Japanese Language

How many Japanese words do you know? No doubt, many more than you realize! For example,

toyota which, by the way, means: ‘abundant rice field’
nissan ‘Japan born’ or ‘made in Japan’
suzuki ‘bell tree’
janome ‘eye of snake’
karaoke ‘empty orchestra’ (without an orchestra)
sushi ‘fish preserved in fermented rice’
tsunami ‘port wave’

These words have become names for things that we are all familiar with and use in our speech without hesitation. The fact that they are Japanese words is probably far from most people’s awareness. So how did you get so fluent? 
Well, first let me ask you, do you remember when you first starting speaking? When you uttered your first ‘mama’ or ‘dada’? Its highly probable that most people would have no memory of that time at all. You learnt your language naturally, according to what was happening or being said in your environment. 
From my own personal experience as a Japanese man living in Britain and Australia for nearly 35 years, I can attest to the fact that when it comes to making yourself understood in a non-native language its not down to the amount of schooling you’ve had or number of text books you’ve read, rather its more about familiarizing yourself as to what are appropriate words for each situation or environment. 
Of course, if the situation you find yourself in requires formal legal or medical terminology then specialist text books and dictionaries are indispensable at first, but when it comes to general conversation it is not that hard to communicate your thoughts. 
Its not book-learning so much as familiarization! 
For example, if you want to converse in Japanese then choose a topic or theme that you like or interests you and then think of a few words that best expresses your view of the topic and then simply find the equivalent words in Japanese. Perhaps repeat these words a few times over to feel comfortable with producing their sound and when you are able to pronounce them with ease then you are able to put them out there to direct a conversation around your chosen topic. When the topic interests you the words are not hard to remember. 
For instance, let’s say you have an interest in the topic of love. Find the equivalent Japanese word for love, which is ‘ai’. Ascertain the sound of ‘ai’ which you’ll find is not hard to pronounce or remember as it sounds identical to the English word ‘I’ or ‘eye’.
Next, try to bring the word ‘ai’ into your conversation, depending on what kind of conversation you wish to have. Perhaps you want to say ‘I love you’? 
As in English too, the words “I love you” in Japanese take on a different meaning or emphasis depending on the situation and with whom you are speaking. In Japanese you wouldn’t normally use the equivalent of “I love you” when speaking to your parents, your children, your friends, your acquaintances or your teachers or mentors. In fact, the only situation in which you would possibly use the phrase is when speaking to someone of the opposite sex that you felt strong affection for and it was an appropriate time to tell them. In English one could imagine many more situations where it would be acceptable to use the words “I love you”, but in Japanese its use is much more confined to a particular scenario. 
Of course that doesn’t mean that we Japanese do not ‘love’ our parents, children, friends and teachers. We just don’t use that phrase in the same situations as you would in English. The main point I am trying to make is that the words we use in Japanese vary with each situation. That’s why I believe ‘familiarising’ oneself with what is appropriate wording in any given situation is key to conversing well in any language, just like it was when you learnt to speak as a toddler. 
Now, getting back to “I love you”, the equivalent in Japanese is best accurately translated as “Watashi wa anata wo ai shitemasu”. But whilst this may be the most accurate translation it is not the most appropriate and you’d be hard pressed to find any Japanese person using it. Rather, they are more likely to abbreviate the sentence to “ai shiteru” or “ai shiteru yo”, or to add a bit of femininity the women would likely say “ai shiteru wa”. 
So, given these variations depending on the T.P.O. (Time, Place and Occasion), how does a non-native, would-be speaker of Japanese go about becoming familiar with the language? 
The answer, I believe, lies in using a few simply structured phrases or wordings and familiarizing yourself with the types of words you’d like to insert into these structured phrases to express yourself. For example, if we go back to the ‘I love you’ phrases in Japanese:
Watashi① wa anata② wo ai③ shi temasu Or Ai④ shi teru 
In the first case the words ‘watashi’, ‘anata’ and ‘ai’ can be replaced with any combination of other words of your choice to express what you have to say with regard to the subject of conversation. 
The basic structure to be familiar with is:
①(subject) wa ②(object) wo ③(verb)temasu. Similarly with the abbreviated ‘ai shi teru’ structure as well, the ‘ai’ can be replaced with a word (usually a verb) and then you add ④ . Its just a matter of filling in the numbered spaces with your choice of words to say what you want. In this way you can make countless sentences. 
If you’d like to get accustomed to expressing yourself in Japanese my recommendation is that you start with subject matter that interests you. Become familiar with those words and when you’d use them and you’ll find they’ll become natural to you the more you put them into use in the right situation. Just like a toddler learns. 
If you’d like to get familiar and practiced in those words and situations call me, Aki, on 0407 705 740.

 

Japanese Language Details

Wed, Jun 28, 2017