“Yen,” “Jesus,” “wars,” and more: your next katakana words
Welcome to Lesson Two of WordBrewery’s Reading Japanese: Katakana series. We have created a frequency list of Japanese words, then mined that list for the most common katakana words. If you already read katakana, you can still learn from the vocabulary in this post series. But if you’re new to katakana, these posts will help you learn to read it quickly and accurately while picking up some useful vocabulary along the way.
This post presumes knowledge of the five vowel characters introduced in Lesson One, so be sure to review that if you need to.
The five most frequent katakana syllables
Recall from Lesson One that Japanese has only five vowel sounds, and the sound of these vowels never changes. Most Japanese syllables consist of one consonant paired with one of these five vowel sounds. Except for “n” (as in ra-me-n, the noodle dish, Ho-n-da, the automaker, or Ni-n-te-n-do, the video game maker) and one other case we will see later, Japanese has no standalone consonants. Often, when an English word is adopted in Japanese, a vowel sound (often ウ (“u”)) is added to these standalone consonants.
You learned the five vowel symbols in Lesson 1; now you will learn the five most common Japanese katakana. After this lesson, you’ll already know almost 25% of the katakana script.
n (“n” as in “none”—but a standalone syllable).
very common sound indicating agreement (can be extended to ウンウン)
iron (golf club)
ru (“ru/lu”; to pronounce the Japanese “r”, try this: say “Eddie” fast (but without putting any stress on “Ed,” because Japanese doesn’t stress syllables like English does). That is the same sound as the Japanese word eri, meaning “ring.”)