Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Today's Word

Today's word is a song title

我が良き友よ Waga yoki Tomo yo
My good friend (note this is old Japanese)

Today's Word

アメコミ amekomi
American (super hero) comics

The Japanese name for comics 漫画 manga (漫 funny + picture 画) has become an international word, but we still use a foreign word to refer to foreign things.

アメコミ amekomi is short for American Comic アメリカンコミックス(amerikankomikkusu)

Japan is sometimes very conscious of the split between occidental and oriental.

We say 邦画 houga for Japanese and east Asian films, and 洋語 youga for western/European films.

Although many Japanese children grow up with a view of the world that it is made of two countries 日本 Japan and 外国 foreign land(s), we are actually very sensitive about where things come from.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Let's Learn to Pronounce Japanese Sounds

Japanese is very easy to pronounce, much easier than say English. It is based on a very limited collection of immutable syllables which we call 五十音 gozyuuon The Fifty Sounds.
Although there are actually less than fifty base sounds in Japanese, they are arranged into a grid of 5 pure vowels and 10 consonants some of which can be slightly augmented.

The five vowels of Japanese are あいうえお a i u e o, and that is their "alphabetic" order.
あ a sounds likes the a in father
い i sounds like the ee in feet
う u sounds like the oo in zoo
え e sounds like the e in bet
お o sounds like the o in solo

the vowel sounds stay the same no matter which consonant you pronounce them after
か ka さ sa た ta な na は ha ま ma や ya ら ra わ wa

All Japanese sounds are pronounced one syllable, one beat, ending in a vowel
(bonus, this is why Japanese poetry is syllable based 5,7,5 and not stressed or "rhyming")

There is one exception that comes at the end of our syllabary ん nn is pronounced like a mix between English m and n, and never begins a word.

There are some other consonants that might be confusing to foreigners. かきくけこ ka ki ku ke ko is very simple, but
さしすせそ sa si su se so
し si is pronounced like the English word "she" with an sh sound
たちつてと ta ti tu te to
ち ti is pronounced similar to an English "ch" sound rather than "t" = chi
つ tu is pronounced "tsu"

つ is an important letter because if you write it small っ it becomes a symbol meaning "guttural stop." In roman letters this is represented by repeating the consonant it precedes.
Let's practice!
きて kite (ki te = kee tay) means come (please)
きって kitte (ki guttural stop te) means a stamp, or it could mean "please cut"
きいて kiite (ki i te) means listen (please), be sure to pronounce every syllable for one beat

はひふへお ha hi hu he ho
ふ hu sounds similar to an English F, but you don't bite the bottom lip "fu"

There are two other tricks to pronouncing Japanese
゛ dakuten and ゜ handakuten
ゃ ゅ ょ a few more little letters, ya yu and yo

゛ dakuten are too little marks you can put on a letter that mean "pronounce this sound deep in the throat"
it turns
か ka into が ga
さ sa into ざ za
た ta into だ da
は ha into ば ba

Note: the Japanese sound じ zi like the Japanese sound し si sound different to English ears
we already learnt that "si" sounds like "shi"
but "zi" sounds like "ji"

゜handakuten (half deep throat sound mark) only goes on ハ行 hagyou the H row
はひふへほ hahihuheho
ばびぶべぼ babibubebo
ぱぴぷぺぽ papipupepo

And the last thing you have to know is!

You can write や ya ゆ yu よ yo small after a consonant in the い段 i dan I row, and make a new sound
So き ki becomes きゃ kya し si (shi) becomes しゃ sya (sha) and so forth
you can use it if the letter has dakuten or handakuten as well ぴょん pyon

It is important to know that Kya is one syllable, not Ki A. Wikipedia

はつおんの れんしゅうを がんばって ください
hatuonno rensyuuwo ganbatte kudasai
Please work hard your pronunciation practice!

Today's Word

有袋類 Yuutairui

有袋類(ゆうたいるい、Marsupialia)は哺乳綱獣亜綱後獣下綱の1グループ。 (wiki)

Marsupials are a subclass of mammals.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Today's Word

七面鳥 Sitimentyou

A gorgeous whole roast turkey beaming from the Christmas table

Today's Word

税 Zei

Citizens are obligated to pay tax as the law dictates. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Today's Word

Let's learn some names for Japan

日本 Nihon/Nippon
This is the normal name for Japan

日出処 Hiiduru tokoro
Land of the rising sun (old, poetic)

御國 Mikuni
This is an old honourific name for "the country". It uses pre-war letters and feels very nationalistic.

The field rich with reeds. This is a poetic name for Japan, it implies great beauty.

侍の国 Samuraino Kuni
Land of Warriors(samurai) ... it is popular to think of Japan as a land of Samurai, like it is popular to think of England as a land of gentlemen or knights

神の国 Kami no kuni
God's country ... this is an old religious and nationalistic name for Japan, based on our local religion 神道 shintoh

日本国 Nipponkoku
This is an official nation name

日の本 Hi no moto
This is the Japanese rather than Chinese reading of Nippon, it means root of the sun

大和 Yamato
Yamato means the foot of the mountains, it originally referred to what is now Nara Prefecture where the ruling dynesty resided and was used to refer to Japan as a whole before there was a proper name for Japan.
It is still used in words like 大和魂 Yamatodamasii meaning the Japanese spirit.

倭国 Wakoku
This is the ancient Chinese name for what is now Japan

Today's Word

日系人 Nikkeizin
The descendant of Japanese parents

This word generally means a Japanese born outside of Japan

ハーフ Haahu
A half Japanese child

Note: do not use the word 混血 konketu mixed blood

純血日本男子 Pure Japanese Youth (boy) ... definitely avoid this word

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Today's Word

強姦 Goukan

note: 強姦 is used to name a crime, it is a noun. In slang we can say レイプ reipu, and the verb "to rape" is 犯す okasu.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Today's Word

怪談 Kaidan
Tale of Horror

怪談(かいだん)とは、怖さや怪しさを感じさせる物語の総称。日本古来のものを限定して呼ぶ場合もある From
Tales of Horror is the collective name given to stories intended to inspire fright or suspicion. It can be used specifically to refer to horror stories of Japanese origin as well. 

Today's Word

高所恐怖症 Kousyokyouhusyou


Experimentation reveals a medicine effective against acrophobia

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Today's Word

キリン Kirin

A giraffe is a mammal with a long neck

Today's Word

パン Pan 

Bread is best when it is freshly baked

Tomorrow: another new word