Michael Johnson, of the graphic design firm Johnson Banks, spends a lot of time traveling to Japan. Nonetheless, he still can’t read the language. It drives him crazy. So they’ve responded with a brilliant design: A hybrid Japanese/English typeface, in which Katakana syllables are embedded with phonetic pronunciations. It’s called, naturally, Phonetikana.
Now, there are some limitations in the face: Katakana is the most simple of the Japanese scripts; being able to read it does meant that you can suddenly sound out Japanese, since Katakana is most often reserved for language instruction and transcribing foreign phrases. But still, it’s an intriguing idea, which might work for Kanji, the modern, general Japanese writing system, in at least a limited way. (Kanji are a mix of pictogramic and syllabic characters.) Any Japanese/English speakers out there want to weigh in on whether a system like this would be useful, in a broader application?
Here’s how the name “Michael” is rendered in Katakana; you read it as “Ma-ee-koo-roo”:
“Nee-Koh”: Japanese for “Smile”:
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