Learning the Japanese Language
“IMPOSSIBLE,” you say? Not necessarily. Why, if you think about it you may already know some words in Japanese, such as kimono and sake (rice wine)! Did you know that if you say the English pronoun “I,” it sounds as if you are saying “love” in Japanese (ai)? Or that if you say “cow” in English, the same pronunciation means “to buy” in Japanese (kau)?
Some claim that a person can learn Japanese overnight merely by poring over a ‘How-to-Learn’ book. Though it is not quite that easy, one can quickly master enough Japanese to have an enjoyable time visiting Japan as a tourist.
Even more complicated than the Japanese language itself are various ideas regarding its origin. Two decades ago, Leptcha, a language spoken in a valley of the Himalaya mountains, was found to be closely related to Japanese. Others claim that Japanese bears greater affinity to Korean than to any other language.
What is the relationship between Japanese and Chinese? Due to the use of Chinese ideographic script, which we call “Kanji,” Japanese is often thought to have close connections with Chinese. But the differences are considerable. Chinese is a “monosyllabic” language, containing words of only one syllable. Japanese, however, is “polysyllabic,” having numerous words of two or more syllables. In Chinese, word meaning is conveyed by pitch and word order, while in Japanese the meaning is conveyed by the words themselves and by the word endings.
Nearly 2,500 years ago, the Japanese language had, basically, the same grammar as that used today. But by the end of the ninth and tenth centuries, changes began taking place. This made it necessary to know one set of words for reading and another set for speaking. The result was that until the end of World War II, one had to know 3,000 to 5,000 Chinese characters and two sets of syllabaries of 50 characters each in order to read any weighty material.
Since 1945, however, the essential Kanji have been somewhat simplified and reduced to a little less than 2,000. The language also has adopted many English words. Nowadays, besides these Kanji characters, schoolchildren are taught two sets of romanization. This requires hours of work at memorizing as well as writing practice until, by the end of grammar school, children have learned 881 Kanji, and, by the end of high school, 1,850. Reading college textbooks, however, requires knowledge of about 3,000 Kanji.
Let’s Say Something in Japanese
Perhaps you are anxious to test your ability at speaking Japanese. The pronunciation is easy enough, as there are, basically, only 50 different sounds possible. What presents the biggest problem is grammar. But for now, we’ll stick to simpler matters.
To begin with, there are five vowel sounds, all pronounced as in Italian: A as in far, I as e in me, E as in nest, O as in old, U as in push, when the U is a short vowel; when long, the U is as oo in soon. It is very important to learn the short and the long vowel sounds. A rather frequent mistake made by missionaries is confusing so shi ki (organization) with sM shi ki (funeral). Not a few audiences have been shocked at hearing about God’s great heavenly funeral, rather than God’s great heavenly organization. Another easy mistake is that of calling a young girl shM jM (orangutan) rather than shM jo (young girl). Clearly, both the learner of Japanese and the listener are benefited by having a sense of humor.
Often the same vowel, or phonetic sound, is used consecutively, as in a ta ma (head), ko ko ro (heart), or to ko ro (place). Sometimes a phonetic sound is lost through contraction when saying certain words. For instance, when pronouncing kM fu ku (happy), one drops the middle u and slurs the f and k together. This results in the pronunciation kM f’ku. Practice saying it several times and you will see how easily the Japanese rolls off your tongue! Another basic word is the pronoun “I,” which in Japanese is wa ta ku shi. It is pronounced correctly wa ta k’shi, with the loss of a u and the slurring of the k into the shi sound. In recent years “I” has been still further abbreviated to become wa ta shi.
Consonants can be tricky too. For example, the single-consonant “k” in the word kM ka gives us “school song,” while the double consonant in the word kok ka makes it “national anthem.”
Are there any rules as to which syllable should receive accent? Authorities differ, but some agree that it is better not to accent any syllable than to accent the wrong one. For example, the city of Numazu is pronounced nu ma zu, with equal emphasis on each syllable.
Especially since the seventeenth century, Japanese has borrowed many words from European languages. For instance, the Portuguese word “pao” (bread) becomes pan in Japanese. The Dutch “blik” (tin) is bu ri ki. “Butter” in English becomes ba ta. Another English word, “strike,” expands to five syllables, with two different meanings. It is su to ra i ku in baseball jargon, but when some want better pay or working conditions, the word becomes su to ra i ki.
Other Things of Interest
One must realize that Japanese word order differs from that in most other languages. On a visit to Japan, you might say in English: “I would like to visit Mount Fuji.” In Japanese you would say, “Watak’shi wa Fuji San o hMmon shitai desu.” The literal word order is: “I Fuji Mount visit want.” In Japanese the verb always comes at the end of the sentence. As noted above, verb endings are also most important. To know whether an expression is in the present or the past tense, or whether it is a positive or negative response to a previous question or statement, one must listen to the very last syllable of a sentence.
An unusual feature of the Japanese language is its system of honorifics or keigo. All conversations must take into consideration three things: the speaker, the one spoken to and the person spoken about. Besides these, the speaker must consider the respective positions, ages, belongings, families, friends and social groups embraced by the conversation. These factors affect-to name just a few-vocabulary, suffixes, prefixes and verb endings used in conversation. The pronoun “you,” for example, is represented by many different Japanese words, according to the status of the person addressed. The polite way is often to use the person’s name instead, or to omit the “you” altogether. One making one’s residence in Japan should be determined to learn the various forms of address. The visitor on a temporary basis, however, will be forgiven blunders of this type. The Japanese, as a whole, are delighted to hear people make the effort to speak their difficult tongue.
Let’s Read Kanji
Even though you may not know the correct pronunciation of a Kanji character, you often can know its meaning. Do not be afraid of what may appear at first sight to be “chicken scratches” all up and down a page. Although opinions vary, there is a fairly easy way to learn to read Kanji. This system of writing has, basically, 300 “building blocks.” By combinations of these, all the thousands of Kanji are formed. Shall we try a few?
The character for ka wa (river) comes from the flowing river [Artwork-River Drawing] and looks like this [Artwork-River Drawing]. Now, if you squeeze that river [Artwork-River Drawing], what do you have but the character for water [Artwork-Japanese Characters], mi zu?
A traveler in Japan will find it helpful to know the characters for “entrance” and “exit” that are in train stations and other public places. First take a mouth [Artwork-Mouth Drawing], form it into [Artwork-Japanese Characters] and pronounce it ku chi. Now picture a small river running into a large river [Artwork-River Drawing], square it up [Artwork-Japanese Characters], and you have hai ru or iru, meaning “to enter.” Put the two together [Artwork-Japanese Characters], smooth out the pronunciation, and you have the word for entrance, i ri gu chi, or, literally, ‘enter mouth.’ To leave the station, you must know another character. So think of a flower growing out of the ground [Artwork-Flower Drawing]. Shape it up a bit [Artwork-Japanese Characters], and you have the character for de ru (to leave). Put [Artwork-Japanese Characters] with [Artwork-Japanese Characters] and you have [Artwork-Japanese Characters], meaning ‘coming out mouth,’ or exit, pronounced de guchi. That wasn’t nearly as hard as you expected, was it?
Many of the characters tell a story, as does the man [Artwork-Man Drawing] [Artwork-Japanese Characters], standing by a tree [Artwork-Tree Drawing], which becomes [Artwork-Japanese Characters]. The two together [Artwork-Japanese Characters] constitute the Kanji for vacation, pronounced ya su mi. How about a man leaning on a shovel [Artwork-Man Drawing], next to his horse [Artwork-Horse Drawing]? Put them together and you have e ki, or station [Artwork-Japanese Characters], as in “Tokyo Eki,” where you can catch the bullet train.
There are many, many more to learn, and while requiring effort, it is a thoroughly fascinating and entertaining study. Over the years the writing of Kanji is being progressively simplified. As the older and younger generations differ in their way of writing Kanji, often a letter received from a grandmother or grandfather will have to be read and “translated” by someone living nearby who is in the same age group as the writer of the letter.
Some Reasons for Learning Japanese
There are many reasons that may prompt persons to learn Japanese. With some individuals, it may be simply a hobby that helps to broaden their views of people from a different culture and environment. Others will want to learn Japanese for business reasons. Tourists will enjoy their visit to Japan all the more if they know some basic Japanese. But to gain a real working knowledge of Japanese, one would have to live in this country for some years.
If you wish to learn Japanese, you can visit our site learn japanese. Our word of advice is: “Ganbatte kudasai!,” that is, “Stick to it!”
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hi i m nick from dehradun…
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Looking for a Russian Language Specialist?
Russian is the most widely spoken native language in all of Eurasia and the most common written form is Cyrillic which comprises 33 letters. It is the official language of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and, of course, Russia. The Russian language is extremely rich, containing hundreds of proverbs and sayings which have origins as far back as the seventeenth century. Moreover, the nature of the language lends itself to compounding and the total number of words in Russian is difficult to establish as so many new diminutives and compounds can be readily created on a whim.
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Which is the easiest to understand learning? Dutch or Danish?
I want to learn a uncommon foreign language.
I already know how to speak Spanish,French,Italian,and German
Can anyone help me advice on these languages?
I guess there’s no difference in which one you choose.. Since you already know German, I would say that you have a good start for both, since both Danish and Dutch are heavily influenced by German..
Maybe it would be better with Dutch, since Danish have some pronunciations, that are very hard to learn, like the d in “hedder” and “hæder” (“my name is”, and “glory”, two words that are pronounced almost the same, but with great difference)..
So, toss or coin I guess:o)
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English is the most common language in the world and it is for this reason that so many people want to learn the language. At one time, the only way to learn English was to leave your home country and travel to an English speaking one to engage in your studies. Today with the advances in technology, you can now stay at home and take all your classes via the Internet. You have the same benefits as you would have if you attended class with a live instructor, but the costs are much reduced because you don`t have to give up your job or incur moving expenses. Plus, the majority of these online courses are free, so the only cost you have is that of your computer and an Internet connection.
For those with no knowledge of English, you start at the beginner level, which means first learning the English alphabet and the sounds associated with the letters. There is a dictionary on the sites that will translate any words you can`t figure out into your own language. When you first start learning English, this dictionary will be an invaluable resource for you to help you increase your vocabulary. The beginning lessons used simplified vocabulary and structures making it easy for you to progress quite quickly through the lessons. Listen to a native English speaker reading short conversations using the structures, listen to the lesson explanation and read along with both of them because the text is printed on the screen. Then when you feel that you understand the concept of the lesson, you can complete practice exercises and a quiz to see how well you have done. This is the basic format of all the lessons in English grammar.
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You do have to be diligent in your studies when you choose an online course in English. Since you set your own schedule, you may have a tendency to let distractions keep you from studying on certain times. Set a schedule that you can stick to. The beauty of taking an online course is that you can take the lessons at any time of the day or night.
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Know How to Learn Arabic Online
Learning various languages nowadays is very easy as there are several websites that can provide you online tutorials about the language you prefer to learn. You can learn Arabic online from websites that cater to those who wants to learn the said language, for free or with a certain amount to pay for.
Although there are various websites where you can learn Arabic online, it is still risky — especially if they will be charging you for the lessons – since you do not have any idea if they are legit or not. If you are to enroll on a course that will help you learn Arabic online and you need to pay for the fee, it will probably cost you more as Arabic is the one of the hardest language to learn. Unless you are willing to pay for the fee, you can look for online manuals or resources than can help you learn Arabic online at your own pace. You can study it on your own during your free time as this is much easier and cheaper.
The Arabic language consists of 28 letters which is known as the Arabic alphabet and the words and phrases are written from right to left. For you to be able to learn faster, it is advised that you look for a reference or a manual online that can provide you with both Arabic and English translations, and an audio that you can listen to so that you have an idea on how the words or syllables are pronounced properly. Most online tutorials provide this kind of manuals that is why some of those who want to learn Arabic prefer to enroll in an online class.
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To learn Arabic online, you should start by learning the simplest greetings which are most commonly used such as hello and goodbye. Learning how to write the numbers is a hard part as well. Remember that you should be able to identify the gender of the noun for you to be able to understand it very well. You should also learn how to introduce yourself and to greet other people as this is essential, especially if you want to learn Arabic online.
Finding a legit Arabic language class online may not be that hard due to the internet as there are various websites that can provide you with a list of online language tutors. You just have to do a little research and look for the feedbacks provided by previous students who enrolled in the same class to learn Arabic online. This is essential so that you will know if the class you chose to enroll to is legit and to avoid wasting your money on scams.
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