Katakana spellings/pronunciation/reading

I’m having so much trouble with katakana spellings. The biggest issue I’m having is when to use - and when to use small ツ and オ. (Well, that plus differentiating ツ シ ン ソ, but i think that one is just purely something i’m going to have to go over and over)

It’s the worst when there’s a combination, like フォーク. I’m guessing the fact that I can’t get these means I’m pronouncing the word wrong but it’s just not sticking for me. Eventually I’m sure I’ll memorize that spoon is スプーン and not スープン but rote memorization but anyone have any good tips or resources for grasping the nuance so I’m actually reading and pronouncing the word correctly as opposite to just being able to spit it out in typing because I memorized it?

So the reason this is フォ is because there’s no “fo” sound in Japanese (as in, they don’t have a kana for that). There is however a “fu” sound, フ, and you modify that with a small ォ.

Basically every time you see a small kana it’s going to modify another one - the following consonant in the case of ッ, and the preceding vowel in the case of a small vowel kana. So ティ is “ti” - the consonant sound from テ with the vowel イ, which you couldn’t make otherwise because the kana in the T row and I column of the kana table is チ, which is “chi”, not “ti”. ファ is “fa” - the consonant sound from フ and the vowel sound ア, which you again couldn’t make otherwise because the closest you can get with a single kana is ハ.

Does that help?


Do you have the same issue with hiragana? Like can you understand the pronunciation difference between すぷうん vs すうぷん.

I have no idea if this will help, but here’s how I initially remembered them: First I had noticed before I started learning that there was one character, ジ, that looks like a crying face (this was while I was watching Clannad with some others, and we thought it was pretty appropriate that the credits included crying faces). You see ジ way more than you see ヅ, so that’s how I remember which is which of those two.

And then ソ and ン are just stupid because they’re the opposite, with you using ゾ while ン can’t even take dakuten. At least you see ン a lot.


So I get フォ for the fo sound. What I don’t get is why it’s フォーク and not フォク. I mean, I guess I get it in theory but I have trouble really remembering the difference. And that’s even more common when there’s something with the small ツ sound. I really don’t grasp when to use small ツ vs -.

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Don’t really have the problem in hiragana, at least not to the same degree. Like I can read those differently and understand the difference in how they’re pronounced. But I suppose when it comes to recall I might mix those up. It just feels like it comes up so much more often in katakana. I guess the issue there is that since they’re loan words generally from my native language I’m still falling back on trying to spell out the english word in katakana, where I really need to to learn what it is in Japanese, since the loan words are often not what you would guess they are. Might just be a need for more exposure I guess.


Ah, I gotchu. Yeah, that does seem a bit random at times, but in the case of フォーク it makes sense - consider the most stereotypically Bri’ish pronunciation of “fork” you can think of, and you’ll notice the R kind of fades into an extension of the O. That’s what’s going on here, and you’ll notice it with other words too where a more British pronunciation doesn’t really vocalise the R (like words ending in -er ending in アー for instance)

(various actual pronunciations actually have that too, but it’s exaggerated in the mockingly over-the-top British accents)

Yep this 100% explains one of my main problems with your ボール (ball) vs. ボウル (bowl) example. I guess that’s just proof I’m trying to figure out a way to logic out the answer when it really comes down to just needing to memorize. There just seems to be a lot more words in katakana that could be spelled more than one way and still pronounced the same. That and trying to logic out what the loan word should be when it just isn’t what you might guess.

Just going to need to find some loan word heavy reading and listening and amp up my studying on those words and it’ll shake out over time I guess. Think a lot of it is just a matter of encountering hiragana way more often.

Have you met my friend Shin Sotsu? He really helps when memorizing katakana シン (shin) ソツ (sotsu)

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This article might help you out: Katakanization Guide: How To Convert English Words to Japanese

Though it sounds like you’re reaching the right conclusions. Ultimately these are Japanese words with their own spellings and meanings, so you just have to learn them.

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I did the massive 4500 kitsun.io katakana word deck. It might seem like a lot, but really you’re unlikely to get the majority of them wrong even once and you can choose to only guess the English words from their katakana loanwords, which imo is enough. After all that, any problems I had with katakana or loanwords vanished.

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it’s basically ü û or é and è etc. :slight_smile: Just a different system and symbols.

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Well ackshually :nerd_face:

It’s only a glottal stop at the end of a word/sentence. Before another kana it indicates gemination and pronouncing it as a glottal stop would be wrong in many (most? all?) cases (and would be pretty tricky to do sometimes - putting a glottal stop into さっそく for instance is not something my throat particularly likes doing)


Try not to overly complicate things, and just think about how the word sounds in English. Spoon has a long oo sound, so the ー is used to lengthen the o sound in プ.

If you use スープン you’re elongating the u sound in ス and keeping the o sound short, which doesn’t really sound anything like spoon. (suupon)

This is why katakana feels like breeze to me, you’re simply trying to match the sound of the English word.

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Sort of; you’re matching how the English word as spoken in a particular accent that might be different to yours sounds to a Japanese person. And occasionally the spelling sneaks in to have an effect (eg “lemon” and “garden” have the same vowel sound at the end, but the English spelling means one ends up モ and the other is デ). But mostly once you see enough of it you can pick up how it works.


Right, as close as you can get with the sounds provided.

Not to mention it should be ロサンヘレス. :unamused:


I am with memorizing a list of Katakana vocabularies with audio for this one. How the words are really written is by visual memory. Sounds of each mora are by implying from audio-visual association of words.

The requirement is remembering first how ソンシツ are written.

Small Katakana are. Remembering shortcuts to typing with IME as well may be helpful. (Which can be a little different from Hepburn romanization.)