Friday, February 25, 2011

Lesson 6

Hello again, and sorry for not posting anything the last few days, but my schedule was hectic. Hope you've been practicing in the meantime, and you're ready learn more. Today's lesson is going to be pretty easy again(compared to the writing systems, what isn't? - then again, just wait 'till the kanji). Anyway, today the spotlight falls on the possession indicator - "no"(not the Enligsh nou-, this is pronounced as the No in November).

Watashi no hon desu.
It's my book. (hon - book)

When you put no after I, you, he, she, etc. , as in watashi no, you get my/mine, your/yours, his, etc. Since "It's my book." sound weird, I'm going to give you the word for this as well.

Kore wa watashi no hon desu.
This is my book. (kore-this).

Now it sounds better. When you put This in the sentence it becomes its topic(you're talking about this, and not something else), and as such is is followed by a topic marker, wa.

No can be put not only after pronouns, but after inanimate obects as well:

Nihon-Ginkou no Tanaka desu.
I am Tanaka from the Bank of Japan.(Nihon-Japan; ginkou - bank)

Here the no shows that Tanaka "belongs" to the Bank of Japan, as an employee, which is English is translated as "from the Bank of Japan", instead of "the Bank of Japan's".

That pretty much sums up the use of  the possession indicator "no".

New vocabulary in today's lesson:
no - possesion indicator
hon - book
kore - this
Nihon - Japan
ginkou - bank

Monday, February 21, 2011

Lesson 5

Today's lesson is going to be pretty easy - how to ask yes/no questions in Japanese.

Let's take a sentence from the previous lesson:

Sumisu-san wa bengoshi desu.
Mr. Smith is an attorney.

Now how do we turn this sentence into a question? Pretty simple - just add "ka" .

Sumisu-san wa bengoshi desu ka?

Is Mr. Smith is an attorney?

To answer a yes/no question in Japanese, use hai (yes), or iie (no).

Sumisu-san wa bengoshi desu ka?
Hai, bengoshi desu.
Is Mr. Smith is an attorney?
Yes, he is.

Sumisu-san wa bengoshi desu ka?
Iie, bengoshi dewa arimasen.
Is Mr. Smith is an attorney?
No, he isn't.

In the second answer we see a new word - "dewa arimasen". This is the negative form of desu, meaning "is not".

That's all there is to asking a yes/no question in Japanese - as you can see not everything in this language is hard.

Even though there were no kana in the last couple of lessons, don't forget to practice them. In a few lessons, there will be a test ;)

New vocabulary in today's lesson:
hai - yes
iie - no
dewa arimasen - is not

Friday, February 18, 2011

Lesson 4

Here comes Lesson 4! As I promised, no kana in this one. Today we start with the grammar - compared to the writing systems, the basics of grammar might seem easy to you. Hopefully they will.

The structure of a basic Japanese senteces is:

X wa Y desu.

X is the subject - a noun.

wa in Japanese is called a topic marker  it is always put after the topic (subject) of the sentece to identify it. I've no idea what the Japanese were thinking when they decided this, but even though it is pronounced "wa", and written that way in Romaji, in kana it is awlays written as "ha" instead.

Y is either another noun, or an adjective.

desu is the Japanese verb for "to be". Unlike in English, though, it doesn't have different forms corresponding to "am", "are" or "is", it is always the same - desu. (Finally something in Japanese that is easier than in English, right?) The verb is read "des" - without the final "u". The "u" in the end is only pronounced by either women trying to sound cute, or little girls - either way unless you want to talk like a little girl, refrain from pronouncing it.

Examples of a sentence using the following pattern are:

Sumisu-san wa bengoshi desu.
Mr. Smith is an attorney.

Watashi wa Burandon desu.
I am Brandon.

Now you know how to introduce yourselves in Japanese - just put your name instead of Brandon, of course. Watashi is just one of the words in Japanese language meaning "I" - relatively neutral, so it is widely used. As a rule, however, Japanese people often omit words such as I, you, etc., so in an everyday conversation this sentence will more likely be just: Burandon desu. Which is just a name and the verb "to be", and if somebody asked you about someone else it would mean: "HE is Brandon" - so the meaning of things in Japanese pretty much depends on the context.

As this is the first Lesson in grammar, I think I will stop here and let things sink in.

Vocabulary in today's lesson:
desu - to be 
watashi - I
bengoshi - attorney

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lesson 3 appendix

After a one day brake here comes the lesson 3 appendix, the lesson which will finish all of Hiragana and Katakana once and for all. And it's not gonna be all that hard either - you already know most of it. There are just a couple of points I'd like to make in order to finish with everything, and all of them are really simple.

1. Double consonants

Some words in Japanese, such as kekkon (marriage), have a double consonant in one or more places. In order to double a consonant in kana, all you have to do is add a little tsu (Hiragana - , Katakana - ) in place of the first consonant. So kekkon in Hiragana will be written like this - けっこん. The height of the little tsu is about half of that of the normal one.

2. Long Vowels

Long vowels in Japanese are about 1.5 times longer than that of normal ones.

Getting long vowels in Hiragana is simple - just put the same vowel one more time after a syllable ending with that vowel, or the vowel itself - ああ (aa), さあ (saa), いい (ii), うう (uu), etc. However,  (e) and (o) could be doubled by either using the same vowel, or by using  (i) or う (u). So both ええ(ee) and えい (ei) are read  "ee", and both おお (oo) and おう (ou) are read as "oo".

Getting long vowels in Katakana, however, is ..... even simpler. No need to remember anything here, all you have to do is add a line after the vowel to make it long.: アー (aa), イー (ii), ウー (uu), エー (ee), オー (oo).

3. Punctuation

Just a little remark about Japanese punctuation. The Japanese full stop is written as a little empty circle instread of a dot. It looks like that - "". Also, all the sentences in Japanese end with full stop, even the questions - there is no question mark in Japanese. Lastly, the comma in Japanese is inverted for some silly reason - instead of  written from right to left like in English and pretty much every other language ( , )  it is written from left to right ( ).

Congratulations! Now you know everything you need to know to start writing in Hiragana and Katakana. From the next lesson on, we'll be studying grammar!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Lesson 3

Ah, it's this time of the day again. Here it comes - Lesson 3. Now we're sure to move on to vocabulary and grammar, right? Right? .... Nope. Guess what, today's lesson is STILL about Hiragana and Katakana! We're progressing like crazy, aren't we ;)  On a serious note though, this will be the last lesson on that topic and next tiem there really will be some grammar and vocabulary so we can finally start saying things in Japanese. On to the kana for now though.

Last time we learned how to change some of the sounds by adding dots and circles. Now we will learn how to combine some of the kana. Not all of them can be combined, though. In fact only the i-edning ones can. And then again, they can only be combined with three certain kana - ya, yu and yo. The combination is done by writing the i-ending kana normally, and then adding a small version of one of those three right next to it. This makes a total of 21 results, which I am going to list below (since they follow an easy and obvious pattern, I'm not really sure if I need to do all of them, but I'm going to do it anyway, just in case). Here goes:

きゃ - kya きゅ - kyu きょ - kyo
しゃ - sha  しゅ - shu  しょ - sho
ちゃ - cha ちゅ - chu ちょ - cho
にゃ - nya にゅ - nyu にょ - nyo
ひゃ - hya ひゅ - hyu ひょ - hyo
みゃ - mya みゅ - myu  みょ - myo
りゃ - rya   りゅ - ryu  りょ  - ryo

Of course, the can be modified with two dots and circles as well, resulting in this thing here (I'm too lazy to write them all myself):


Now that you know this, there are only two more small detail to tell you, but since I have to go now, I will have to write an appendix to Lesson 3 later and mention them in it. That's it for now folks. Good luck with you studies! And most importantly - have fun!!!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lesson 2

Now, for everyone who still hasn't given up, running scared of the difficulty of the Japanese language, here comes Lesson 2. And if you thought we're gonna start learning words or grammar now, you're wrong - we're still not done with the writing systems. No, we're not starting Kanji or anything, we're still at Hiragana and Katakana :) Is there anyone who's memorized them by any chance? Didn't think so. I'm kidding of course, feel free to boast about your accomiplishments in the comments. Today's lesson is going to be short and easy. Did I hear someone say "hurray"?

In today's lesson we're gonna  learn how to get some additional syllables that aren't in the tables. That's pretty simple - just add two little strokes (or just dots, as my Japanese teacher did) and the sounds change as follows:

K  becomes G,
S      --->     Z
T      --->     D
H      --->     B

This way the kana ka, ki, ku, ke, ko become ga, gi, gu, ge, go and so on. It looks like that.

 か  =>  が 
  => ぎ 
く   =>  ぐ  
け   =>  げ 
こ  =>  ご 

There are a few exeptions however. When you put two dots on SHI, instead of ZI, it becomes JI, and both SU and TSU become ZU. Usually, the ZU sound is represented by SU with two dots.

Only for the kana starting with H there is another way you can change them, and that is by adding a small circle in the place of the two dots. Then H changes into P. (example: ha => pa)

 は  => ぱ

This way of changing the kana applies to both Hiragana and Katakana.

Since I said this lesson was going to be short, and it turned out a little longer, I'm going to stop here to make sure I don't overload your brains with new information. For everyone who still hasn't given up: 

Good job, see you again next time!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Lesson 1 Appendix

Now that I've read through my previous post, I noticed there are still some things left to explain, which I've missed last time beacause I'm too used to them and kind of take them for granted by now. That being the pronunciation of the kana a, i, u, e and o, and all the other kana they are part of. Although not by much, their pronunciation differs from that in English.

The kana a is pronaunced like the A in After. 

The kana i is pronaunced like the I in Image.

The kana u is pronaunced like the OUGH in thrOUGH or the OO in mOO.

The kana e is pronaunced like the E in Ever.

And lastly, the kana o is pronaunced..... well, pretty much as it is in English, only little shorter - it isn't the English oh, but a shorter and clean O.

Well, that covers just about everything about the pronunciation. Another thing you might have been wondering about is how the Japanese spell words with consecutive consonants, since all their kana end with a vowel, and exept for the occasional n, all the words must be follow the pattern (vowel) -consonant - vowel - consonant -vowel and so on, with the possible addition of any number of vowels in betweem, since unlike consonats, single vowels do exits in Japanese. Well, they is no way to group a number of consonants together - the Japanese spell such words with a number of added vowels in between - for example the word Berserk; in Japanese that would be spelled beruseruku(that's the name of a nice manga, you can check it out if you're into fantasy/horror, be warned, though, it's pretty gory).

You might also have noticed that some letters are completely missing in the table, not even being present as part of syllables - such as v, b, l  and many others. Some of them might be obtained from the kana in the table (we're going to cover this in the next lesson),  but others simply don't exist - such as L.  The Japanese language simply doesn't have that sound. Japanese always use  R instead, which causes many funny mistakes when they try to write a word in English - their use of  L and R is pretty much random, so you can often see on Japanese signs words like erebator, toiret or lestroom - such spelling mistakes and silly translations in general are know as Engrish.

Since I've started babbling on about random stuff now I will end this post for now before I say something stupid ;) Next will be Lesson 2.