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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Using NHK to Practice Japanese - Beginners to Advance

For those that don't know NHK is the Japanese Broadcasting Network. A bit similar to the UK's BBC, it runs regular new reports and articles on local and international affairs. They actually have websites in many different languages (including English) if you want to read about current affairs in Japan without needing to read the Japanese.

Besides learning about Japanese affairs as they happen, NHK can be a great resource for studying the language for all levels.


NHK Online Lessons: NHK offers free online lessons for beginners learning Japanese using MP3 and pdf worksheets. They release 10 minute radio postcasts a week for beginners as well.

The big difference between these lessons and other beginner classes, is that the NHK ones are aimed at people going to Japan to live or for business. I still think that these are very useful for beginners who are probably going to Japan for a year abroad or to do JET. It not only helps with the language but mannerisms in an office environment.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Translating from Japanese to English for Beginners

"I want to be able to translate..."

This post is for people interested in Japanese translating but don't know how to because they haven't had any formal training. I am assuming that the people interested in translating are at a skill level of between N3-N1 Japanese.

Understanding Japanese, and understanding Japanese to then turn it into English are two different skill sets. This is because you not only need to understand the languages you're translating from, but you need to know the appropriate language to use in the language you're translating to (which I'm assuming is English). For example, although I am fluent English speaker, if you were to give me a piece of work on deep sea diving, I will have no idea how to translate it because I am not a deep sea diver!!! 

Hanako to Anne translation scene

You need to know the culture and social contexts surrounding what you're translating. Even if it's a manga translation about beach volleyball, can you tell me you know all the native English language for certain terms? Then there are the specific terms in Japanese which you need to understand, which may not necessarily coincide with the English term.

All of this will be discussed below with tips on translating and books you can buy to read to help you.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Anime Japanese - Adjectives Are Everywhere

You can understand a lot from a situation in anime simply from learning adjectives.

Adjectives are used all the time in anime. Their use ranges from a single statement describing the obvious (i.e "it's hot"), to describing a person or situation in a complex sentence, but even then it's incredibly useful to have a grasp of adjectives when you watch anime.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Accidental Hiatus

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone! Also apologies to everyone. As I finished my first term of University I had a number of essays to write which took priority of my time and as soon as those finished I was hit with the full force of Christmas and it's been non-stop causing an accidental hiatus in both the blog and correcting mistakes on the Memrise courses. Apologise for the radio silence up until now. I promise the New Year will come with a lot more regular posting.

Corrections to Memrise and blog posts will resume from the 7th January.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Learning Japanese BECAUSE IT'S FUN!

Before you do anything else, please watch this video:

I made a previous post about finding ways to motivate yourself and since then I've come across a lot of useful videos and blogs on learning new skills, but this one blew my mind.

I know the statements he makes in the video are pretty simple, and are probably obvious statements to many of you. But I have a confession to make: even after 8 years of learning Japanese I've fallen into some of the pitfalls that have stifled my Japanese...

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Japanese - Where to Start II

"What do I do once I've learnt hiragana and katakana?"

In a post last year I advised that the first thing a person starting to learn Japanese should do is learn hiragana and katakana (Japanese - Where to Start). This post listed various resources you can use to study hiragana and katakana as each person is different in their study approach. It's important to learn hiragana and katakana as it opens up so many more opportunities for learning the language and helps with pronunciation and reading ability.

Since then I've seen a lot of people asking "what next?" It's difficult to pick a direction when you don't know where you're going or what you're doing.

So where do you go once you've learnt your kanas?

There are many different roads a beginner to Japanese can take. There are many different resources online that list all kinds of ways you can do and each person has their won method. Personally I find it SO much easier to pick just ONE resource to work from. Don't buy a huge pile of books, or sign up to all the websites and apps, because you won't have time to get through them all quickly unless you study Japanese 9-5 every single day.

It's therefore good to do some of your own research and think about how you learn, why you want to learn Japanese and what your priorities are. 

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Anime Japanese - I & You

Different characters speak differently in anime, and the most recognisable ones are the differences between men and women. We will discuss the full extent men and women are characterised to speak differently in Japanese in a later lesson, but one of the most noticeable differences in anime is the way people refer to themselves and others.

Below is a chart of how some of these words are divided up. It's important to remember though, that although some are more feminine/masculine than others, personal pronouns used in anime are interchangeable depending on the character type (i.e a masculine girl or feminine boy). Some of these words, although common in anime, are not appropriate to use in everyday Japanese.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Anime Japanese - This, There, Where?

There are a lot of Japanese words that pop up regularly in anime and we are going to practice some of these using anime themselves starting with "this/there/where".

In Japanese how you say "this" or "that" depends on where you are in relation to the listener.


KO- is used to indicate that you are talking about something close to the speaker. The following 3 are very common uses of this found in anime and everyday life.

KORE - means "this" when you are not mentioning the subject. Such as in the picture on the right indicated to the bag, but without saying "bag" it's just KORE.

KONO - also means "this" but is used when you talk about the subject such as KONO PEN "this pen". Or as you can see in the picture KONO KABAN "this bag"

KOKO - means "here"

The following you will hear more in anime than in everyday life simply because it is very informal Japanese.

KOU IU - used to say "this kind of", such as KOU IU HANASHI which means "this kind of talk (conversation)"

KONNA - an informal form of KONO, such as KONNA KOTO is used a lot which means "this thing" or KONNA OOKI "this big". KONNA can also be used in a similar way to KOU IU and can mean "this kind of" and is sometime interchangeable.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Studying Anime Japanese - Basic Techniques

I mentioned last week that I was doing an Anime Japanese workshop at the University of Kent, UK. It turned out well and now I'll be following this up with a number of posts on the materials I covered in the workshop and more!

Basic techniques you can use when watching anime to learn Japanese

No Game No Life Anime Subs

Watch lots of anime!
This is a bit of a no-brainer. Watching lots of anime will expose you more and more to hearing the language used naturally, as well as to Japanese culture and customs. My listening has always been my strongest part of Japanese simply because I watch so much anime, and when I went to Japan for the first time instead of getting culture shock I got "oh my goodness it's just like anime!!!"

Useful customs and phrases anime can teach you include: entering someone's home and saying OJYAMASHIMASU which means "I'm sorry for intruding". Or saying ITADAKIMASU before eating and GOCHISOUSAMA DESHITA after you've finished eating.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Anime Japanese Workshop

There's no post today as I've been preparing for an Anime Japanese Workshop at a university this weekend.

But I will post all the information, and possibly more, along with videos after the workshop.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

A Lesson In English Grammar - The Basics

"Why do I need to know English grammar to learn Japanese?"

English grammar is a topic I could not get my head around easily when I was younger. I even tried doing an A level in English language so I could learn it! Still didn't work. But we speak English as native, we don't need to know grammar! Yuk! Weeeellll I would totally agree with you, but after learning Japanese I've realised how wrong I was. I really dislike Japanese for the same reason I dislike English grammar. I read things like "possessive noun" and "auxiliary verb" and "volitional form" and my brain wants to shut down. 

My approach to Japanese has mostly been from a vocabulary/kanji side but this has really impacted my Japanese ability. Although I have a higher vocabulary than some of my friends they have a better understanding of Japanese because they can understand grammar and can guess the vocabulary based on the context. One friend of mine who's N3 level Japanese is amazing at reading comprehension because of her grammar skills.

English grammar

So this post is as much for my own benefit as yours. We're going to look at English grammar terms and use Japanese examples to get a better understanding of Japanese grammar. 

NOTE: Japanese and English grammar do not overlap 100% and the Japanese will have different ways of saying one thing compared to English (i.e Japanese use particles where we use determiners like "a" and "the")

Because this is a pretty big topic I'm going to be splitting it up into different sections. So if you're a wiz at basic English and Japanese grammar you can skip this section to the next (when it's posted).

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Going to Conventions in Japan

I went to London ComicCon recently (aka MCM Expo to anyone that's been going for over 4 years) and it reminded me of the big differences between conventions in Japan compared to the UK and America.

You'd think that Japan being the "origin" of cosplay, and amazing technology and games, that they'd have a fantastic convention environment with a wide variety of cool stuff. But this debatably not the case. Or at least it's very different to how we experience conventions in the UK.

So below I'll discuss the differences between West and Japan, what to do and not do at cons, a list of conventions, how to find events and phrases you can use at events.

The difference between Western and Japanese conventions.

First of all conventions in Japan are called "events" エベント, when you say convention たいかい (大会) it literally means "big meeting" and makes people think of a official meeting with lots of people having formal seminars run by professionals about a topic, often business.

London ComicCon Basara Cosplay
Able to run up to strangers and take pics! Yay!
When I say "convention" in the West most people in the geek world think of anime/gaming/sci-fi themed conventions. These will be held in a large building with lots of stands selling official and unofficial merchandise (ranging from character themed tea to plushies, games, dvds etc), pannels run by fans who are passionate about a topic, or talks with famous people, and lots and lots of cosplay and people running around taking each others photos.

The big difference I've found with Japanese cons is they are normally dedicated to a single thing. Unlike in the UK and US where is a combination of anime, games, sci-fi, events in Japan are normally only game, only anime, only sci-fi etc. Sometimes there's a little bit of cosplay too but this is only at doujinshi events (see below).

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Beginners Japanese Grammar 2

Hello everyone! A little announcement as I've just made my Japanese Grammar 2 course on Memrise public! 

This is the second of a series of grammar courses for beginners, covering all the grammar points (except particles) for JLPT N4 level of Japanese. Even if you're not taking any of the Japanese language proficiency tests you can still use this course to learn Japanese grammar. The lessons are grouped together based on how the grammar is formed and assumes that you already know how to read kana and how to make stem, plain, て form, た form, ない form etc. If you don't or are a bit rusty it might be good to go over part 1: Beginners Japanese Grammar 1 (JLPT N5). Any new grammar forms that pop up will have explanations before them.
This course also tests you with kanji to English meaning. It uses kanji you should know for JLPT N4 but if you need to brush up here is the JLPT N4 Kanji course: JLPT N4 Kanji

JLPT N4 Grammar

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Japan Hacks - History Nerds in Japan

If you are a bit of a Japanese history fan there are a LOT of places in Japan you should go visit. Some of these might be obvious ones, and others probably not so much.

The following list is based on the most popular tourist destinations: Tokyo and Kyoto. I wish I could list all the amazing places in Japan based on historic events and people but I don't know them all. These are just the locations myself and friends visited on our last trip. If you know of any others please leave a comment so that other people might learn from your wisdom.


Sengakuji (Temple) - This is a small temple right next to Sengakuji Station. This is where the 47 Ronin were buried.

Zojoji (Temple) - Just down the road from Sengakuji and near Tokyo Tower, Zojoji is where 6 out of the 15 Tokugawa shoguns were buried. It's also famous for its large amount of Jizo statues, which people go to to pray for the souls of dead children.

Yasakuni Shrine - Famous for being controversial, this shrine is a really interesting to see because of it's history enshrining the souls of people who have died in battle. Some of these souls may have been convicted of war crimes (hence the controversy), but most people go to pray for their own ancestors who died in battle. It also has a war museum.

Meiji Jingu - This is a really interesting shrine, not only because of it's giant tori, interesting architecture, and giant sacred trees, but because it's the shrine of Emporer Meiji and Empress Shoken. They were enshrined here before WWII when, in Japan, the emperors of were still considered to be descendants of the goddess Amaterasu. After WWII the royal family denounced their god-hood and no more shrines were erected to worship them.

Edo Tokyo Museum - Great for a general history of Japan and Japanese life in the Edo period (1603-1868) and after into the Meiji and Showa (modern day) times.


Honno-ji - Honnō-ji is most famous for the Honno-ji IncidentOda Nobunaga lodged there before his invasion of the west, but on the morning of June 21, 1582, Akechi Mitsuhide betrayed him, surrounded the temple and set it on fire. Knowing there was no way out for him, Nobunaga committed seppuku along with his attendant Mori Ranmaru

Nijo Castle - A 20min walk from Honno-ji, Nijo Castle is the palace the Tokugawa shoguns lived in during their rule when Kyoto was the capital. It's the most beautiful castle I've seen in Japan with wonderful wall art and a nightingale floor that dates back to 1601 when Tokugawa Ieyasu ordered it be built.

Mibu-dera - Just south of Nijo Castle (another 20-30min walk) is Mibudera where some of the Shinsengumi are buried.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Japan Hacks - What to do if you're sick in Japan

I previously did a post on being sick in Japan but that covered the differences between being sick in the West vs Japan, and phrases to use to get help if you know Japanese. This post is about when you're in Japan on HOLIDAY and you get sick, you don't know the language or what to do!

This happened to me on my most recent trip. A combination of jet-lag, only a few hours sleep in 48hours and unhealthy food almost took me out with a cold. Luckily I was able to get amazing Japanese cold medicine and it fixed it right up. (I had some comments from American friends that Japanese cold medicine doesn't work for them. I suggest trying it anyway if you're on holiday and are stuck).

This guide focuses mostly on if you have a cold and want to keep sightseeing rather than lying in bed for 3 days and missing Japan.

Things to do if you're suddenly sick in Japan:

Drug store - noticeable by the giant red 薬 on the side
  • Get help from local staff:
    If you are in a hotel there will probably be at least one staff member who speaks English. Go to the front desk and see if the will help you by going to a nearby pharmacy and acting as translator. They might not be allowed to leave work but Japanese guest services are amazing and they will do all they can to help. (This is easier in a big city, if you're in a small town there probably won't be any English speakers around).