Category Archives: Japanese language

Think Like A Native – Using your thoughts to improve your language skills

 

11650593_850429428375065_1268473140_nIn learning languages like Japanese and Korean, I have found one of the best ways of privately encouraging my learning, especially when unable to communicate with others in that language, is to make effort to communicate with myself.
Over recent months, due to breaking up with my Korean ex-boyfriend and terribly missing my Japanese best friend, I have neglected my language studies and this site in favor of taking time out to heal – trust me, you guys didn’t want to be witness to that mess! While this has somewhat dulled my abilities, I have found that regular practice in the privacy of my own mind has helped to preserve my understanding a great deal.
IMG_0844.PNGIt can be hard to find opportunities to communicate in languages not used in the area you live, so I decided to do my level best to think in Japanese and Korean wherever possible.
Going about my day and trying to think of the Japanese or Korean words for items I see and trying to string together the correct sentences goes a long way to help keep me focused on retaining what I already know, while also encouraging me to learn more.
When I dial a phone number, I try my best to think it in Japanese or Korean as I dial and that not only helps to improve my abilities, but I find helps with my concentration. If I am not sure of the word for a letter, I’ll just go with English and ensure to look it up later so I’ll be able to recall it the next time.
Of course, if you aren’t fluent, this isn’t an incredibly easy task, but it does serve as a way of revising a language when you cannot practice in conversation with others.
Even if you only use the odd word here and there, it will still help to build that comfort and understanding that will make learning faster and smoother. It will also help to make you able to fluidly move between languages – an ability that will serve you well the further you improve in all your language studies!
This has been a very short piece, I know, but I wanted to make something quick and simple as a way of getting back into things. Thank you so much to everyone who has waited patiently for me to be ready to return – I really appreciate your patience and all the supportive messages I have received in my time away!
As always, please share any thoughts or comments in the section below, or come join us over on Facebook and Twitter! Xx

Learning Language Like A Baby

IMG_1004.JPGLearning a language is easier than people think. Just look at yourself now, you are reading an article written in English by someone probably very very far away from where you are. You most likely learnt this language as a young baby – as your native tongue – or perhaps you learnt the language later in life.

Baby Amy
Me as a baby

Regardless of whether it’s your first, second or sixth language, it got in there. The hard part about learning a language is the getting around your own mind to allow it in. Most of us learnt a language growing up that serves to comminicate with our community in both a written and spoken form (however, some are not so lucky, due to physical or psychological issues) We learn it as we grow for one reason: survival. If we want to get fed, we have to communicate that we are hungry. If we are scared, we need to be able to explain the danger that is facing us.
As a baby, your parents were probably quite good at understanding the babblings and cooings you made as a kind of personalised pre-language to know when you were hungry, sleepy, scared or needed changing. Parents and guardians are very good at picking up on the needs of the people in their care. But you had to be able to communicate better. If you wanted one of the toys in front of you, it would help you acheive getting it if you said ‘Ball’ or ‘truck’, so the listener would know exactly what you wanted.
You aquired language as a necessity for your survival, pleasure and comfort.
Learning a second language requires a bit more work as we try so hard to learn it through our first language. It is very normal to say “What is this in English?” or “So ‘____’ is just like ‘___’ in English?”
When it is a language that is similar to your langage it is okay, but when it is two entirely different languages it gets confusing. One of the biggest problems I am finding in learning Korean and Japanese is that it is so hard to learn it through the context of English, because they are so vastly different. At times, I even find it a lot easier to learn Korean through Japanese, because they are at least slighty similar.
When you were a baby, the only way you could work out what something meant was through context. You would see and hear how it was used and learn from that.
A Korean baby can’t hear the word “비행기” and think “I think that’s Korean for ‘airplane’.” But they hear it said, maybe the parent points at a toy plane or a picture of a plane as they say it and the child will eventually put two and two together.
It can be a slow process, but it’s the best proven method to make you both natural and comfortable in that language – It made you fluent in your native language!
I know it is incredibly tough to learn another language without referencing your native language, but there are a couple of ways that you can try to work around your native tongue.

 

Go Sub-free

Copyright (C) SBS
Copyright (C) SBS

It’s so easy to watch television programs in the language you are studying and always have the subtitles on. It’s the safer and easier option which means you can take everything in as easily as if you were watching a show from your home.
But, you can find that you’ve watched an entire series and barely looked up from the words on the screen!
I love watching Japanese and Korean dramas without subtitles because I can really watch the performances and it’s a great way to test what I know and try to figure out the stuff I don’t know from other sources (i.e how it’s said, the context of the scene and the relationship between the speaker and listener).
It can be tough and you may miss some details, but it really does help (and gives you an excuse to watch it again later)!
Sometimes, as you improve, you will also find ways that the subtitle writers didn’t get it totally right or misunderstood and you can get an even clearer understanding of what the character is saying. I remember watching a Japanese drama where the subtitles consistantly made a mistake that confused me for ages until I watched it without, actually listened to the actual Japanese dialogue and suddenly it all made sense!

Stick to it

sticky note 1One method I use is to put up sticky notes around my bedroom and office space that have words in Japanese and/or Korean that have pictures to describe what the word or phrase means! I don’t put a single word of English on it so that I learn to recognise and appreciate it in that language. It’s a bit like pictionary, if you think about it!

sticky note 2Try to leave sticky notes or flashcards around for yourself so you learn to recognise them with ease. If you’re feeling tricky as you boost the difficulty, perhaps write a description of what the word or phrase means IN the language you’re learning. If you have friends who speak that language fluently, get them to write some of the words and answers for you so that 1) you can’t cheat (because, if you wrote it, you might remember it) and 2) you’ll know for sure that it’s right!

Read it and weep (or don’t weep)

Try buying a book in the language of your choice. Try reading a bit of it from time to time and see how much of it you understand or just try to look at the grammar and sentence structure to get a better understanding of that. Reading an original book in the language will give you a good feeling for how it is consumed on a day-to-day basis and help you really immerse yourself. Don’t worry if the book makes absolutely NO sense to begin with, just keep studying and soon enough you’ll start to pick stuff up.
I bought myself a book of Korean poetry (which was a difficult first choice) and I’m finding with time that I can pick out more and more that I understand. I’ve got a long way to go, but it really helps to have that as a marker of where I’m up to!

Take it social

Again, the more you immerse yourself the more comfortable around the language you will become. I try to make myself unescapably surrounded by all of the languages I am trying to learn – and that includes online too!
On Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, I try my best to keep my exposure to language high. I’ll follow Korean and Japanese people on Instagram and Twitter and try my best to read their messages. Interacting with people is great because it’s a perfect opportunity to test your written knowledge and try have a chat with people.
(Of course, always be careful of who you talk to online. There are creeps everywhere and in every language, so always use your common sense when talking to strangers)
I always keep my ‘Trending Topics’ bar on Twitter set to either Japanese or Korean and I’ll make sure that every time I check Twitter that I am reading every trending topic.
On Facebook, I follow the Korean Huffinton Post, Korean stores like G Market and Retrip (a Japanese online magazine) which is great for a casual glance over the news and makes a nice buffer between quizzes and stressed-out revision statuses!

Listen up

Listening to audiobooks, like reading, gives you a subtitle-free and pure exposure to a text but also has the added benefit of being able to hear clear pronunciation, often totally uninterrupted by noisy surroundings or music that you would find in at TV show or movie.
There is a huge wealth of audiobooks available online, so have a look around and have a listen!
I’m currently listening to the Korean radio play adaptation of Don Quichotte by SBS that is available to listen to on Youtube!

I hope this piece is helpful to you! If you have any questions, please share them in the comments or over on Facebook or Twitter! Xx

Tongue twisters from around the world

Tongue twisters are words or phrases that are difficult and confusing to say. learning and performing tongue twisters is a common pass-time for kids on the UK, but I never realised until I met my best friend (and guest writer on Learn With Amy) that tongue twisters are hugely popular all around the world!

So, for all you language enthusiasts out there, how many of these tongue twisters from around the globe can you say?

First: How do tongue twisters work?

Tongue twisters are phrases that are difficult to articulate as they require fast delivery and/or contain a complex combinations of phonemes. Often they contain two or more sounds that alternate between use of the lips, tongue, jaw and larynx.
Many studies have tried to identify how the complex phrases affect the brain, but the studies have found that tongue twisters actually slow down how fast the brain takes in the information. Tongue twisters aren’t just hard to say, they’re hard to READ too!

English:

The most commonly loved tongue twister in the UK is the famous rhyme, based on the story of Mary Anning, that goes:

She sells sea-shells on the sea-shore.
The shells she sells are sea-shells, I’m sure.
For if she sells sea-shells on the sea-shore
Then I’m sure she sells sea-shore shells.

As it turns out, Mary Anning was actually selling various fossils on the sea-shore as a supplemental income to her family!

Gilbert and Sullivan were famous writers of comic operas that featured tongue twisting lyrics that fast paced and comedic. One of their most popular operettas was The Mikado (Sometimes called ‘The Town Of Titipu’), an opera that satirised British politics and society – made acceptable by subtly masking it with the Japanese setting.
One of the songs, entitled ‘I Am So Proud’ features these very tricky to say (and SING) lines:

To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock,
In a pestilential prison, with a lifelong lock,
Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock,
From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block!

Some tongue twisters also try to get you to say ‘bad words’ as a trick for getting muddled.
Try the following tongue twister and see if you can say it all without swearing:

I slit the sheet,
The sheet I slit
and on the slitted sheet I sit.

Did you say it? Eh?
How about this one? Be careful – You might say something you don’t mean! Tee hee

I am not the pheasant plucker,
I’m the pheasant plucker’s mate.
I am only plucking pheasants
Because the pheasant plucker’s late.

Not that easy, are they? Well, things are about to get a lot trickier as we bring different languages into it! We all know that Japanese is quite a tough language, but it’s about to get a lot trickier as we take a quick look at the tongue twisters that even Japanese people find difficult!

Japanese:

In Japanese, the word for ‘tongue twister’ is ‘早口言葉’/’hayakuchi kotoba’ which directly translates as ‘fast mouth words’ – No kidding!
Here’s a fairly easy one to start off with:

“生麦、生米、生卵”
”なまむぎ、なまごめ、なまたまご”
“Nama mugi, nama gome, nama tamago”

The meaning of this phrase is “Raw wheat, raw rice, raw eggs”. Tricky, but they get harder!

“蛙ぴょこぴょこ三ぴょこぴょこ、合わせてぴょこぴょこ六ぴょこぴょこ”
”かえるぴょこぴょこみぴょこぴょこ、あわせてぴょこぴょこむぴょこぴょこ”
“Kaeru pyoko pyoko mi pyoko pyoko, awasete pyoko pyoko mu pyoko pyoko”

This one, which hurts to say, translates as “A frog jumps twice, three times and six times in all.”

If you’re a fan of gardening and fine cuisine, give this one a go:

“にわの庭には、二羽の鶏はにわかにわにを食べた”
”にわのにわには、にわとりわにわかにわにおたべた”
“Niwa no niwa ni wa, niwa no niwatori wa niwakani wani o tabeta.”

This is such a fun one (and made me feel good, because I understood it without the translation – yay, go me!) and it translates as “in Niwa’s garden, two chickens suddenly ate a crocodile”

Korean:

Korean can be a tough language for some to learn as the words can sometimes be quite long and a little less straightforward to say than Japanese can be. However, it’s a beautiful language that’s a lot of fun to learn and speak.
Now, from my experience, easy Korean tongue twisters are difficult to come by, but they’re very satisfying when you get them right. Let’s get this started off right, with a nice bit of soy:

“간장공장 공장장은 강공장장이고 된장공장 공장장은 공공장장이다”
“kan-jang-kong-jang kong-jang-jang-eun kang kong-jang-jang-ee-go, dwen-jang-kong-jang kkong-jang kong-jang-jang-eun kong kong-jang-jang-ee-da.”

This one means, “President Kang is the president of the soy sauce factory, and president Kong is president of the bean paste factory.”

“육통 통장 적금통장은 황색 적금통장이고, 팔통 통장 적금통장은 녹색 적금통장이다”
“Yuk-tong tong-jang jeog-geum-tong chang-eun hwang-saek jeog-geum-tong-jang-i-go, pal-tong tong-chang jeog-geum-tong jang-eun nok-saeg jeog-geum-tong-chang-i-da.”

This mouthful translates as “6 dong bank book savings book is the yellow bank savings book, 8 dong bank book savings book is the green bank savings book.”
Not easy, are they?!

 

So, what do you think? Do you like Japanese and Korean tongue twisters? Let us know what you think of them!

I’m counting on you! Learning to count in Japanese

IMG_0844.PNG

Japanese is a fantastic language and if you are interest in studying it, learning to count should be a high priority for you!

Numbers in Japanese aren’t the hardest subject to grasp, but can be tricky to begin with! Don’t worry, with practice and revision, you’ll soon have it mastered!

Just in case you need a refresher on how to read Hiragana, you can refer back to my original post here!

Evernote Camera Roll 120140625 002833First things first, let’s learn the numbers 1 to 10

 

1 = Ichi/一/いち

2=  Ni/二/に

3= San/三/さん

4=  Yon/四/とん (Shi/四/し is another word for four, but it is used less, because Shi also means death, which is written as 死  in Kanji)

5=  Go/五/ご

6=  Roku/六/ろく

7=  Shichi/七/しち (Another word for seven is Nana/七/なな. I believe this is because, like the word for four, ‘shi’ is associated with the word ‘Shini/死に/しに’ meaning ‘death’)

8=  Hachi/八/はち

9=  Kyuu/九/きゅう (Nine can also be Ku/九/く, but this is also thought to be bad luck as Ku also means suffering 苦)

10= Ju/十/じゅ

 

Not too difficult, right? I actually found the Kanji for the numbers some of the easiest to learn. An easy way to revise them is to write the kanji when writing lists, in place of 1, 2, 3, 4, etc you can write 一、二、三、四、and so on. It’s a little more effort, but that practice will help you memorise the kanji!

That’s pretty much the hardest part of learning the numbers, as counting beyond ten is pretty simple.

For example, 11 is Juichi/十一/じゅいち (simply 10 and 1), 22 is nijuni/二十二/にじゅに (Which directly translates as “two ten two”, meaning two tens and two) and 51 is gojuichi/五十一/ごじゅいち (five ten one).

This information will now get you as from 1 to 99

Here I will list the words up to 10,000

 

100= hyaku                      1000= sen

200= nihyaku                  2000= nisen

300= sambyaku             3000= sanzen

400= yonhyaku              4000= yonsen

500= gohyaku                5000= gosen

600= roppyaku              6000= rokusen

700= nanahyaku           7000= nanasen

800= happyaku              8000= hassen

900= kyuhyaku              9000= kyusen

10,000= ichiman

 

Basically, these work the same as the other numbers. The way I think of it is that the numbers go from bigger to smaller. For example, 10,146 is ichimanhyakuyonjuroku/一万百四十六/いちまんひゃくよんじゅろく

It’s a mouthful, but it makes sense!

 

I hope you learnt something new and exciting in this piece. Next, I will write about the next aspect of counting in Japanese, which is counters! Keep learning and see you soon! Good luck!

 

 

Excellent language books: Japanese

There are so many books online fore learning languages and they can all vary greatly when it comes to quality. I’ve bought many language books and some of them are fantastic, while others are no-gos so bad that they can set me back weeks in my learning.

So, here are the language books I’ve bought that I’ve absolutely loved (the bad ones will remain nameless)

Japanese from Zero!

This is a series of Japanese textbooks that take you through different levels of skill, starting from zero, and working your way up!

The book clearly explains subject as well as offering fun and helpful exercises to help reinforce your learning!

These books were, in my opinion, TOTALLY worth the time and investment!

 

Teach Yourself Complete Japanese

This is a fantastic book which really manages to set the information in your mind through explanation, exercising and also making use of that information for later exercises and dialogues, so you can reinforce your knowledge.

Learn Complete Japanese was actually the first Japanese book I bought and it was worth every penny as this book really does teach you so much and insures a solid grounding of understanding.

The only issue I found with the book is that, in my opinion, it doesn’t use Hiragana as much as I would like and relies mostly on Romaji. However, that does prevent the student getting too hooked up with learning the characters, and gets them familiar with the language.


Colin’s pocket Japanese Dictionary

For all of your translation needs, this dictionary is a fantastic travelling companion

I take this book most places I go (It’s come in handy helping some lost tourists in London before now!) and it hasn’t failed me once.

This book is a must-have for Japanese learners.


 

I hope my top 3 books are interesting to you! I will be doing more with each book I buy!

Thanks for reading and see you soon!

How to read Hiragana

How to read Hiragana!

I love Japanese! It’s such a fun, energetic and satisfying language to learn – and it isn’t for the faint-hearted! Japanese isn’t the hardest language to learn, but it’s not a piece of cake either — and that’s what adds to the fun! So, let’s get to work!

 

There are three writing systems in Japanese (four if you count Romaji- the Romanization writing system). The one we will be learning today is the most basic one you need to get started with Japanese, if you want to progress beyond Romaji.

So, let’s start with the basic 5!Evernote Camera Roll 120140625 002833

あ [a]

Pronounced “ah”!

い [i]

Pronounced “ee”!

う [u]

Pronounced “oo”!

え [e]

Pronounced “eh”

お [o]

Pronounced “O” — like “Oh” cut short

 

Those really sounded like the noises you make watching a firework display, right! “Oo” “Ah” “Ee”!

Now you know these ones, you’re well on your way to knowing all the sounds you’ll need for speaking Japanese!

Hiragana chart 1

wa
ra
ya
ma
ha
na
ta
sa
ka
a
ri
mi
hi
ni
chi
shi
ki
i
ru
yu
mu
fu
nu
tsu
su
ku
u
re
me
he
ne
te
se
ke
e
wo
ro
yo
mo
ho
no
to
so
ko
o

 

You can download this hand Hiragana chart pdf: hiragana chart

You’ll notice that there are a few odd ones in there. The characters ‘fu’, ‘tsu’ and ‘chi’, and they’re ones you’ll want to be careful of. Thankfully these characters look quite distinctive and it becomes quite tough to miss them once you’ve got the hang of it!

Keep checking the site as I’ll soon be sharing the next Hiragana chart which will complete the set!

Thanks for reading! If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, send me a message using the contact form below!

“When my name was Keoko” and Korea’s Japanese occupation

Being fairly worldly-minded, it’s very important to me to respect the past and whatever comes with it. History is full of the most unpleasant events, mistakes, petty rivalries and desperate struggles, but they all contributed in ways (good and bad) to the present day that we all live in and serve as the foundation of the future.

So, with the recent celebration of 광복절 (Korean Independence Day) on August 15th, I decided to start reading Lynda Sue Park’s “When My Name Was Keoko” to learn a bit more about what life was like during the Japanese colonization of Korea.

And our Song of the Day is a live perfomance of Korean girl group 2ne1’s ‘Come Back Home’

A little history!

Between 1392 and 1910, the Korean Peninsula was ruled by the ‘Joseon Dynasty’. However, in 1895, the Joseon Dynasty were forced by the Japanese to sign a treaty which began the course of Japanese occupation and, in 1910, Japan officially declared control over Korea.
During this occupation, Koreans were forbidden from teaching, speaking or writing Korean, Koreans were required to take on Japanese names, many historical documents were destroyed and many Korean land and business owners had their livelihoods stripped from them.
Many Koreans were forced to work in Japanese factories or the military and thousands of young Korean women were forced to work as “comfort women” to Japanese soldiers (effectively sex slaves)

You might not think you know anything about this subject, but there is in fact a very big current issue that is a result of Japan’s colonization of Korea.
When Korea was liberated, two countries came to Korea’s aid. Soviet Russia and the United States of America both became ‘international trustees’ of Korea (Russia taking charge of the north and the U.S for the south) and thus Korea was separated at the 38th parallel into North Korea and South Korea – And this is still going now, 69 years later!

When My Name Was Keoko

‘When My Name Was Keoko’ tells the story of Kim Sun-Hee and Kim Tae-Yul, two young siblings living in the midst of Japan’s rule and World War II.

I do not want to reveal too much about this book, but I can say that it has fulfilled my wish of getting a little better an understanding of what the Japanese colonization and World War II must have felt like to those who experienced it. This book has taught me a lot about the recent history of Korea as well as showing just how powerful love, for your family and country, truly is.
The story of Sun-Hee and her family is a terrifying and historically accurate portrayal of life in 1940s Korea and I highly recommend you read this book.

This book also teaches you a lot of interesting stuff, like how Kanji works, Korean history and about the Japanese and Korean language.

I will be writing more on this subject very soon and we can learn more about Korean history together!

You can also read about the author, Lynda Sue Park, and browse her other work on her website.

If you read or have already read this book, let us know what you think!

Please join us on Twitter and Facebook, as well as on my personal Twitter and Instagram account. X

Coming Soon

We are sorry. This site is currently under construction. 

Thank you for your interest in this topic. Lots of exciting content will appear here shortly.

Please check back very soon!