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.
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.
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!
Did you know that Japan has its own numbering system for the years? As well as the Gregorian calendar (the same calendar used in the west, the one that says it's 2019 now), Japan uses another system which names years after the reign of the emperor.
(The western calendar is commonly used too - and the two systems can be used interchangeably.)
Many people believe you need to live abroad to get speaking practice in a foreign language, but this isn’t true.
Similarly, people often assume that if you in Japan, like I did, you’ll pick up the language easily. But that’s not necessarily true either.
If you speak English, it’s possible - indeed easy - to live in another country for years and not become fluent in the language.
I didn't make any year-long New Years’ Resolutions this year. Instead, I decided to set myself some monthly language-related challenges. I’ll decide them as the year goes on, and I’ll probably do one every other month.
In January, I decided to speak Japanese every day for a month.
I’m not a particularly loud person, but some parts of my Japanese classes are quite loud. We sing and dance, talk and play games. We’ve even been asked to keep the noise down before by a group in the next room who were having a meeting (sorry about that!)
But in summer 2018, I ran a very quiet course. Students worked alone, in a comfortable silence.
And I was the teacher, but I mostly sat reading a hand-stapled book, looking up only to check that students were happily entertaining themselves.
This was Tadoku - a reading class with a difference.
Near Kumadani-ji, temple number 8, we had stopped in front of some glorious cherry blossom, and I got chatting to two older gentlemen who were walking the trail. One told me he had never spoken to a gaijin-san, foreigner, before.
(The cynic in me wonders if that’s really true, or if by “foreigner” he meant “white person”…)
We took some pictures in front of the cherry blossom, and walked up the hill together.
Further up the road, a lady came out of her house and gave us some hard-boiled sweets ...