Is it "douzo" or "dōzo"?


"Wait, is it douzo? In the book it says dōzo..."

It's both. And it's neither!

In the beginning stages I use rōmaji (English letters) to write Japanese in class. This is to give you a head start in learning to speak.

Some people think you shouldn't use rōmaji at all, because it will give you bad pronunciation.
That might be true if you're studying by yourself.

But if you have a teacher to teach you how to pronounce Japanese words correctly, and correct your mistakes, you can learn Japanese correctly using rōmaji.

I'm pretty strict on pronunciation, I think. My students have good pronunciation - even the beginners.

Anyway, there are different systems for writing Japanese in the English alphabet. Depending on which system is being used, a word could be spelled quite differently.

どうぞ (do-u-zo) means "here you are" / "go ahead".

Some writing systems use a macron (a horizontal bar over the letter) to write the long vowel sound: ā ī ū ē ō.  Then, it would be written "dōzo".

Another method is to spell out the letters: aa, ii, uu, ei, ou.   That gives us "douzo".

Both "dōzo" and "douzo" are correct.

Sometimes, the long vowel isn't written in: "dozo". This is wrong!

You might also see ee and oo used instead of ei and ou: "doozo".

Personally I think "doozo" is just asking for trouble. That's not how the word is spelled in Japanese (it's どうぞ  do-u-zo).

Of course, the only truly correct way to spell the word is to write it in Japanese: どうぞ.

But both "dōzo" and "douzo" are fine too. Just don't forget the long vowel!



Your First Ever Beginner Japanese Class


You've signed up, bought the textbook and are on your way to class. The day is here! It's your first ever Japanese lesson!

So, what are we going to do? What are you going to learn? Can't you just stay home and talk to the dog instead?

Your first class can be exciting, but also a bit daunting.

I've taught lots of first-ever Japanese classes to beginners over the years. Here's what we do.


A brief introduction to the Japanese writing system


Lots of people are really interested in the Japanese writing system, and it's a bit complex. So I usually start with a quick rundown of the three "alphabets".

The main reason I start with alphabets is that it helps you with pronunciation.

Pronouncing words in a new language can be difficult. Especially when those words are as long as:

Hajimemashite. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.

"Nice to meet you."
Understanding the sounds of Japanese from the start will help you pronounce words correctly.

Introduce yourself!


Next, we learn to introduce ourselves in Japanese:

  • "Nice to meet you!"

  • "My name is..."

  • "I'm from..."

  • "I'm a teacher / engineer / lawyer, etc."

You'll learn to say your job, of course - not just the generic ones in the textbook. This is important.

By this point, you've learned to introduce yourself politely. And to tell a Japanese-speaking person something about yourself. Awesome.

Time for a break, and a cup of ホットコーヒー (hot coffee) from the reception cafe.

Question time!


Next up, we learn some questions:

  • "What's your name?"

  • "Where are you from?"

  • "What's your job?"

We'll practice them over and over, until they're glued into your brain. 

Depending on how much time we have, we might practice introducing each other:

"This is Agnes. She's from Poland. She's a structural engineer."
Phew!

With lots and lots of practice, that's probably all we have time for. But look what you've learned in one lesson!

Hopefully, you'll go home with your head full of new phrases, ready to test out on the dog.


(Pictured: graduating Beginner class students, 2016-17)


Japanese Does Have Plurals Really


After the excitement of our first school Summer Barbecue, I spent last Sunday in bed watching one of my favourite films in Japanese.

It's not a Japanese film though. I watched Hot Fuzz (or to give its Japanese title ホット・ファズ -俺たちスーパーポリスメン! "Hot Fuzz: We Are The Super-Policemen!")

Watching dubbed British comedies might not be the "purest" way to practise Japanese. But if you enjoy it, it's definitely worth doing. Dubbed films are easy to watch, too, assuming you've seen the film before and know the plot already.

Anyway, there's a little scene in the Hotto Fazzu dub that's a nice example of Japanese plurals in action, so I thought I'd share it with you.

Angel and Danny are in the corner shop, and the shopkeeper asks them:

殺人犯たち捕まらないの?
satsujinhan tachi tsukamaranai no?

"No luck catching them killers then?"

"Killers" is translated as 殺人犯たち satsujinhan-tachi.

You take the word 殺人犯 satsujinhan (murderer) and add the suffix たち tachi - which makes it plural.

See? Japanese does have plurals! ...when it needs them.


Danny doesn't notice the shopkeeper's slip-up (she knows more than she's letting on), and replies:

人しかいないんだけど。
hitori shika inai n da kedo.

"It's just the one killer actually."



PC Angel, of course, mulls over the shopkeeper's words, and realises their significance: there's more than one killer on the loose.

It's the turning point of the movie, and it rests on a plural. Yay!

You can use たち like this when you need to indicate plurality:

私たち watashi-tachi we, us (plural)
あなたたち anata-tachi you (plural)
ジョンたち jon-tachi John and his mates

It's not common, but it does exist. Keep an eye out for it! You never know, you might just solve a murder case.


"You Said, I Did": Using Your Feedback To Improve Classes


Ever wondered what I do with your feedback forms?

Student feedback is super useful - it lets me know what I'm doing right, and what I can improve about our classes.

Here are some of the main points from February's mid-course feedback, and the action I took based on it in the Summer term.

It's what "you said", and what "I did"!

You said...

"Listening is difficult. Can we do more listening?"

I did:

Now we do listening practice in class every three weeks. It's on the course outline, so that I don't forget.


You said...

"We should have to ask questions in Japanese and not use English." 

I did:

In all classes next year, we'll learn some key questions like "How do you say...in Japanese?"

And then - this is the key point - I'm going to remind you all to actually do it!


You said...

"I like the fun and friendly atmosphere (including the drawing and singing and games)."

I did:

I've included even more singing, videos, drawing, and some board games too. Learning should be fun!


You said...

"I learn visually, and by repetition. Using more visual aids in class would help me remember."

I did:

I've tried to bring more picture flashcards. It's good to be reminded that people learn in different ways.


You said...

"Could we have a review week every month where we go over everything?"

I did:

We actually already do this every four weeks, so I obviously haven't explained that well enough! 

I started the summer term by explicitly telling students about review week and explaining what it's for.


You said...

"We'd like more one-on-one conversation with the teacher."

I did:

I've worked to make sure not every activity is pair work. I try to include myself in speaking activities too, so we can talk one-on-one.


You said...

"The class size is good - it gives us an opportunity to discuss complexities of the language."

I did:

I've set a maximum class size of 12 people.


You said...

"Can we do more "Step Up" questions? I like having the chance to say something a bit more complex, and more exposure to more complicated sentences."

"Step Up!" is the bit on your homework where I ask you to freestyle a bit. "Write about you" or "Write about your weekend plans". It's optional, but I highly recommend it. It's often my favourite bit of your homework to mark!

I did:

Since April, I've tried to put a Step Up! question on the bottom of every piece of homework.

You said...

"Sometimes we’d like a bit more explanation and time to absorb the more complicated aspects of the grammar."

I did:

I've added in more time in my lessons for you to absorb new ideas before I ask you to apply them - especially when we're covering something new and complex.

You said...

"I'd like to speak more about everyday stuff - go off piste, and have more opportunity to just talk amongst ourselves in Japanese."

I did:

I've introduced fortnightly "Free Talk" sections where we talk only in Japanese for 10 to 20 minutes. 


Thank you so much for your feedback - it helps me work to keep making things better!

P.S. Thought of anything else? Click here to get in touch.