Learn Katakana: Japanese Computer Terms
Thursday, July 29th, 2010
I’ve gathered a handful of common computer and internet terms with their Japanese equivalents. They’re a great way to learn new Japanese words plus get your head around the occasionally complicated Katakana involved.
A good way to sharpen your skills in this area is to switch your whole computer over to the Japanese for a day. On the mac, you can change the language in your System Preferences -> Language & Text and I’m sure it’s a similar place in Windows.
It’s a scary thought but having to work out all the menu items and buttons can be a fun way to improve your Japanese vocabulary. It’s amazing how much you can learn when you have to translate just to get around your computer. ^_^
The word “File” as you would know is at the top of the first menu of most applications on your computer. It is written as ファイル, which is broken down as “ファ (fa) イ (i) ル (ru)”. The tricky part is the first two Katakana.
You may not have noticed but the katakana after フ is actually a small “ァ” and not the normal size “ア”. So when you pair “フ (fu)” with a small “ァ” the combination becomes “ファ” and is pronounced “Fa” and not the expected “Fua” with the larger ア.
The combination of “ファ” and “イ” gives us the “Fai” sound like in “Taiwan”. That sound together with ル (ru) gives us “Fai-ru” or “File”. Remember there is no “L” in the Japanese language.
The ウィ sound is another katakana combination that you may not have encountered before. While it’s not rare, it’s certainly not something that you will see in most everyday textbooks.
The combination consists of “ウ (u)” and a “ィ (i)”. As with the example above the second katakana is smaller than normal and as such it performs a different function than a regular “イ” – like in the word for internet (インターネット).
So when you find the combination of “ウィ”, it is pronounced “Wi”. The easiest way to remember it is that Nintendo’s Wii console is spelt “ウィー”. We have the “Wi” followed by the long dash (chōonpu), which doubles the vowel so we get “Wii”.
I hope that has given you enough to work on. Apart from the chōonpu, there are also plenty of little Katakana tricks below such as the small “ョ” in “ショ”, which gives you “sho” (shi plus o). There’s also “ディ”, which is “de” plus “i” to give us “di”.
Work through the explanations below and please leave a note in the comments if you have any questions.