Language Exchange Partners Teachers
Learners: Find Teachers  Create Profile FAQ's Login
Teachers & Schools: Find Learners  Create Profile FAQ's Login
Welcome Guest!   Log in   Sign up
Find Teachers    Find Learners    Self-study
Self-study: Lessons  - Quizzes  - Articles  - Create
Welcome Guest!

Online Language Courses
Contact Us

Self-study Lessons > Japanese > Beginner >

Katakana - cyphers and alphabets

by Michael Schaefer

There are a lot of similarities between learning a new language's alphabets to communicate and learning a cypher (also spelled cipher) to keep a message private.

Here is a cypher that some elementary school students used to use. It's called the Pig Pen Code.

The way it works is to draw the shape of the box section the letter you want to use is in. To decode or decypher, just look up that shape and write the letter in that place. Try decyphering this important message.

That wasn't too hard. It just took some time.

Now let's look at the Japanese Katakana alphabet.
Katakana is a phonetic alphabet used for foreign words brought into Japanese and for emphasis, much like italics or bold type in English.

A (ah)

I (ee)


U (oo)



E (eh)

O (oh)

Now let's take a look at how katakana can be used to make the sounds of English words with this important message.

アルファベツ テュルン サウンヅ イントぅ スィンボルズ。

Did you notice the smaller a, i, and u characters? Those small versions of the vowel group and the y group can be added after another syllable to modify it. You can also add a small tsu character to double the next consonant or shorten the last vowel sound. A hyphen acts to extend the last vowel sound.

An easy way to practice katakana is to write notes from English words to a friend and see if you can figure out what the other person is trying to say.

There are dictionaries of standardized katakana words in Japan, some of which don't do justice to the word they are trying say. Many of those are from French, Portuguese, and German, so don't get too flustered if you come across one you don't know.

Was this lesson helpful?
No Yes!
 1   2   3   4   5 

View all lessons by Michael Schaefer
Contact Michael Schaefer for Japanese lessons

Featuring over 91 languages, including...
English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Japanese, Korean, Chinese (Mandarin), Chinese (Cantonese), Portuguese, Russian, Thai, Swedish, Greek, Arabic (Egyptian), Arabic (Middle Eastern), Arabic (Moroccan), Arabic (other)

Online courses and tutors:
English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Japanese, Korean, Chinese (Mandarin), Chinese (Cantonese), Portuguese, Russian, Thai, Swedish, Greek, Arabic (Egyptian), Arabic (Middle Eastern), Arabic (Moroccan), Arabic (other)

To view all languages, please click here.

Featuring locations all over the world, including...
London, New York City, Toronto, Buenos Aires, Montreal, Los Angeles, Chicago, Paris, Sydney, Tokyo, Tehran, Kuala Lumpur, Madrid, Melbourne, Houston, Istanbul, Taipei, Boston, Barcelona, San Diego, Atlanta, Bangalore, Seattle, San Francisco, Bangkok, Mumbai, Vancouver, Singapore, Dallas, Philadelphia, Manchester, Miami, Chennai, Karachi, Shanghai, Beijing, Sao Paulo, Cairo, Dubai, Seoul, Washington DC, Brisbane, Manila, Moscow, Hyderabad, Ottawa, Portland, California, Calgary, Lahore, Auckland, Lima, Orlando, Delhi, Jakarta, Perth, Dublin, Zagreb, Columbus, Rome, Denver, Sacramento, Milan, Phoenix, Detroit, Mexico City, Ankara, Pittsburgh, Athens, Birmingham, Minneapolis, Las Vegas, San Jose, Osaka, Quebec City, Berlin, Bucharest, Brooklyn, Edmonton, Glasgow, Pune, New Delhi

To view all locations, please start by choosing your country here.

Privacy | Membership Agreement | Help 

Copyright © 2003-2020