One year on…

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Which nihongo do you speak?


To learn Japanese, as with anything, you’ve got to start somewhere. That means accepting to speak like a child for a while. Did you know there was a phrase for that in Japanese? 片言日本語 – katakoto nihongo. Yes, as if it were a different language altogether or a dialect From 片 – hen, kata – one-sided, half, fragment and 言 – iu, koto, gen – speech, to speak, Katakoto Japanese is Japanese spoken in single words or phrases without really making full sentences: “Water, please!” “I school!” But maybe you are past that stage and can speak Japanese fairly well but Oh Dear!… your accent! You might as well speak in English. Also, without fully realizing it, you tend to privilege words borrowed from English.[...] Read more »

by , 23 March 2012

Category: Words and Phrases | Tags: speech | Comments (0)

Takai, kou – high, tall, expensive


Reading: takai (alone), kou (combined) Meaning: high, tall, expensive Category: compound ideogram Examples: 高い – たかい – takai – high, tall, expensive 高温 – こうおん – kouon - high temperature Origin: see picture below. This character started as the drawing of a tall building.

by , 21 March 2012

Old ladies, you’re the best!

Japanese old lady

Old ladies from around the world, I love you! Or at least, I love the way you communicate. Osaka Obaachans (word meaning both ‘old lady’ and ‘grandma’) are usually super dynamic little things travelling by bike and meeting in packs in small cafes where they spend their time laughing out loud (except when they are just out of their kimono club and act very elegantly). They are also the only people who are coming to me with requests such as ‘Where’s the nearest post office?’, ‘Sorry but, can you teach me how to use this machine?’, apparently completely oblivious of the fact that I am a gaijin. They don’t make any assumption about my level of Japanese or my knowledge of the place. They simply come up,[...] Read more »

by , 16 March 2012

Manabu, gaku – learning, education, school


Reading: manabu (alone), gaku (combined) Meaning: to learn, education, school Category: pictogram Examples: 学ぶ – まなぶ – manabu – to study, to learn 大学 – だいがく – daigaku – university 学校 – がっこう – gakkou – school Origin: see picture below. This character has been simplified relatively recently from the more traditional form 學 . In the traditional form, the top part represents two hands (on the sides) writing characters (centre crosses), and thus teaching to a child who is in a classroom.

by , 15 March 2012

I am well known in Yodoyabashi station

IC OCA card

I was going to Yodoyabashi to have a chat about the possibility of Japanese lessons with people at the YMCA (apparently a preceding never ending series of emails was not enough). I am using an IC OCA card to pay for transports. An IC OCA card is simply a pre-paid card – it’s not lowering the price of travel, it’s just convenient not to have to buy a ticket every time you take the underground. It’s so convenient that I tend to forget to re-charge it. That’s not supposed to be a problem. When you arrive at your destination and do not have enough credit left, you can top up using a machine located somewhere near the gates. On that particular day, I was 100Y[...] Read more »

by , 14 March 2012