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Sep. 14th, 2010


Wow, it's been a long time since I've posted here. It seems like I've been caught up in so many things, I've been letting my Japanese studies slide.

I'm currently reading the デス・ノート (Death Note) manga series, which I'm really enjoying. I'm somewhere in the middle of the second volume now. I think reading manga is one of the best ways to practice reading Japanese, because it's pretty much just dialogue. Reading short stories and novels is a lot harder because there's so much exposition involved in setting the scene, telling who the characters are and what they're doing. There's a lot more to it, especially when there's no furigana to help clear the way. I've gotten through several chapters of a young adult novel titled 時をかける少女 (Toki o Kakeru Shoujo) and am really enjoying it, but it makes my brain hurt. It's far too much work to read casually, so I'm switching over to manga for now until I build up a bit more of a working vocabulary.

For now I thought I'd try my hand at practicing a bit of composition to practice it the other way around. I'm finding it a lot easier now to read Japanese than to write it, as if all of the practice I've been doing has strengthened the Japanese => English part of my brain and weakened the English => Japanese part. A little push every now and then to go in the opposite direction can't hurt, can it?

So here we go. Feel free to correct me if I've made any mistakes:










Konban wa. Nihongo no gakusei desu. Mainichi gogo shichi-ji kara ku-ju made nihongo o renshuu shimasu. Ima "Desu Nooto" o yomimasu. Daisuki desu yo. Nihongo no ongaku mo kikimasu.

Doubutsu ga suki desu. Neko to inu ga ichiban suki desu. Watashi no neko no namae wa Kage desu. Inu no namae wa Samu desu. Sennen, ferutto mo imasu. Namae wa Beera to Aabi deshita.

Konshuu no shuumatsu, okaasan to kaimono o shimasu. Mochiron, "Desu Nooto" o yomimasu. Doyoubi wa ichinichijuu nemasu yo.


Good evening. I am a student of Japanese. Every day I practice Japanese from 7 till 9 in the evening. Right now I'm reading "Death Note". I really love it. I also listen to Japanese music.

I like animals. Cats and dogs are my favorite. My cat's name is Shadow. My dog's name is Sam. Last year, I had ferrets as well. Their names were Bella and Abby.

This weekend, I'm going shopping with my mom. Of course, I'll read some more "Death Note", too. On Saturday I'll sleep all day!

(Okay, so it's really lame. But it's the best I have the brainpower for this evening....)

Jul. 1st, 2009

Japanese Dictionary Rec

I recently purchased a new Japanese-English dictionary that has been such an incredible help to me, I thought I would rec it here. It's called 漢字そのまま楽引辞典 (Kanji Sonomama Rakubiki Jiten), and it runs on my Nintendo DS. While it's a Japanese game cartridge, it's completely compatible with the U.S. version of the DS.

What makes it so awesome is that it uses the DS's touch screen. All I have to do when I come across an unfamiliar kanji is draw it on the screen with the stylus in order to look it up. No counting strokes, no looking up radicals. The dictionary then gives me the hiragana pronunciation, the definition in English, and several example sentences. Plus I can look up words by either kanji or hiragana -- for example, I can write 外人 or がいじん in order to look up the word "foreigner". So it's great when all I know is the pronunciation of a word but I'm not too sure about the kanji.

Another huge plus is that it includes look-ups for katakana words. That's been a big help to me, because while I've got all of the katakana characters memorized I often have difficulty deciphering which English word they're trying to represent. Not sure what ライオン means? Draw it on the touch screen and the Rakubiki Jiten will tell you!

It's also really forgiving of bad handwriting, which is a must because writing with the stylus isn't as easy as writing with a pencil and paper. The dictionary will make a guess as to which kanji it thinks I'm referring to, but will also provide several alternate suggestions that are close, just in case I didn't get it quite right.

The cartridge has several other features including a calendar, calculator, world clock, both Japanese-English and English-Japanese dictionaries, a search history, a bookmarking feature, and (if you're REALLY good at Japanese) a quiz mode. It's selling on for around $60 right now, which compared to other Japanese-English dictionaries doesn't seem too pricey to me (especially when you take into account the touch screen technology it uses, which is incredibly convenient and fast). It makes reading Japanese so much easier and more fun because looking up an unfamiliar word takes seconds now instead of several minutes, which means I don't lose the flow of the story every time I have to stop and look up a word. If you have a Nintendo DS (or are thinking about getting one), then I highly recommend giving it a try!

Here's the link on amazon if anyone's interested: Click here

Jan. 2nd, 2009

Grammar Notes

Just some miscellaneous tidbits from the grammar notes I have lying around....

んです - explaining things )

でしょう - probably )

く / に なる - become )

ましょう - let's )

ましょう か - shall we )

なくちゃいけない - must do )

ないでください - please do not )

ませんか - won't you )

から - because )

てから - after )

まえに - before )

ほうがいい - it is better to do )

まだ〜ていません - have not yet )

のがすきです - like to do )

のがへたです - be poor at )

のがじょうずです - be good at )

ている - an action in progress )

たいです - want to )

すぎる - doing too much )

たり・・・たりする - do such things as )

たことがある - has the experience of )

つもりです - intend to )

てもいいです - to give permission )

てはいけません - to deny permission )


Aug. 3rd, 2008

Book Recs

Here is a list of some books I've been reading lately that have been a huge help in my struggle to learn Japanese:

Making Sense of Japanese: What the Textbooks Don't Tell You, by Jay Rubin
This one is really great, especially the first couple of chapters ("The Myth of the Subjectless Sentence" and "Wa and Ga"). The wa vs. ga discussion was particularly enlightening and cleared up most of the confusion I had about these two particles. I really like this writer's style, his humor, and the way he makes the more confusing (to me, anyway) grammatical issues of Japanese seem almost ridiculously easy to grasp. Here's a quote as an example of the book's general feel: "As usual, official policies of the United States toward Japan are totally misdirected. Instead of pressuring the Japanese into lowering trade barriers or taking a greater share of the responsibility for their own defense, we should be urging them to bring their verbs from the ends of their sentences into second place, right after their subjects, where they belong. Unless we accomplish this, the rest of our foreign policy is so much tofu." Not an easy read by any means, but definitely a fun one. ^_^

Reading Japanese With a Smile, by Tom Galy
Another wonderful read. This one is a collection of nine stories from a Japanese weekly magazine, designed to help develop skill in reading Japanese. Each story is slightly humorous, which makes it more interesting than reading dry excerpts from textbooks. The stories each come with an English translation as well as a sentence-by-sentence breakdown that provides readings for every kanji along with grammatical notes. This has been the most exciting thing for me, because I'm actually reading Japanese now, and not just scattered words and sentences designed to instruct. It's a tremendous feeling of accomplishment to get to the end of a story and realize that I understood the entire thing. :)

Kanji in Mangaland, by Marc Bernabe et al
This is a wonderful study guide IMO. I'm still on Volume 1 because I haven't been studying near as much as I should lately, but it's an incredibly useful tool for self-study. I learn very well in a classroom environment, and the way these books are arranged into lessons works very well for me. Each lesson starts with a number of new kanji with associated vocabulary, then follows up with a one-page comic in Japanese using the newly learned words. At the end of the lesson is a short quiz that stresses not only kanji recognition but pronunciation. I'm using both the textbook and the workbook, which offers a full-length comic broken into blocks for each 5 lessons with various quizzes and exercises attached. One of the things I like best about this series is that it assumes the reader already knows hiragana and doesn't try spoon-feeding the romaji to us. So it's wonderful practice for reading hiragana as well as learning new kanji.


Jan. 24th, 2008

Quantity Expressions

Quantity expressions are used as adverb phrases. The word order is generally: noun particle quantity verb. When they are used to modify adjectives, they come just before the adjective. For example, "very hot" is "totemo atsui (とても暑い)".

Here are some quantity expressions that are frequently used:


many, much




considerably, rather


a little, a few


a little
(Less formal than "sukoshi")

Examples )

Here are some quantity expressions used only in negative sentences:


(not) very, (not) much


(not) at all

Examples )


Jan. 1st, 2008

Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu!

This year I included "nengajo" inside the Christmas cards I sent out. Nengajo are Japanese New Years cards, which I decided to make for everyone because I thought it would be good handwriting practice. ^_^ Here are scans of some of the ones I wrote:

Nengajo 1 )

Nengajo 2 )

元旦 (gantan) means the morning of January 1st, therefore it is not necessary to write "ichi-gatsu gantan". For the year, the Japanese era name is often used. The year 2008 is "Heisei nijuu-nen", the 20th year of the era Heisei. Although nengajo are often written vertically, it is acceptable to write them horizontally.


Nov. 10th, 2007

Expressing Desire

There are two ways to express a desire or wish. When what one desires takes a noun (I want a car, I want money, etc.) "hoshii (to want)" is used. When what one wants involves action (I want to go, I want to eat, etc.), the stem of the verb "~ tai (~たい)" is used.

Examples )

In informal situations, "~ desu(~です)" can be omitted.

Examples )

When describing a third person's desire, "hoshigatte imasu (欲しがっています)" or the stem of the verb "~ tagatte imasu (~たがっています)" are used.

Examples )

Note that the object of "hoshii (ほしい)" is marked with the particle "ga (が)," while the object of "hoshigatte imasu(欲しがっています)" is marked with the particle "o (を)." The "~ tai(~たい)" expression is not normally used when asking about the desire of one's superior.

Expressing Ability

Ability and potential can be expressed by two different ways.

(1) Attaching the phrase "~ koto ga dekiru (~ことができる)" after the basic form of the verb. Literally "koto (こと)" means "thing," and "dekiru (できる)" means "can do." The formal form of "~ koto ga dekiru (~ことができる)" is "~ koto ga dekimasu (~ことができます)," and past tense is "~ koto ga dekita (~ koto ga dekimashita)."

Examples )

"~ dekiru (~できる)" can be directly attached to a noun, if a verb is closely associated with its direct object.

Examples )

(2) By potential form of the verb. Potential verb forms are formed as shown below.

 Basic formPotential form
replace the final "~u"
with "~eru".
iku (to go)
kaku (to write)
replace the final "~ ru"
with "~ rareru".
miru (to see)
taberu (to eat)
Irregular verbskuru (to come)
suru (to do)

In informal conversation, "~ra (~ら)" is often dropped from potential form of RU-verbs. For example, "mireru (見れる)" and "tabereru (食べれる)" instead of "mirareru (見られる)" and "taberareru (食べられる)."

The potential form of the verb can be replaced with the form using "~ koto ga dekiru (~ことができる)." It is more colloquial and less formal to use the potential form of the verb.

Examples )

Expressing Uncertainty

There are several ways to express uncertainty. "~ darou" is a plain form of "~ deshou," and means "will probably." The adverb "tabun (perhaps)" is sometimes added.

Examples )

"~ darou" or "~deshou" is also used to form a tag question. In this case you usually can tell the meaning from the context.

Examples )

"~ darou ka" or "~ deshou ka" is used when guessing with doubt. "~ kashira" is used only by females. A similar expression used by both genders is "~ kana," though it is informal. These expressions are close to "I wonder ~" in English.

Examples )

"~ kamoshirenai" is used to express a sense of probability or doubt. It shows even more uncertainty than "~ darou" or "~ deshou". It is used when you don't know all the facts and are often just guessing. It is similar to the English expression "might be." The formal version of "~ kamoshirenai" is "kamoshiremasen".

Examples )

The last thing to mention is, "~ darou" or "~ deshou" can't be used when referring to one's own actions, though "~ kamoshirenai" can be used in these situations.

Examples )

Expressing One's Thoughts

When expressing one's thoughts, feelings, opinions, ideas and guesses, "~ to omou (I think that ~)" is frequently used. The particle "to" indicates that the preceding sentence or words are a quotation. Since "~ to omou" always refers to the speaker's thoughts, "watashi wa" is normally omitted.

Examples )

If the content of the quoted clause expresses one's intention or speculation about a future event or state, a volitional form of a verb is used preceding "~ to omou." To express a thought other than one's volition or opinion toward the future, a plain form of a verb or adjective is used preceding "~ to omou" as shown in the examples above.

Examples )

To express a thought or idea you have at the time of your statement, "~ to omotte iru (I am thinking that ~)" is used rather than "~ to omou."

Examples )

When the subject is a third person, "~ to omotte iru" is used exclusively.

Example )

Unlike English, the negation "I don't think" is normally placed within the quoted clause. It is possible to negate "~ to omou" such as "~ to omowanai," however, it expresses stronger doubt, and is close to the English "I doubt that ~."

Examples )

Nov. 9th, 2007


Modifying Nouns )

I-Adjectives as Predicates )

Na-Adjectives as Predicates )

Expressing Emotion

Pleasure and Sadness )

Interjections and Exclamations )

Oct. 27th, 2007

Kanji Look-a-likes

Just some lookalike kanji I need to watch out for....

MOKU, BOKU, ki tree
book, unit for counting cylindrical objects
source, origin

direction, side
side, way of
ten thousand
many, all

RYOKU, RIKI, chikara strength
TOU, katana sword, knife

DO, TO, tsuchi earth, ground
SHI man, samurai, retainer

DAI, TAI, oo(kii), oo(kina)
oo(i ni)
FU, FUU, otto husband
TEN, ame heavens, sky

day, sun
suffix for counting days
ordinal suf.
HAKU, BYAKU, shiro, shiro(i) white
JI, SHI, mizuka(ra) oneself, in person

KEN, mi(ru)
kai (sea) shell

SHU, te hand
NEN, toshi year
SEN, chi thousand

JIN, NIN, hito person
NYUU, hai(ru)
put/let in

SHU, SU, nushi
shu (to shite)
master, owner
ha(yasu/eru), o(u)
give birth to
be born
be alive
pure, undiluted

SHO, ka(ku) write
JI, koto matter, thing

Oct. 26th, 2007

Kanji Compound Examples 6

母子 boshi mother & child, principal & interest
お母さん okaasan (hon.) mother
父母 fubo, chichi-haha father & mother
お父さん otousan (hon.) father
学校 gakkou school
小学校 shougakkou primary school
毎日 mainichi every day
毎月 maigetsu/maitsuki every month
古代 kodai ancient times
古本 furuhon secondhand book
古今東西 kozon touzai all ages & places
今日 kyou, konnichi today
思いの外 omoi no hoka unexpectedly
思い出す omoi-dasu recall
本当 hontou truth
日当りで hiatari de in the sun(shine)

Kanji Vocab 9

BO, haha mother
FU, chichi father
KOU school, classroom
MAI every
KO, furu(i) old
KON, KIN, ima now
SHI, omo(u) think, feel
TOU, a(teru)
apply, guess
hit the mark

Kanji Compound Examples 5

文化史 bunkashi cultural history
文学史 bungakushi history of literature
百年先の事 hyakunen-saki no koto something 100 years ahead
三百分の九 sanbyakuhun no kyuu 9/300
竹千三百本 take sensanbyakuhon 1,300 pieces of bamboo
千切る chigiru cut up finely
万年筆 mannenhitsu fountain pen
万物 banbutsu all things/creation
代代 daidai/yoyo for generations, heriditary
代る代る kawarugawaru alternately
交代で koutai de by turns, alternately
外交 gaikou diplomacy
左方 sahou the left
左手 hidarite left hand, the left
左右 sayuu
sayuu suru
left & right
control, dominate
右手 migite right hand, the right

Kanji Vocab 8

SHI history, annals
HYAKU hundred
SEN, chi thousand
ten thousand
many, all
TAI, ka(waru/wari)
generation, price
take the place (of)
generation, age
price, substitute
KOU, ma(jiru)
become mixed (in among)
associate (with)
engage (talk, etc.)
SA, hidari left
YUU, U, migi right

Oct. 23rd, 2007

Pop Quiz #7: Putting It All Together

Putting together some of the kanji and vocabulary I've learned so far with particles and other grammatical tidbits....

Instructions: Translate each of the following sentences from kanji into romaji/English. Highlight the white box to check your answers.

Pop Quiz #7: Putting It All Together )

Oct. 20th, 2007

Kanji Compound Examples 4

年中行事 nenjuu gyouji ceremonies throughout the year, annual events
出来事 dekigoto event, happening
見物 kenbutsu sight-seeing
買物 kaimono shopping
仕事 shigoto work
仕上げる shi-ageru finish
化学 kagaku chemistry
文化 bunka culture
工夫 koufu
device, scheme
天火 tenpi
fire caused by lightning
天文学 tenmongaku astronomy
白人 hakujin white man
白木 shiraki white/plain wood
中心 chuushin center
心が大きい kokoro ga ookii big-hearted

Kanji Vocab 7

JI, koto matter, thing
BUTSU, MOTSU, mono thing, object
SHI, tsuka(eru) serve
KA, KE, ba(keru)
change one's form
KOU, KU construction
TEN, ame heavens, sky
HAKU, BYAKU, shiro, shiro(i) white
SHIN, kokoro heart, spirit

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