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!

I Bought All The Kanji Textbooks So You Don't Have To

I started out thinking that beginner classes would be a kanji-free zone.

I thought we'd be totally focussed on speaking as much as possible, and reading and writing would be a homework-only activity for my students.

But, two things happened:
1) Students sometimes need help in class with reading and writing; and
2) It turns out lots of students are really interested in the Japanese writing system.
Which makes sense to me, as the writing system is kind of what got me interested in Japanese in the first place, too!

Anyway, I have a lot of kanji books. And today, I'd like to share some of them with you!

So here are my TOP FIVE KANJI BOOKS, for beginners up to advanced.

1) Kanji Pict-o-Graphix

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You've probably already heard me say a hundred times that mnemonics are the best way to learn hiragana and katakana.

(If you haven' should go check out my instagram).

And for a lot of people, mnemonic devices can be a great start to learn kanji, too.

Kanji Pict-o-Graphix gives you visual hints for remembering common kanji characters.

The book is arranged thematically, so you have a whole page of kanji with one component (like this page of characters containing the kanji for "sun" 日:


2) Kanji Look and Learn

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Like Pict-o-GraphixKanji Look and Learn combines visual mnemonics with stories. But whereas Kanji Pict-o-Graphix is more of a fun coffee-table book, this is more of a serious study tool.

As well as stories to help you recognise the shape of kanji characters, you'll also find readings and example vocabulary.

If you've ever used the Genki textbooks, you'll notice that the layout of this is similar to the kanji sections at the back of those books - that's because this is an extension to the series called 'Genki Plus'.

There's a Kanji Look and Learn Workbook, too, if you're feeling super keen :)

3) Basic Kanji Book

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No bells and whistles here - the Basic Kanji Book is a comprehensive guide to 500 kanji, arranged by theme. There's plenty of reading practice and quizzes throughout.

It's not going to hold your hand for you and you'll need a dictionary (or a good teacher), but if you're serious about getting out of the beginner stages, this is the book for you.

4) Remembering the Kanji

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People who've tried the system suggested by James W. Heisig in his Remembering the Kanji series fall into two camps: they either love it, or they think it's totally stupid.

You won't find a single drawing or pictographic in Heisig's book. Instead he requires the reader to use their imaginative memory to memorise each character. And - here's the controversial bit - he argues that before learning any kanji readings, you should first learn their meanings using an English keyword.

It's not for everyone...but if you think it might be for you, read the first chapter (and its illuminating introduction) for free here.

5) Kanji in Context

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When I was studying for the JLPT N1, I came up with a picture in my mind of the kanji practice book I wanted.

I wanted to be given (in hiragana) a vocabulary word I should know, and be tested on my ability to write the kanji from memory.

A couple of years later, I discovered that the book of my dreams already existed. It's called Kanji in Context, and instead of teaching you kanji in isolation, it presents them in example sentences and phrases - in (you guessed it) context.

So there you have it - my top five kanji books from beginner to advanced! I'd love to know what you think - how do you like to study kanji? And what did I miss?

P.S. if you'd like to learn kanji with me, check out my new Japanese language courses here!