What’s the difference between sensei and kyōshi?

What’s the difference between sensei and kyōshi?

The word "sensei" is pretty well-known even among people who don't speak Japanese, but did you know that you shouldn't use sensei about yourself?

Here's what the textbook has to say:

"Use 'kyōshi' for yourself and the respectful 'sensei' for another person."

That's a pretty good starting point. But there's a bit more to it than that.

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The One Million Meanings of Yoroshiku

Last week we learned different ways to say "Nice to meet you!" in Japanese. And the star of the show was yoroshiku onegaishimasu.

But yoroshiku isn't just for the first time you meet someone. It has a million different uses.

Let's look at the main different meanings of this magical, multipurpose Japanese word.

1. Yoroshiku means "Please!"

Yoroshiku, as we learned last week, is used when meeting new people, and means: "please be kind to me", "please look favourably upon me."

"Hajimemashite. Amerii desu. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu."
Nice to meet you. I'm Amelie. Please be kind to me. 

2. Yoroshiku means "Thank you!"

As well as please, yoroshiku means thank you.

Specifically, it means thank you in advance. Said when giving someone work to do:

Tojimari, yoroshiku ne.
"I'll leave you to lock up. Thanks."

Musume o yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
"Thanks in advance for taking care of my daughter."

3. Yoroshiku means "Hi!"

This is one of my favourites. This "yoroshiku" means "regards", like "send my regards to so-and-so", or "say hi to so-and-so", or even "send my love to so-and-so":

O-tou-san ni yoroshiku o tsutae kudasai.
Please send my best regards to your father.

O-nee-san ni yoroshiku ne.
Say hi to your sister for me.

What's your favourite use of yoroshiku? Did I miss any out? Let me know...yoroshiku ne!

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:

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:

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.

How to Read The Japanese News

When I first moved back to Brighton I had a lot of time on my hands. I also didn't have a job, so I was desperate for free Japanese reading material.

So I started borrowing Japanese books from the library.

This plan was not exactly a success. It turns out reading Twilight in Japanese is only slightly more entertaining than reading it in English.

But we are really lucky to live in a world where, if you have internet access, you can read just about anything you want in Japanese online. And the news is a great place to start.

If you can't read fluently yet, looking at a wall of Japanese text can be intimidating. You don't know the meaning of the word, or even how to sound it out.

You need a dictionary - a really smart free one like Rikaichan.

Rikaichan is a browser add-on that works as a pop-up dictionary. I used it every day for years, and I love it. Let's take a look at how it works, and start reading the news!

How Rikaichan works

Here we are on the website of the Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan's largest national newspapers.

I hover the cursor over the word 音楽. Rikaichan's little blue pop up tells me the reading of the word (おんがく ongaku) and what it means - "music".

Rikaichan also shows us the dictionary entries for individual kanji (Chinese characters).

Here, it's showing 音, the first character in the word 音楽, and telling us that 音 means "sound".

Learn where words begin and end

Japanese doesn't have spaces between words so if you're looking at unfamiliar words, it can be hard to know where each word starts and finishes.

Rikaichan is pretty smart at doing that bit for you.

Here, it knows that 九州 (Kyushu island) is one word, and 豪雨 (torrential rain) is the next, separate word.

How to get it

So that's what Rikaichan does. Here's how to get started with it!

1) Get the right browser

Rikaichan and its "little brother" Rikaikun are for the web browsers Firefox and Chrome. If you're not using one of those programmes, you'll need to download the browser first.

It's worth it. I used Firefox religiously for years just so I could use Rikaichan to get my morning news.

As far as I know the add-on doesn't work on mobile, unfortunately. (There's a similar-looking app called Wakaru for iOS - if you've used it, let me know what you think.)

2) Install Rikaichan or Rikaikun

Which one do you need? Rikaichan and Rikaikun are the same add-on, but for Firefox and Chrome.

So, download and install Rikaichan from the Mozilla add ons page, or Rikaikun from the Chrome Web Store.

3) Download a dictionary

Rikaichan needs a dictionary to pull readings and meanings from, so after you've installed the add-on, you'll be prompted to install at least one dictionary file.

If English is your first language, you want the "Japanese - English" dictionary.

I recommend installing the "Japanese Names" dictionary too, so that Rikaichan can identify common names when they pop up.

That way, it'll know that 中田 is Nakada, a common Japanese surname, and doesn't just mean "middle of the ricefield".

4) Turn Rikaichan on

You probably won't want Rikaichan on all the time. Sometimes you'll want to read without a dictionary, and sometimes you won't be reading Japanese. You can turn it off and on when you like.

Turn Rikaichan on, and let's give it a go.

Read everything!

Years ago when I started using Rikaichan, I set myself a challenge to read one headline with it every day.

Next, I made myself read three headlines per day. Then five. Then the first paragraph of an article. Eventually I was reading entire news articles, and using the dictionary less and less.

These days I get the Asahi Shimbun news straight to my inbox, because I don't need to look up words often enough to use Rikaichan any more.

But it was a completely invaluable part of my language learning journey. And it's definitely more interesting than reading Twilight in Japanese.

What's the Difference Between Mina and Minna (And Why Does It Matter Anyway?)


Hello everybody!

If you watch Japanese tv or anime (or are paying attention in class) you've probably come across the Japanese word 皆さん (mina-san) meaning "all" or "everybody".

But what's the difference between みな and みんな? What's みなさま all about? And ... does it actually matter?

皆さん Mina-san

Mina means "everybody", and it's commonly used with "-san" on the end (the same suffix you put on people's names to be polite).

みなさん is often used when addressing a group of people, especially when they don't know either other too well or the situation calls for a slightly more formal greeting.

I find myself using みなさん a bunch at the beginning of term when welcoming students back and/or trying to get you all to listen to me.

As you might expect, YouTubers say みなさんこんにちは a lot too ("HI EVERYONE").

Check out the first five seconds of this video from Ari Keita:

↓ はい、みなさんこんにちはありけいたです!

These example sentences from jisho.org should give you a good idea of the kinds of situation when みなさん is used:

みんな Minna

Also common is みんな which is just a spoken form of みな. Some people will tell you minna is more casual than mina and technically they're right.

Examples from jisho seem to show us that people also use minna when they talk about everyone:

みんなさん Minna-san

You can't mix them up and use みんなさん though. That's technically incorrect.

Probably no one will mind or notice in a casual situation, but if you're trying to be polite, stick with みなさん.

Or you can even go more polite with...

皆様 Mina-sama

In more formal situations, the -san suffix is switched up to the more polite/formal -sama.

Mina-sama functions a lot like "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN", and is used in writing, and in announcements:

Why does this matter? Well really, which word you use is going to depend on the situation.

Mina-sama is super formal and it would sound weird if you use it with your friends. Likewise, minna is pretty casual and might not be appropriate in a business setting.

A lot of gaining fluency in a language is about choosing the right word for the right situation.

Mina-san, if you'd like to learn more Japanese with me, click here to check out my new Japanese language courses in Brighton!

Sarada at the Resutoran...Part 2: The Answers

Remember, some loanwords look and sound a bit like English - but they're not!

Last week I gave you some Japanese loanwords to guess the origins of. Did you guess what languages (not English!) these words come from?

Koohii コーヒー coffee -  Portuguese

Zero ゼロ zero - French

Pompu ポンプ pump - Dutch; Flemish

Botan ボタン button - Portuguese

Koppu コップ cup - Dutch; Flemish

Sarada サラダ salad - Portuguese

Kokku コック cook - Dutch; Flemish 
There have actually been Dutch and Portuguese loanwords in Japanese since the 16th and 17th centuries, when both countries established trade with Japan.

So, next time you see a katakana word you don't recognise, don't despair - it might not have originated from a language you speak! ;-)

Getting a Sarada at the Resutoran: Japanese Loanwords From Other Languages

You probably know that katakana is used for loan words. But the *interesting* thing is that not all of these loan words come from English.

So if you’ve been wondering what happened to the “t” sound at the end of the Japanese word resutoran レストラン (restaurant), it was never there in the first place - because that loanword didn’t come from English. It came from French.

And why is the word for salad, sarada サラダ? Wouldn’t sarado サラド make more sense? Well, it would in English... but sarada comes from the Portuguese.

It’s good to know which loanwords didn’t come from English - and it's interesting to know what languages they come from - so you can remember how to pronounce them correctly.

Hopefully this will help you remember that it’s resutoran not resutoranto!


Quiz time!

How many of these Japanese loanwords do you know?

Rentogen  レントケン

Piero ピエロ

Arubaito  アルバイト

Piiman  ピーマン

Ruu  ルー

Esute  エステ

Ikura  イクラ

Noruma  ノルマ

Karuta  カルタ

Sukoppu  スコップ

Igirisu  イギリス

⇩ HINT: Japan believes in calling a スコップ a スコップ

The Answers

Rentogen  レントケン  X-ray  (from German)

Piero  ピエロ  clown  (French)

Arubaito  アルバイト  part time job  (German)

Piiman  ピーマン  peppers [the vegetable]  (French)

Run  ルー  roux sauce [or, more commonly, Japanese curry powder]  (French)

Esute   エステ  aesthetic salon i.e. beauty salon  (French)

Ikura  イクラ  salmon roe  (Russian)

Noruma  ノルマ  quota  (Russian)

Karuta  カルタ  Japanese playing cards  (Portuguese)

Sukoppu  スコップ  spade (Dutch; Flemish)

Igirisu  イギリス  the U.K. (Portuguese)

Pan  パン  bread  (Portuguese)
How did you do?

Don’t be fooled

Some loanwords look and sound a bit like English - but they're not!

Can you guess what languages these loanwords come from? (Hint: not English!)

Koohii コーヒー coffee

Zero ゼロ zero

Pompu ポンプ pump

Botan ボタン button

Koppu コップ cup

Sarada サラダ salad

Kokku コック cook
I'll post the answers next week!