People LOVE to say that Japanese is difficult. Like all languages it has its challenges - but it also has some key things that make it easy peasy…Read More
A blog about learning and teaching Japanese, walking Japan, and sometimes about kit-kats.
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It’s both. And it’s neither.
Beginner students often ask whether “shinbun” or “shimbun” (the word for “newspaper” in Japanese) is correct.
You’ll see both spellings...and books about the Japanese language don’t seem to be able to agree either.
If you look at the two most popular Japanese beginner textbooks, Genki has “shinbun”, whereas Japanese for Busy People has “shimbun” and also “kombanwa”.
But why?Read More
Mitsuru Nagata was born in Kyoto, and works extensively in Spain. His work combines elements of calligraphy with sumi-e (Japanese ink painting) techniques.
These large-scale performances are often at festivals:
I love the simplicity of Nagata's work, like this stunning commission, with the traditional thatched roof home in the background:
おかえりなさい (o kaeri nasai) "Welcome home"(Calligraphy is a good opportunity to get your eyes used to vertical writing, too!)
If hiragana's not your thing, there's plenty of complex kanji to get your teeth into too.
Like this new year's post, with a pug for the year of the dog (2018):
謹賀新年 (kinga shinnen) "Happy New Year"
I love the movement in these videos, and the combination of precision brushwork and watery ink.
This one's a promo for one of Nagata's live performances in Spain - a beckoning cat saying おいでね！ (oide ne!) "Please come!"
Follow Mitsuru Nagata (@nagatayakyoto) on Instagram, or find out more on his website.
Read more in this series: Calligraphers of Instagram (Part 1) - @yogai888emi
I can't believe I wrote an entire blog post about calligrapher @yogai888emi and forgot to include this amazing pun.
tai ryouri ga tabe-tai
"I want to eat Thai food."
What's the Japanese word for "Thai?" it's タイ tai.
And how do you say "want to eat" in Japanese? You stick -tai on the end of the verb.
It's funny, right?
Cute, too ♡
I first discovered @yogai888emi via this adorable story about falling asleep on the train.
すぐに舌打ちしたり、暴言吐いたり、睨み付けたり、、、 そういう人をたくさん見かけるけれど、 私のマナーの悪さを、こんな風に優しく許してくれた方がいたことを、いつまでも忘れないと思います。 . 受験生の方々、これからが大詰めですね。 この方のように優しく、みんなで応援できたら、と思います。 . . . #書道#習字#美文字#ボールペン#電車#ブログ#センター試験#大学#学生#参考書 #マナー#手書き#手書きツイート#言葉#名言#受験生#応援#和風#日本文化#山手線#テスト#勉強#読書#文房具 #calligraphy#japanesecalligraphy#shodo#traditional#서예#書法
Can you read this one?
If kanji's not your thing, you can find beautiful hiragana and katakana on her page too.
There are videos, too, if you like watching calligraphy. I do - I find it strangely relaxing.
You can find heaps more of her work at @yogai888emi's instagram page. I hope you enjoy exploring it as much as I do.
Just looking at calligraphy won't make your handwriting more beautiful though - unfortunately!
"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!
This week I finally got around to going through the mid-course feedback from my students and drawing up plans to incorporate some of what you asked for into the rest of the course.
Several learners mentioned the importance of learning the kana early on.
Learning to read Japanese can be a daunting task. The Japanese language has three distinct "alphabets" (four if you count romaji!) and learning kanji is a task that takes years.
You can learn the kana (hiragana and katakana) pretty quickly, though, if you use the most efficient way to memorise them - mnemonics.
It's a bit like brute force memorisation, except it's fun...
Hiragana and Katakana are the "building blocks" of the Japanese written language. Students in my beginner class mostly start with the romaji edition of 'Japanese For Busy People', because my priority is to get you speaking from day one, and to spend class time on speaking as much as possible. Reading and writing is mostly set as homework.
But if you want to learn to read Japanese, you definitely need to start by learning hiragana.
But how to remember them?
Hiragana and katakana are pretty simple, so associating each character with a picture is super easy.
Here's hiragana き (ki), which we can imagine is a picture of a KEY. My key is an old-fashioned one. Yours might be modern and spiky. Or it might have wings on it and be flying about getting chased by Harry Potter on a broomstick.
The point is to think of a strong visual image that makes the picture of the key stick in your mind:
Memorisation doesn't help you remember. What helps you remember is active recall.
Let me give you an example.
You're reading a sentence and come across the word きのこ. You're staring at the letter き - "which one was that again?" and struggle a little bit to remember it.
Then you remember - aha! it's the KEY! This is ki.
This process of active recall - pushing a little bit to remember something - is the process that cements the mnemonic in your mind.
Hurrah! You're on the path to reading Japanese.
For me, one of the great thing about using mnemonics to remember the kana is that when I explain the system to learners, they often tell me that's what they're doing anyway, even if they don't have a name for what they're doing:
"Oh yes, that's how I remember む too - it's a funny cow's face! MOO"I've also found - luckily for me - it doesn't matter seem to matter if the actual picture is rubbish. (You don't even have to draw them, I just did this to help my students out and to share the idea).
"No, む is a man saying MO-ve!"
What's important is that the picture in your head is super clear.
...and once you finish hiragana, you can do the whole thing again for katakana!
You can find the whole set of hiragana and katakana mnemonics with the hashtag #stepupkana - please check it out and let me know what you think.
I'd love to hear what mnemonics you use to help remember the kana - let me know in the comments or add your story to the instagram posts for that character.
Have a lovely Friday everyone. 素敵な一日を過ごしてください！