquisition research. 

My dear friend, if you a busy and it’s hard for you to find time to sit at a desk and write, why don’t you give the LingoDeer app a try? It offers free and professional kana learning tutorials.

LingoDeer app Japanese stroke lesson

Graphical mnemonics

You might have heard of graphical mnemonics and how it helps memorize foreign words. The essence of graphical mnemonics is imagery mnemonics, which fully mobilizes the memory function of the brain’s visual and image processing areas. The effectiveness of this mnemonic has also been confirmed by numerous studies. However, is this mnemonic strategy the best option for you? The answer depends.

My dear reader, graphic mnemonics may be the tool for you if you consider yourself to be a creative person or are often thought to have original ideas. You can create visual mnemonics for yourself by trying to connect each Katakana with specific images. It will be your brain’s first intuition to interpret something newly learned, which can help you quickly grasp a range of content.

If you feel that it’s hard to create original graphical mnemonics by yourself and are seeking existing ideas, then I would recommend the one created by tofugu.

Musical mnemonics

Musical mnemonics is a widely recognized language learning method. As a person who loves music, I feel excited when trying to remember something by integrating it into melody.

If you think the same way, why don’t you try to apply Katakana to songs you are familiar with or search for a good one on YouTube? Today there are more and more YouTubers working hard to bring us excellent content. I want to express my gratitude to them here.

Here is one katakana song by Cyber Bunny, a Tokyo based creator with great contents about Japanese language and culture. You can also create your own!

Fun facts about Katakana

History

Although most Japanese learners learn Hiragana first today, Katakana was actually created before Hiragana. Katakana is thought to have been developed during the early 9th century, which is half a century earlier than Hiragana.

Buddhist monks and doctors created Katakana to annotate the pronunciation of Buddhist scriptures written in Kanji (Chinese characters). In contrast to Hiragana, which was initially used by women, Katakana has a completely different history. At first, Katakana was only used by the male upper class, but later became widespread in general society as it began to be implemented in poetry and story collections.

Why is Katakana called Katakana?

One of my students asked me this funny question in 2020. Why is Katakana called Katakana? He complained that Katakana is quite tongue-twisting and funny. Do you think so?

Actually, the word Katakana literally means fragmentary kana. Its Kanji form is 片仮名. The most commonly accepted theory is that Katakana is derived from the radicals of Kanji. As radicals are only part of their Kanji, Katakana is called fragmentary kana. You can learn the original Kanji for each Katakana through the chart below. 

how katakana originated from kanji radicals

As a bilingual of Chinese and Japanese, this chart makes a lot of sense to me — each Katakana has a similar pronunciation to its corresponding Kanji. One thing that should be noted is that each Kanji has a meaning, but Katakana and Hiragana are just letters used to represent sounds.

So, I hope you’ve had a great journey learning katakana! Let us know how you feel or what else you want to know in the comments!

Also, if you are a serious Japanese learner, feel free to try our app LingoDeer for easy and fun Japanese lessons today!

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