Learning Katakana the Easy Way

Learning Japanese can be very tough, as most Weekender readers know. The huge challenge alongside speaking Japanese, is reading the thousands of kanji, hiragana and katakana: the phonetic symbols used in part to describe foreign words such as ‘biiru’ ビール(beer), ‘kohii’ コーヒー(coffee), etc.

Being a design freak, I stumbled upon a great post on the blog of top London design firm Johnson Banks. Designers have created something called ‘Phoneticana,’ which are fun graphic examples to help learn Japanese katakana characters.

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I love the superhero–sorry, suupahiiro (スーパーヒーロー) and the Heinz-inspired designs. Good work guys!

Note: Phoenticana is legally Jonson Banks’ property, so any ideas for printing your own clever T-shirts are out the window, unless of course you create your own system!


A few easy examples of katakana can be found out on the streets of Tokyo, from Uniqlo (ユニクロ) to Bic Camera (ビックカメラ).

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Another design of note was 2008’s ‘United Kingdom-Japan’ logo, which cleverly combined the kanji for Nippon (Japan), with the letters UK (also created by Johnson Banks).

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There are some great books out there to study kanji and kana. I recommend:

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1. Kanji Pictographix, by Michael Rowley (Amazon)

2. Kanji Starter (Amazon)

3. Remembering the Kanji (Amazon)

There are also some good links here: http://learnjapanesepod.com



1 Comment
  1. Yeah.. Really like this stuff, Katakana is pretty easy to pick up. Kanji is SOOO Hard. It’s an interesting way to look at the design of the characters.

    Keep up the blogs!

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