Katakana

German linguist living in Japan says kanji characters used for Germany are discriminatory

Though the kanji can translate as “lonely country,” his complaint lies elsewhere.

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Brain Gymnastics Quiz: Move one matchstick to create the name of a Japanese Prefecture

Find out how you can create the name of a prefecture simply by moving just one of these matchsticks.

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Top 10 most irritating Japanese borrowed words – Part 2 (The people’s top 10)

My entries for the “Top 10 most irritating Japanese borrowed words” weren’t irritating enough for some people – so I’ve formulated a part two (“tsuu”) with your help!

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Top 10 most irritating Japanese borrowed words

Here are some Japanese words that can drive English-speakers crazy when learning Japanese!

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Why does Japanese writing need three different sets of characters? (Part 2)

We’re back and ready to take on the third, and most puzzling, type of Japanese text: katakana.

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Why does Japanese writing need three different sets of characters? (Part 1)

No, it’s not because the Japanese language hates you.

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Pronunciation anxiety: many Japanese people don’t want to speak English unless it’s “perfect”

With the 26 letters of the alphabet, we can make pretty much any sound present in the majority of languages. But Japanese just doesn’t contain certain sounds present in English, like “th” or “v”, and their “r” is somewhere right between our “r” and “l”, making them sound almost exactly the same to Japanese ears.

Since most Japanese people grow up only speaking Japanese, it means that when they start learning English at school, they either have to learn entirely new sounds (difficult) or else try to render English in Japanese sounds (which isn’t accurate). As a result, many Japanese English learners feel a lot of anxiety over the accuracy of their pronunciation. But should that really be holding them back?

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Katakana is cool: Designers take inspiration from Japan’s least popular writing system

Remember the Chinese character phase? Back in the early 2000s you could see Chinese characters everywhere from T-shirts to tattoos. While the trend still continues to some extent today, once people started realizing that you should probably double-check the meaning before going out in public, it has definitely slowed down.

Maybe Chinese symbols have a sort of stigma now, but that is not stopping major designers from branching out into the other styles of Japanese writing, namely katakana. This new trend is being used by brands all over the world, from Adidas to Stussy.

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Foreigners in Japan vote for the best-looking katakana character

When it comes to Japan’s three writing systems, kanji, hiragana and katakana, it’s the most complex of the lot that usually gets the most attention. The numerous lines and strokes involved in kanji pictographs are so revered that people nominate one at the end of every year to represent the mood of the nation. Even foreigners across the world are taken by their meaning and beauty, with many committing a patch of skin to their favourite (sometimes completely wrong) kanji in tattoo form.

But what about the least utilised member of the group, the katakana characters used for foreign words? Well it looks like they’re finally getting a bit of love, with a recent survey being conducted among foreign residents in Japan to determine the coolest looking symbol in the katakana syllabary. Place your bets now for which one comes out on top!

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Testing English “loan words” on people who don’t speak Japanese (Spoiler: they don’t make sense)

YouTuber and full-time Japan fan Sharla is back this week with a brand new video. After bringing us exploding condom ice cream and giving us a peek inside one of Japan’s typical love hotels, she’s currently back in her native Canada and just for kicks decided to try out a few English loan words that appear in the Japanese language on her non-Japanese-speaking friend.

As we’re about to see, despite the majority of these words originally coming from English, once pumped through the Japanese lexicon and read back to a native English speaker they make almost zero sense. The full, laugh-out-loud video after the jump.

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Surprising foreign words Japanese people are likely to know

As mentioned many times before on this site, the modern Japanese language uses a set of characters to represent foreign words called katakana. Such characters are used for foreign place names such a Beverly Hills (ビバリーヒルズ) or people like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (マフムード・アフマディーネジャード).

However, this feature of Japanese has been criticized by some for allowing the purity of the language to be polluted by foreign influences. It can also cause confusion by creating English words that have different meanings than the original.

That being said, for foreigners visiting Japan with a limited knowledge of the language this list may prove invaluable. Excluding the obvious classics like “OK” (オケ) and “McDonald’s” (マクドナルド) here are some relatively newer loan words ranked by understandability in Japanese.

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Japanese phonetic character catching on as emoticon in the Middle East

Sometimes obvious things are hidden right in plain sight and it takes the fresh perspective of someone in another part of the world to point it out. One Twitter user stumbled on such a hidden gem recently when searching the Japanese character for “tsu” , which in the katakana alphabet is written ツ.

As you can probably see from the image above and in the text of the previous sentence, the letter looks quite a lot like a smirking face. This may appear obvious to many Western readers, but according to online reaction most Japanese netizens were taken by surprise at this discovery and had never noticed the similarity. Perhaps even more surprisingly, the character is also apparently getting an unusual amount of use in Middle Eastern countries.

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Why old Japanese women have names in katakana

Amidst all of the controversy flaring up in Japan over “kirakira names,” the question was raised concerning a rather peculiar name trait shared by many old Japanese women. A large number of aging grandmothers have names written in katakana, the phonetic alphabet that modern Japan usually reserves for foreign words. It’s a trend attributed to the Meiji and Taisho eras (roughly spanning the years 1868 to 1926), and sure enough, it’s no coincidence. Read More