Do I Need Katakana In the Beginning?

So I have been learning Japanese in my (very limited) spare time and before starting WaniKani, I completed all of the Hiragana section w/ Tofugu. I am getting very close to getting done with Level 3 currently and almost all of the readings have been in Hiragana. I planned on learning Katakana in the later levels since I don’t have a lot of spare time but was wondering if it is recommended to learn Katakana as a beginner?

Thanks for your advice!


There are vocab items with katakana in them as early as level 3, so it would be a good idea to start, as annoying as it might seem to spend more time on a whole other script.

And just generally, there are lots of common words that are primarily written in katakana that you won’t encounter here as well. Being slowed down on those when you know the kanji would be frustrating.


I would start it now. I didn’t learn Katakana until about a year after I learned Hiragana, and it’s really been hindering me since I can read Hiragana so much more easily.

And Katakana is used quite extensively, especially for things like proper nouns and onomatopoeia. There’s a ton of the latter in Japanese.


Ok, thank you for the advice. I will spend some time learning Katakana when I have the chance.

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Can confirm.

To get some exposure to Katakana, I recently started using the Katakana madness userscript. With this, all on’yomi readings will be shown in Katakana, following the convention most dictionaries use (on’yomi = Katakana, kun’yomi = Hiragana). It’s not a silver bullet, but I can still recommend it as a low-hanging fruit that you can do right now to get some exposure.


I know this was asked in the context of wanikani, but for what it’s worth, here’s another perspective:

If you travel to Japan, I found that knowing katakana was WAY more useful than hiragana. To explain, when I moved to Japan, I had both hiragana and katakana down pat–years of experience reading and writing both, so I was pretty comfortable–but I knew zero kanji and very, very little grammar. I knew that anything could theoretically be written in hiragana and understood by locals, so I figured it was gonna be the more useful of the two.

However, what I found was that with kanji being used, there really isn’t enough hiragana in native material to give me enough context to figure anything out. Katakana, on the other hand, was absolutely everywhere (menus, signs, products, etc.) and the ability to sound stuff out was huge.

But that’s just my take. Obviously I wouldn’t say “katakana instead of hiragana” because hiragana is sort of how we all learn the building blocks of Japanese sounds, I guess, but since you already know hiragana, yes, start katakana ASAP.


100% second this - if you’re coming to Japan there’s a lot of Katakana in the wild. It can be frustrating if you can’t decipher it.


It will help a lot to have a solid knowledge of both hiragana and katakana before moving on to learning Kanji. Otherwise it will be more work for you down the line if you don’t know katakana.

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You can learn katakana in a weekend. It doesn’t need to be 100% yet, but that should give you a pretty solid base. I sometimes still get confused on what I call the slash-n-dashes, ソノン and ノ, especially in super stylized fonts. This is where some background vocabulary comes in.

My husband has earned a special nickname based on me writing the wrong katakana!

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Yeah, this has helped me a lot as well. Also, both Tsurukame and Flaming Durtles have it as an option for IOS and Android respectively.

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Katakana is the one thing that still causes dumb mistakes for me from time to time, even though I learned it many years ago. It is also the single most useful thing to know when visiting Japan if your Japanese isn’t great yet.

Plus making a katakana hanko is awesome. I have two so far.


Yes. IMO, one should have both hiragana and katakana completely mastered before moving on to kanji.


Learn it asap. It comes up all the time in reading; this is especially the case in titles or packaging, etc.


I found katakana super useful in Japan. But I have been told several times by non-native English speakers that if your native tongue is not English you will have a much harder time puzzling the words out, and katakana will not be so useful for you.


I told my sister to learn katakana and hiragana at the same time. Like, learning the “A Line” hiragana and katakana before moving to the next line.

She says that really helped. I told her to do this because I learned hiragana before katakana and it didn’t do me any favours for the longest time.

So i echo the sentiments of other commenters; learn ASAP.


Yeah, I recall learning “Seattle” and “American person” in the really early levels, and sorta being in denial about needing to learn katakana. I was so lazy I ended up learning those vocab words by sight. But if I were to do it again, I’d do it the way you describe, really Hiragana and Katakana should be treated equally.


Wait till you get to エッフェル塔 :wink:

Absolutely this. Even though I know katakana and I’ve conquered the dreaded ツソシン group, I still find it just slightly harder to read than Hiragana and that means there’s that unneeded friction there when reading it.

If you have any chance at all to learn them together, definitely do it.


What? There’s no アイ sound? Do the French also pronounce it differently than we do here in 'Murica, or is Japan the weird one?

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Aye, in French it’s pronounced like “effel”.

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Katakana are also extremely useful if you want to get into gaming in Japanese. While you might not understand the plot yet, with Katakana you can often navigate menus with ease and understand many attack names too, because they’re often in Katakana-“English”.