Help with Katakana combinations and small vowel sounds

こんにちは! When I first started using katakana combinations to spell foreign words, I was told that there were a certain number of combinations that could be used with small ァ、ィ、ゥ、ェ、ォ to produce sounds that aren’t normally found in Japanese. These being:

ファ、フィ、フェ、フォ、フュ - Fa, Fi, Fe, Fo, Fyu
ツァ、ツィ、ツェ、ツォ - Tsa, Tsi, Tse, Tso
ティ、ディ、デュ、トゥ - Ti, Di, Du, Tu
チェ、シェ、ジェ - Che, She, Je
ウィ、ウェ、ウォ - Wi, We, Wo
ヴァ、ヴィ、ヴ、ヴェ、ヴォ - Va, Vi, Vu, Ve, Vo

My question is - are these the only “officially” allowed katakana combinations? If I tried to make my own that aren’t included on this list, would Japanese people find that confusing? For example, if I wanted to create a “si” sound that was closer to that than シ, could I use something like セィ?Or would that sound be unrecognisable? Has anyone else ever made their own katakana combinations?

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I think I have seen セィ before, but I can’t remember the context. That one is probably understandable.
Although many of them may be tough to pronounce, given how many videos on YouTube I see like this…

(She has a whole playlist with more.)

Off topic… She has really white teeth and when the popping noise happened I went looking for a message.

On-topic… My Katakana is really weak. I can read katakana equivalent to hiragana (albeit, slowly and sometimes incorrectly as the sound can change slightly to emulate the foreign word). I struggle with these sliding kata that arent in hiragana.

Another sad story, some people was able to guess katakana words I wasnt able to guess on this video, and they arent even studying :confused:

Anyways, that’s why i’m going through Katakana course on kitsun because my katakana is weak.

It’s good that you know your weaknesses though, and likewise, that you’re actively working on them! That’s how I approach study - I try to isolate and fix the things I suck at the most.

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Just been doing a review :slight_smile: Came across the word for community コミュニティ. This will be a dumb question, but quick question how to you write the ティ you have ti but I get chi character チ. On review i had to write ko myu ni te xi. :confused:

Try ‘thi’ ティ

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ティ That works. Thank you.

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Note for posterity: On most IMEs, if you’re trying to get a random small version of a character, you can generally write “l” (that’s the letter L in lower case) + “character” to get it

l i yields ぃ or ィ
l yu yields ゅ

Etc. This generally works on the various English language IMEs.

Edit: Thought this worked on WaniKani as well but actually doesn’t, updated to reflect that.


It might depend on the IME, but I’ve found “x” to be more predictable: sometimes “lyu” becomes “りゅ” but I’ve never had “xyu” not produce “ゅ”.


If you live in Japan, you will have heard the “japanised” English words, so that explains why they are able to guess a lot of words correctly.

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Lol this reminds me of multiple incidents living in Japan where somebody was saying an English loan word whose pronunciation was so different that I literally had no idea what they were saying. One that happened recently is I was buying pastries and was asking the woman to describe them to me and she was describing what was in one of the pastries and I thought she was talking about meat or something but I realized she was saying cinnamon and felt like an idiot. I felt bad because I think I embarrassed her a little bit because there were a bunch of people around while we were trying to figure each other out.

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Lol, One of my new words was ライブ. I was looking at it and reading it and was like Yeah, I got this… Its “Ripe” flipcard “Live/Live Performance”… Failed…

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Some are more common than others. You could search in a dictionary for examples of their usage (that video LeeDavies87 posted probably has some, I just didn’t watch it) ^^

Re confusing: Most languages have conventional ways of writing down spelling that relate somewhat to pronunciation, even if it varies. (Japanese’s is pretty consistent as far as most languages go) If you deviate substantially in how you write down the spelling of a language, you will typically puzzle people a bit. Especially if it’s to introduce sounds that aren’t normally heard or made. For example, many native English speakers struggle with digraphs from Polish (and other languages), like ‘sz’ - we can approximate the sound, but it’s not immediately apparent to someone who’s been raised with e.g. American English orthography and not exposed to those names what sound to even make.

I have no idea what the average Japanese person would assume about ‘セィ’ specifically, but overwhelmingly the Google results are for the セイ sound (and largely where they don’t seem to be typos, they’re stylised)

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That’s interesting. I guess I was mostly looking at trying to accurately transliterate foreign names. Names are the one thing that most people would prefer to retain as close to original pronunciation as possible.

I’ve seen “si” written as スィ before, and I’ve seen セィ, so maybe they’re both right

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