Japanese phrases that even probably the most proficient learners of the language discover the toughest to pronounce could be, sarcastically, those borrowed from their very own native tongue.
My spouse, who’s initially from the US and now could be a fluent speaker of Japanese after dwelling in Japan for 15 years, nonetheless struggles to pronounce one in all her dwelling nation’s most well-known manufacturers — « McDonald’s, » which in Japanese is マクドナルド (makudonarudo).
Understanding how katakanization works is a vital sensible talent for native English audio system who examine Japanese.
Phrases of English origin, after they get transformed to katakana, typically throw off native audio system of English. It is because it is arduous to unlearn their native tongue’s phonology — the sound system with a algorithm that they subconsciously comply with since their early childhood — after which modify the unique sound to match the Japanese phonology. I name this course of katakanization as a result of international phrases tailored into Japanese are usually spelled with katakana characters and are generally known as katakana-go (katakana phrases).
For my part as a local speaker of Japanese and a language lover, realizing how katakanization works is a vital sensible talent for native English audio system who examine Japanese. Not solely can the flexibility to pronounce these phrases allow you to to be extra simply understood by Japanese audio system, it additionally has the additional benefit of increasing your vocabulary, and nearly instantaneously, with out as a lot effort as you may assume. And as you may already know, we use loads of katakanized loanwords of English origin. Like, lots.
So I’m writing this text with the hope of serving to native-English-speaking Japanese learners who battle with one of many greatest quirks of the Japanese language — katakana phrases. Later on this article, you’ll be taught three fundamental guidelines for learn how to katakanize English phrases. I hope they may allow you to to have the ability to katakanize phrases by yourself as a way to pronounce phrases of English origin in a approach that Japanese audio system can simply perceive.
Stipulations: To get probably the most out of this text, you need to already know katakana (particularly learn how to pronounce them). If you want to brush up, take a look at our Final Katakana Information.
Earlier than moving into the essential katakanization guidelines, first, let me clarify somewhat extra about why I feel you need to be taught them.
No one Desires That « Oh-No-This-Individual-Is-Speaking-to-Me-in-English Look, » Proper?
One of the frequent causes I hear some learners (even when their Japanese is fairly superior) keep away from katakanizing English phrases is, « Why cannot I simply pronounce English phrases accurately? »
The reply is fairly easy. Many Japanese audio system would not be capable to perceive it until they know the unique English pronunciation of the phrase. Is not « with the ability to talk with Japanese folks » the entire level of learning Japanese (no less than, for a lot of of you), anyway?
Code-switching to your native tongue compromises intelligibility.
Whereas code-switching to your native tongue could provide you with some authenticity because the speaker of the unique language, it compromises intelligibility. You might strive asking « McDonald’s-tte doko desu ka? » (The place is McDonald’s?) with perfectly-pronounced McDonald’s on the road in Japan. You might additionally strive asking the place « Seven-Eleven » is with out katakanizing it to sebun irebun (セブンイレブン). In both case, you’d most certainly get that horrified, oh-no-this-person-is-talking-to-me-in-English look.
Observe that for katakanized phrases which might be significantly lengthy and could be a little bit trippy, you possibly can normally shorten them — in truth, many Japanese folks do! Take the earlier instance of マクドナルド; this may be shortened to マック or マクド. Equally, セブンイレブン turns into セブン. So don’t be concerned if you do not have full confidence of pronunciation simply at the beginning.
Japanese Audio system Use English Loanwords, Like A Lot
Japanese folks use 3,000 – 5,000 loanwords in day by day conversations, and 94% of them are of English origin.
Names of restaurant and retailer chains usually are not the one English phrases borrowed into the Japanese language. English-derived loanwords have been deeply woven into Japanese, each written and spoken. A examine from the Nineties confirmed that over 35% of all vocabulary printed in 70 Japanese magazines have been international loanwords, most of them being of English origin. A 2010 guide about wasei eigo (Japan-made English) additionally indicated that Japanese folks use 3,000 – 5,000 loanwords in day by day conversations, and 94% of them are of English origin. After all, these research are from years in the past, so we in all probability use much more katakana phrases in Japanese right now. The purpose is, it is so arduous to hold on conversations in Japanese with out Western loanwords that Japan even has a consuming recreation the place it’s a must to take a shot each time you employ one!
The portion of English loanwords in Japanese is growing with the inflow of latest applied sciences and ideas are evident in software program manuals like: アイコンをダブルクリックしてアプリケーションをインストールします icon-o doubleclick-shite application-o install-shimasu « Doubleclick the icon to put in the applying. » With this, it is changing into all of the extra useful to know the way katakanization works. Whereas having to Japanize your native tongue could be a problem, it might allow you to turn out to be extra approachable for individuals who grew up talking Japanese.
Unpronounceable English Sounds
You might also need to ask why Japanese audio system katakanize English phrases within the first place. It is just because many sound patterns in English usually are not permitted within the Japanese phonology, identical to the French guttural
/r/ is not in English. One of many (many) the reason why English pronunciation is a pure nightmare for Japanese highschool children is that Japanese doesn’t enable any syllables ending with a consonant except for
/n/ (ン). English has 1000’s of phrases ending with consonants like cat, look and ship however they’re merely unpronounceable within the Japanese phonological universe.
There isn’t any alternative apart from to katakanize loanwords to make them pronounceable throughout the Japanese phonology.
Complicated syllables like energy, sixth and garments are much more unpronounceable for Japanese audio system as a result of the Japanese phonology does not allow two or extra consonants to be squeezed collectively. The English
/th/ sound is completely impermissible in Japanese — in truth, in most human languages — and subsequently must be changed with the closest Japanese sound
/s/ as in surī (スリー) « three. » Merely put, there isn’t a alternative apart from to katakanize them to make them pronounceable throughout the Japanese phonology.
So katakanization does not precisely occur due to the writing system. It is exactly due to the Japanese phonology that governs how phrases are pronounced within the language.
Primary Conversion Guidelines
So how precisely does katakanization work? Though we’ve got some exceptions, there are three fundamental conversion guidelines that native Japanese audio system subconsciously apply.
Observe: IPA symbols we use on this article are based mostly on American English pronunciations.
Rule #1: Add Vowels
When a consonant shouldn’t be instantly adopted by a vowel, you add a vowel.
It is because every sound normally entails a vowel in Japanese. The ン (
/m/) sound is an exception, however moreover that, a unit of Japanese sounds is both a single vowel like ア
/a/ – イ
/i/ – ウ
/u/ – エ
/e/ – オ
/o/, or a set of consonant and a vowel like カ
/ka/ – キ
/ki/ – ク
/ku/ – ケ
/ke/ – コ
/ko/. If you know the way katakana works, this in all probability is smart to you.
Now, what vowel ought to I be including, proper? That’s:
- Nothing after
Let’s use the phrase « danger » for example. First, r is adopted by a vowel i, so that you simply depart it alone. However the remaining, s and ok usually are not adopted by a vowel. For s, you add u. For ok, add u. And you will get ri-su-ku — リスク.
Check out one other instance — the phrase « measurement. » Once you attempt to parse it, you see two pairs of a consonant and a vowel — si and ze. So it might be… シゼ…? No, not that. Watch out to not get confused with the spelling and the sound. The phrase « measurement » appears like « saiz, » proper? In case you possibly can’t consider the phonetic spelling off the highest of your head, there are converters like this which may come helpful for katakanization. Now, going again to the « measurement (saiz) », z is the one sound that is not adopted by a vowel. So that you add a u there, and now you have obtained sa-i-zu — サイズ. That is the way you write and say « measurement » in Japanese.
Rule #2: Substitute Sounds
Substitute illegitimate sounds with comparable legit Japanese sounds.
You may already know this, however the Japanese language has fewer sounds than the sounds English has. Like I discussed earlier, the th
/θ/ sound does not actually exist in Japanese, and the closest sound is the s sound. That is why « three » turns into surii (スリー) and « thanks » turns into sankyū (サンキュー) in Japanese. Similar to that, for sounds that the Japanese language does not have, you will be changing sounds with the Japanese equivalents. Now let’s take a deeper look.
As it’s possible you’ll know, Japanese has solely 5 vowel sounds ア, イ, ウ, エ, and オ. That is clearly extra restricted in comparison with English — for instance, English has three « a » sounds (
/ə/), however ア replaces all of them.
|エ||ɛ||day by day /ˈɛvɹiˌdeɪ/||エブリデイ|
All examples above begin with vowels for the sake of instance, however after all, this substitute rule applies to a mixture of vowels and consonants.
Phrases « hat » and « hut » — they’ve the totally different « a » sounds, however in Japanese, they each get transformed to ハット as a result of the
/ʌ/ sounds each substitute to ア. This implies « cowboy hat » (カウボーイハット) and « Pizza Hut » (ピザハット) — they each use ハット regardless of the distinction within the English sounds.
Additionally, in relation to vowels, take note of the size of the vowel in query. Lengthy, prolonged vowel sounds are represented as « ー, » the hyphen-looking image in Japanese. For instance, « pull » is プル (puru), however « pool » is プール (pūru). An
/r/ after a vowel as in automotive, 4 and earth turns into the extension of the vowel as nicely. So, very like in British English, automotive is カー (kā), 4 is フォー (fō) and earth is アース (āsu).
Now, onto consonants! Similar to a few of the vowels, there are a number of English consonant sounds that do not actually exist in Japanese, and thus get changed with the closest sound as a substitute. Listed here are some examples.
Now, taking a look at this listing, are you able to guess what the phrase « stomach » would appear to be in katakana?
Stomach can be ベリー, identical to « berry » and « very. » That is as a result of there is no distinction in sound between « b » and « v » nor « r » and « l » in Japanese. ベリー attention-grabbing (…and probably ベリー complicated), proper?
There are additionally a number of consonant + vowel pairs that we pronounce in another way in English but get represented with the identical katakana character in Japanese. These variations could be extra delicate than those proven above, however for instance, si and shi each turn out to be シ. So « sea » and « she » each turn out to be シー in katakana. Equally, the voiced variations of those sounds, « zi » and « ji » each turn out to be ジ.
Rule #3: Duplicate Consonants
Duplicate the « cease » consonant on the finish of the phrase if it happens after a brief vowel.
Bit, dip, look… What makes these phrases sound so skippy? It’s the fast « pause » between sounds. In romaji to signify this sort of sound, we use duplicated consonants like bitto, proper? In katakana, we use ッ (the small tsu) as in ビット to signify these fast pauses. You may be duplicating the « cease » consonants, that are
/g/ — sounds you make by blocking the air move.
Now, let’s observe katakanizing « dip » and « look » — « dip » turns into ディップ (dippu) and « look » turns into ルック(rukku). Are you getting the gist?
Keep in mind this rule usually applies to the final syllable solely. For instance, picnic turns into pikunikku (ピクニック) as a substitute of pikkunikku (ピックニック). Additionally do not forget this solely occurs to the consonant after a brief vowel versus lengthy vowels, like beat, deep, or Luke.
Congrats, you have simply realized the three fundamental guidelines of katakanization! Though these three guidelines account for many katakanization processes, they will not merely make you a grasp of katakanization. You may nonetheless encounter curve balls and a few difficult ones — for these, you continue to have to make small changes right here and there.
If you happen to’re hoping to take your katakanization to the following degree, it might be a good suggestion to overview mixture katakana. Mixture katakana are katakana characters product of a mixture with a small character like フォ, ティ, or ジュ.
For instance, you may anticipate « cat » to turn out to be katto (カット), but it surely really needs to be kyatto (キャット) as a result of the vowel of cat makes the c sound extra just like the Japanese
/kya/ sound than the
/ka/ sound. Equally, « hole » turns into gyappu (ギャップ) as a substitute of gappu (ガップ). That is too simple? These could be comparatively frequent katakana combos, however there are some curveballs you may not be so conversant in — like トゥ as in トゥモロー (tomorrow), or デュ as in デュエット (duet).
These mixture katakana are the unsung heroes of katakana. They permit us to signify sounds that we did not have in Japanese — the sounds are even nearer to the unique English pronunciations.
Immediately, loanwords tend to use mixture katakana to raised signify the unique sounds.
Nevertheless, mixture katakana could be much less acquainted and not-so-easy-to-pronounce for Japanese audio system, particularly older of us. Immediately, loanwords tend to use mixture katakana to raised signify the unique sounds, however this wasn’t at all times the case. For instance, « thought » was generally written as アイデア in katakana, however nowadays, アイディア is much extra frequent. And, this results in the following be aware: be careful for older loanwords!
Watch Out for Older Loanwords
A few of you might have already observed frequent English loanwords do not actually comply with the essential guidelines. Like, kēki (ケーキ) « cake » not being kēku (ケーク), rajio (ラジオ) « radio » not being reidio (レイディオ) and kariforunia (カリフォルニア) « California » nor being kyarifōnia (キャリフォーニア). That’s as a result of these phrases are comparatively previous borrowings that got here to Japan earlier than the conversion guidelines grew to become constant.
Older loanwords are sometimes the way in which they’re for customary causes — you will want to recollect learn how to spell them in katakana.
As you may’ve observed, part of this cause is the no-use of mixture katakana. Sounds that we historically did not have or unusual sounds in Japanese have been changed with ones simpler to pronounce and acknowledge for Japanese audio system. So in the event that they have been borrowed right now, they’d be katakanized in another way — like レイディオ. Nevertheless, a lot of them stay the identical regardless of the change as we’re already used to the way in which they’re! Meaning, older loanwords are sometimes the way in which they’re for customary causes — you will want to recollect learn how to spell them in katakana.
Katakanize Like a Professional
Katakanization could be a problem for native-English-speaking learners, even those that are already fluent in Japanese. Nevertheless, do not forget studying learn how to katakanize won’t solely allow you to higher acclimate to Japanese phonology and enhance your general pronunciation, but in addition make your spoken Japanese extra understandable and approachable. And in the event you take a look at it from a distinct perspective — being an English speaker will also be a bonus in Japanese studying if you know the way katakanization works. Once you begin with the ability to convert English phrases to katakana easily, and acknowledge extra katakana phrases that Japanese audio system use, you’d be stunned what number of phrases you recognize already!
I hope the three fundamental guidelines and further ideas allow you to construct a superb basis for katakana conversion. It’s a extremely sensible talent and probably a recreation changer to convey your Japanese to the following degree. So, maintain katakanizing and continue to learn — Guddo rakku!