Learn One Thing Before Going to Japan — Katakana!

There are a lot of things to learn before heading off on your first trip to Japan. You really should know some basic Japanese phrases at the very least. You should also read up on important cultural differences so that you don’t unwittingly create an international incident. But what will give you the most bang for your buck, in my opinion?

Learn Katakana.

As discussed before here, Katakana is the phonetic writing script used for foreign loan words. Most words written in Katakana are of English origin, so if you know English you can literally sound out many of these words.

Here are some examples:

Knowledge of Katakana is especially helpful at restaurants as the “Menyuu” will often be full of options in Katakana. Also, many store signs and billboards will have Katakana.

There are 46 basic Katakana characters to master. In addition, there are variants that include a “dakuten” over the basic character.

For example:

カ = ka

ガ = ga

サ = sa

ザ = za

ハ = ha

バ = ba

Also, there are characters that include a subscript character that changes the sound.

For example:

キャ = kya

キュ = kyu

キョ = kyo

If you are planning on taking a trip to Japan, but don’t have the patience or time to learn thousands of Kanji characters, at the very least learn the 46 Katakana characters and their variants. This can easily be done in a week or so. Then when you go to Japan you can impress your friends and family!

When you are ready to learn Katakana, check out the Games page and use the Katakana flash card deck. After you feel confident test your knowledge here.

Do you also want to learn some basic Japanese words and phrases? Check out the first volume of the ‘Let’s Go to Nihon!’ series on Amazon!

‘Let’s Go to Nihon!’ is an introductory Japanese learning book series especially designed to help children acquire basic words, phrases, and greetings in Japanese in a fun and easy rhyming way!

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