Loan Words from English

Japanese can accept loan words from foreign languages easily due to their grammatical characteristic that Japanese nouns have no special inflections for numbers, gender and so on. It simply uses foreign words fitted to Japanese syllables. Japanese took many loan words from Chinese before and it is taking many loan words from English now. The percentages of these loan words are 50% from Chinese and 10% from English in a major Japanese dictionary, The rest 40% is almost a part of Japanese native words. This chapter introduces rules to fit English words to Japanese syllables. You can increase your vocabularies promptly if you know these rules.

English Phonemes

Before introducing the rules, the following tables show us English phonemes not exactly but simply. Then these tables use "ë" and "ü" instead of exact IPA letters, because IPA letters can not be expressed with Latin-1 characters dealt with easily by PCs.


positions of a tonguefront centerback
flat lips/round lips F R F R F R
high i u
middle e ë ü
low æ a o
  • "æ" as in apple
  • "e" as in end
  • "ë" as in about, runner
  • "i" as in ink
  • "o" as in stop
  • "u" as in good
  • "ü" as in up
  • "a:" as in palm, cart
  • "ë:" as in birth
  • "i:" as in each
  • "o:" as in ought
  • "u:" as in two
  • "ai" as in like
  • "au" as in loud
  • "eë" as in heir
  • "ei" as in eight
  • "ië" as in ear
  • "oi" as in toy
  • "ou" as in coat
  • "uë" as in poor


palatalvelar glottal
voiceless plosives p t k
voiced plosives b d g
voiceless affricates ts ch
voiced affricates dz dj
voiceless fricativesf th s sh h
voiced fricatives v ð z j
nasals m n ng
lateral approximants l
approximants w r y
  • "p" as in pencil
  • "b" as in book
  • "f" as in foot
  • "v" as in voice
  • "m" as in money
  • "w" as in with
  • "th" as in truth
  • "ð" as in then
  • "t" as in table
  • "d" as in deep
  • "ts" as in boots
  • "dz" as in cards
  • "s" as in swim
  • "z" as in zone
  • "n" as in nose
  • "l" as in lift
  • "r" as in roof
  • "ch" as in choose
  • "dj" as in bridge
  • "sh" as in sheep
  • "j" as in vision
  • "y" as in yes
  • "k" as in cook
  • "g" as in get
  • "ng" as in sing
  • "h" as in handle

Rules to Kana Syllables

The following table shows us a basic rule to translate English sounds to Japanese syllables. This rule covers more than 85% of all the translations, although idiomatic translations still exist. New borrowed words have followed this rule at first, then a few of these words have become idiomatic sounds after they have been used for a long time.

The meanings of the each cells of the right table are
a vowel
a consonantan English sound
a Japanese sounda Kana

Consonants followed by Vowels
no vowela æ e ë (*1)i (*2)o u ü yu
a æ e ë i o u ü yu
a a e a i o u a yu
b (*3) b ba be bi bo bu byu
buba ba be ba bi bo bu ba byu ビュ
ch (*3) ch cha chæ che chë chi cho chu chü
chichaチャ chaチャ cheチェ chaチャ chichoチョ chuチュ chaチャ
d (*3) d da de di do du dyu
doda da de da diディ do duドゥ da dyu デュ
dj (*3) dj dja djæ dje djë dji djo dju djü
jija ジャ ja ジャ je ジェ ja ジャ ji jo ジョ ju ジュ ja ジャ
dz (*3) dz
ð ð ðaðæðeðëðiðoðuðü
zuza za ze za z'iズィ zo zu za
f f fa fe fi fo fu fyu
fufa ファ fa ファ fe フェ fa ファ fi フィ fo フォ fu fa ファ fyu フュ
g (*3) g ga ge gi go gu gyu
gugyagyaギャ ge ga gi go gu ga gyu ギュ
h h ha he hi ho hu hyu
hoha ha he ha hi ho fu ha hyu ヒュ
j (*3) j ja je ji jo ju
jija ジャ ja ジャ je ジェ ja ジャ ji jo ジョ ju ジュ ja ジャ
k (*3) k ka ke ki ko ku kyu
kukyakyaキャ ke ka ki ko ku ka kyu キュ
l l la re li lo lu lyu
rura ra re ra ri ro ru ra ryu リュ
m (*4) m ma me mi mo mu myu
muma ma me ma mi mo mu ma myu ミュ
n n na ne ni no nu nyu
nna na ne na ni no nu na nyu ニュ
ng (*5) ng
p (*3) p pa pe pi po pu pyu
pupa pa pe pa pi po pu pa pyu ピュ
r (*6) r ra re ri ro ru ryu
ara ra re ra ri ro ru ra ryu リュ
s s sa se si so su
susa sa se sa siスィ so su sa
sh sh sha shæ she shë shi sho shu shü
shuシュ shaシャ shaシャ sheシェ shaシャ shishoショ shuシュ shaシャ
t (*3) t ta te ti to tu tyu
tota ta te ta tiティ to tuトゥ ta tyuテュ
th th tha thæ the thë thi tho thu thü
susa sa se sa s'iスィ so su sa
ts (*3) ts
v v va ve vi vo vu vyu
vuva ヴァ va ヴァ ve ヴェ va ヴァ vi ヴィ vo ヴォ vu va ヴァ vyu ヴュ
w wa we wi wo wu
wa wa wheウェ wa whiウィ whoウォ u wa
y ya ye yi yo yu
ya ya ye イェ ya i yo yu ya
z z za ze zi zo zu
zuza za ze za ziズィ zo zu za
Vowels (Long and Diphthongs)
a e ë i o u yu
: a: ë:i: o: u: yu:
ah' アー ah' アー ih' イー oh' オー uh' ウー yuh' ユー
ë yuë
ea エア ia イア ua ウア yua ユア
i ai ei oi
ai アイ ei エイ oi オイ
u au ou
au アウ ou オウ
Stressed vowels
English stressed vowels are generally treated as vowels whose position is at high to low pitch in Japanese.
  • appróach → ápuròuchi ( アプロウチ )
  • gíant → jàianto ( ジャイアント )

Sample Kana Spelling generated by the Rules