Is it Nana or Shichi? A Brief Introduction to Japanese Numbers

Is it Nana or Shichi? A Brief Introduction to Japanese Numbers

Counting 1-10 should be easy, right?

“Ichi, ni, san, yon... (or is it shi?), go, roku, nana (or shichi), hachi, kyuu (but sometimes ku)...”

Oh, yeah...Japanese has multiple words for the same number! Seven can be either "nana" or "shichi", for example.

So how do you know which word to use?

Sometimes, either is fine – like when you count 1-10, for example. But sometimes, only one word will do.

Let's take a look at some of those special cases.

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How to Use Anki to Not Forget Vocabulary

How to Use Anki to Not Forget Vocabulary

Lots of you probably use flashcards already. Why not use really, really clever ones?

Imagine you're studying Japanese vocabulary with a set of flashcards. You go through the cards one by one, putting them into a "pass" pile if you remembered them, and a "fail" pile if you didn't.

When you finish, you work through the "fail" pile again. You get about half of them right.

The next day, you go through all the cards again. It takes ages, and it's boring - you did all these yesterday.

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Plateaus in Language Learning and How to Overcome Them

The first three years I was learning Japanese I basically studied quite hard for tests and barely opened my mouth.

I like kanji, and what I saw as the oddness of the Japanese language. Three "alphabets"! A million different ways of counting things! I liked hiragana - so pretty! I studied hard and thought my university Japanese exams were easy.

Then, on holiday in China, I met a Japanese woman (at a super-interesting Sino-Japanese cultural exchange club, but that's a story for another time). I tried to speak to her in Japanese. And I couldn't.

I told this nice, patient lady that I was studying Japanese and she asked me how long I was staying in China for. I wanted to tell her I was going back to England next Thursday, but instead I said:

先週の水曜日に帰ります。
Senshuu no suiyoubi ni kaerimasu.

- "I'll go back last Wednesday."

OOPS.

I think about this day quite a lot because it shows, I think, that although I'd studied lots of Japanese at that point my communicative skills were pretty bad.

I couldn't quickly recall the word for Wednesday, or the word for last week.

I realised at that point that I hadn't made much real progress in the last two years. The first year I zipped along, memorising kana and walking around my house pointing at things saying "tansu, denki, tsukue". But after that my Japanese had plateaued.


So, I started actively trying to speak - I took small group lessons, engaged in them properly, did the prep work. I wrote down five sentences every day about my day and had my teacher check them. I met up with a Japanese friend regularly and did language exchange - he corrected my grammar and told me when I sounded odd (thanks Ken!)

(Most of this happened in Japan, but like I said, you don't need to live in Japan to learn Japanese.)

And I came out of the plateau. I set myself a concrete goal - to pass the JLPT N3. Then N2. I had some job interviews in Japanese. I wanted to get a job with a Board of Education, and a recruiter told me you needed N1 for that, so I started cramming kanji and obscure words. I was back on the Japanese-learning train.

I didn't pass N1 though.

And I was bored of English teaching and didn't want to wait to pass the test before I got a job using Japanese - that felt a bit like procrastinating - I quit my ALT job and got a job translating wacky entertainment news.

And after six months translating oddball news I passed the test.

↓ Artist's impression of me passing N1

That's partly because exams involve a certain amount of luck and it depends what comes up. But I also believe it's because using language to actively do something - working with the language - is a much, much better way of advancing your skills than just "studying" it.

Thanks to translation work, I was out of the plateau again. Hurrah!

When you're in the middle of something - on the road somewhere - it's hard to see your own development.  Progress doesn't move gradually upwards in a straight line. It comes in fits and starts.

Success doesn't look like this:
 It looks like this!
And if you feel like you're in a slump at the moment, there are two approaches.

One is to trust that - as long as you're working hard at it - if you keep plugging away, you'll suddenly notice you've jumped up a level without even realising. You're working hard? You got this.

The other approach is to change something. Make a concrete goal. Start something new. Find a new friend to talk to or a classmate to message in Japanese. Talk to the man in the noodle shop about Kansai-ben. Write five things you did each day in Japanese. Take the test. Get the job. がんばろう。

"How did you learn Japanese?"


When I tell people I'm a Japanese teacher they quite often ask: how did you learn Japanese? And I don't find this question particularly easy to answer in an honest way.

Sometimes I give a quick answer which is that I used to live there.

But you can live in Japan for years and not learn Japanese.

I've met lots of people like this (and there's nothing wrong with that, unless learning Japanese is the reason you moved to Japan).

The long and more honest answer to "how come you speak Japanese?" is that I studied a bit in university, then studied a LOT in my free time, got slightly obsessed with kanji, spent a lot of time with Japanese-speaking friends, avoided English-only situations and people who wanted to learn English from me for free, took all the JLPTs, went to Japanese language school full-time for a bit, read books and manga and newspapers (even when I couldn't read them yet), and watched a lot of Japanese TV.


You don't need to be in Japan to do any of those things. You can do all these things right here:

- listen to Japanese audio all day
- learn kanji on the bus (with Anki. Use anki. I'm going to write a blogpost about that too soon)
- find friends who speak Japanese
- watch Japanese stuff on netflix (seriously, there's loads)

Being in Japan was great motivation to learn Japanese for me because I hate not understanding things and find it incredibly frustrating. If you're in Japan and you want to know what's in your lunch or what that sign over there says or what the person next to you on the train is saying, you need to understand Japanese. That was a big push for me.


But you definitely don't need to live in Japan to get motivated.

I also started off working in English conversation school which was a good opportunity to listen to the kind of Japanese that five-year-olds speak. And one of the many good things about conversation school is you have the mornings off so I would get up and STUDY. Every day. Forever.

But I also probably have more free time now than I did in Japan.

You don't need to live in Japan to learn Japanese. There are people all over the world who learn languages without living in the country the language comes from. I've met lots of people like this and had the pleasure of teaching some of them.

(The other thing I tell people when they ask how I learned Japanese is that I didn't learn it. I'm still learning.)

Three Awesome Reasons to Take an Evening Language Class


There are pros and cons to all methods of learning a language. And when it comes down to it, many people prefer group classes to exclusive self-study or private lessons. But why?


1) Meet other language learners

Classes give you a teacher, but they provide you with an instant group of other people with the same interest as you. You can speak in your target language together, go out for dinner and order in Japanese, and message each other asking "what was last week's homework again?"

(Just kidding - thanks to the course outline I'll provide you with, you'll always know what this week's homework is.)


In a group class, students can support and help each other. It's obvious to me that my lovely students gain a lot from each others' support!

2) Keep a regular schedule

To gain any skill, you need to practice regularly. The great thing about having class on a regular day is it forces you to practice. Unlike exclusive self-study where you'll always have an excuse to procrastinate, weekly classes require you to be prepared for every class so you can get the most out of it.

Practice makes perfect, after all.

3) It's your class

You might feel like the only way to get a class tailored to your needs is to take private lessons. But a good group class - especially one for a small group of students - should be tailored to the students in it as much as a private lesson would be.

That's why I ask my students to give me regular feedback (informally, and through snazzy questionnaires) about how class is going and where you want it to go next. It's your class, and we'll focus on what you want to focus on.



That doesn't mean I'm going to do the hard work for you. If you want to get good at Japanese, you'll need to find ways of practicing and exposing yourself to the language as much as possible outside of class too. But a group class can provide the basis of your knowledge, a structure to work with, and (I hope) a friendly face to answer your questions.

It also gives you a great excuse to go to that great noodle place again...you are learning Japanese after all.

Enrolment is open for 10-week and 30-week courses in Japanese for Beginners (and Not-So-Beginners), starting September 2016. Click here to find out more!

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!

Source

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
Source

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!