Japanese December 13, 2014 1:34 pm

Japanese Language Overview


Japanese December 13, 2014 1:34 pm

Japanese Language Overview


Japanese Language Overview

In the “western world” Japanese is commonly considered a difficult language to learn, mostly because of it’s writing system and unfamiliar logic of building sentences. Japanese has no genealogical relationship with Chinese, but it makes extensive use of Chinese characters, or kanji (漢字), in its writing system and a large portion of its vocabulary is borrowed from Chinese. Japanese was not studied much by non-Japanese before the Japanese economic bubble of the 1980s. The economic boom of the 1980’s and an increased interest in Japanese culture worldwide generated a significant upturn in students learning the language. This section will give you a brief and informative overview about some basic concepts of the Japanese Language.

Facts about Japanese grammar

  • Word order in sentences is normally subject–object–verb with particles marking the grammatical function of
    words.
  • Nouns have no grammatical number or gender.
  • There are no articles like in the grammar of most western languages.
  • Verbs are conjugated, primarily for tense and voice, but not person.
  • Japanese equivalents of adjectives are also conjugated.
  • Japanese has a complex system of honorifics with verb forms and vocabulary to indicate the relative status of the speaker, the listener, and persons mentioned.

Written Japanese

In Japanese, there are three kinds of characters: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji (Chinese characters). Nowadays,
Japanese people use roughly 1945 Kanji on a daily basis. Hiragana & Katakana are original Japanese characters
derived from Chinese characters, and one letter represents one syllabic sound. People now use Kanji and Hiragana to
write Japanese words, while Katakana is used to write foreign words (and some Japanese vocabulary originated from
foreign/english words) and express sounds.

Greeting and Goodbye

English Phrase

Japanese Phrase

Japanese Writing

Hello! Konnichiwa こんにちは。
Hello! (on phone) Moshi moshi もしもし。
Good morning Ohayou Gozaimasu おはようございます。
Good evening Konbanwa こんばんは。
Good night Oyasumi nasai おやすみなさい。
Goodbye Sayonara さよなら。
Bye (see you later) Ja (mata) ne じゃ(また)ね。
Bye (when ‘you’ leave) ittekimasu 行ってきます!
Bye (when somebody else leaves) itterasshai いってらっしゃい!
What’s your name? O-namae ha nan desu ka? お名前は何ですか?
My name is … (Watashi no namae ha) … desu (私の名前は)…です。
How are you? O genki desu ka? お元気ですか?
I’m fine, thanks! Watashi wa genki desu. Arigato! 私は元気です。ありがとう!
Long time no see! Hisashiburi ! 久しぶり!
(O) hisashiburi desu ne ! (more formal) お久しぶりですね!
Pleased to meet you! Hajimemashite! はじめまして!
Where are you from? Shusshin ha doko desu ka? 出身はどこですか。
Doko no shusshin desu ka? どこの出身ですか。
Dochira kara desu ka? どちらからですか。
I am from Japan / the U.S. nihon/amerika kara desu. 日本・アメリカからです。
Welcome! Youkoso! ようこそ!
Welcome! (at a store or restaurant, etc.) Irasshaimase! いらっしゃいませ!

Simple conversation & travel

English Phrase

Japanese Phrase

Japanese Writing

Yes. Hai / ee はい。
Un (less formal) うん。
No. Iie いいえ。
Uun (less formal) ううん。
Thanks! Arigatou ありがとう。
Thank you (very much)! (doumo) arigatou gozaimasu どうもありがとう。
You’re welcome! Dou itashimashite どういたしまして。
(Expression of the wish to get on well with somebody) Yoroshiku onegai shimasu よろしくお願いします。
Do you speak English? eigo o hanasemasu ka? 英語を話せますか。
eigo o dekimasu ka? 英語をできますか。
Do you speak Japanese? nihongo o hanasemasu ka? 日本語を話せますか。
nihongo o dekimasu ka? 日本語をできますか。
How much is this? Kore ha ikura desu ka? これはいくらですか。
Until what time (are the the opening hours)? Nan-ji made desu ka? 何時までですか。
What time is it? Ima nan-ji desu ka? 今何時ですか。
What time does it start? Nan-ji ni hajimari-masu ka? 何時じに始まりますか。
What time is the depature? Shuppatsu ha nan-ji desu ka? 出発は何時ですか。
What time does the bar close today? Baa ha kyou, nan-ji ni shimari-masu ka? バーは今日、何時に閉まりますか?
I’d like to buy this Kore o kudasai これをください。
Kore o negai shimasu これを願いします。
Where is … (for example: Tokyo Station) … (Toukyou eki) ha doko desu ka? …(東京駅)はどこですか。
Can I walk there? Aruite ikemasu ka? 歩いて行けますか。
Please turn right Migi ni magatte kudasai 右に曲ってください。
Please turn left Hidari ni magatte kudasai 左に曲がってください。
Please go straight Massugu ni itte kudasai まっすぐに行ってください。

Asking for help

English Phrase

Japanese Phrase

Japanese Writing

Excuse me! (to ask for something or to pass by) Sumimasen すみません。
Can you help me? Tetsudatte kuremasuka? 手伝ってくれますか。
Can I help you? O-Tetsudai shimashou ka? お手伝いしましょうか。
Tetsudatte agemashou ka? 手伝ってあげましょうか。
I’m lost. Mayotte shimai-mashita 迷ってしまいました。
Where is the bathroom? O-Tearai ha doko desu ka? お手洗いはどこですか。
I’m looking for … … o sagashite imasu (ga). …を探しています(が)。
One moment please! / Hold on please! Chotto matte kudasai ちょっと待ってください。
Come with me, please! Watashi to isshoni kite kudasai. 私と一緒に来てください。
I feel sick Choushi ga warui desu 調子が悪いです。
I need a doctor Byouin ni ikitai 病院に行きたい。

(Solving) Misunderstandings

English Phrase

Japanese Phrase

Japanese Writing

I don’t understand! Wakarimasen! 分かりません。
I am sorry! Gomen nasai! ごめんなさい!
No problem! daijoubu desu 大丈夫です。
Can you say it again please? Mou ichido itte kuremasu ka?

もう一度行ってくれませんか?

Can you speak slowly please? yukkuri shabette kuremasu ka?

ゆっくり喋ってくれますか?

I don’t know! Shirimasen しりません。
I have no Idea. Wakarimasen 分かりません。
What’s that called in Japanese? (Are ha) nihongo de nanto iimasu ka? あれは日本語で何と言いますか?

Borrowed Words and Japanized English

Japan is a country with many borrowed words. Katakana is used when writing borrowed words, foreign names and place-names.
The borrowed word is the word established with the original meaning. "Japanized English" was constructed by combining English words.
Although they sound like English, they are the words of expression which is not in original English. As a matter of course, only Japanese people
can understand "Japanized English". And, in order that they have flooded too much, we are confused to the difference with original
English.

  • Examples of borrowed words
    The word borrowed from German "Arbeit". A meaning is "work". In Japan, it means short-term labor contracts, such as a side job and temporary employment.
    The word borrowed from Portuguese "Castella". This is the baked confectionery imported from Portugal to Nagasaki at the Muromachi period (1338-1573).
    The word borrowed from French "Croissant". The word about cooking and dress has much borrowing from French.
    The word borrowed from English "Radio".
    The word borrowed from Spanish "Medias" or Portuguese "Meias". A meaning is stretchy cloth.

  • Examples of Japanized English
    "Salary" and "man" were combined. People who are working for a company by getting salary. It is used in the same meaning as "Office worker" of English.
    "Personal computer" was abridged.
    "Back" and "mirror" were combined. It is used in the same meaning as "Rear-view mirror" of English.
    "Pair" and "look" were combined. It is used in the same meaning as "same outfit, matching outfits" of English.
    "Paper" and "driver" were combined. It is used in the same meaning as "Sunday driver" of English.

This symbol is used when lengthening a vowel sound.

Kanji (Chinese Character)

What is Kanji?

The Chinese character was imported from China. However, the Chinese character of Japan has improved so that a Chinese character can be written briefly. For example, the basis of the Kanji “sakura sample1” was “sakura sample2”. There are many kanjis which Japanese character culture produced. (The kanji of 10,000 or more are in the “Chinese-Japanese dictionary” of Japan. There is a kanji of 6000 or more which can be used with a personal computer. There are about 2000 also with the “Chinese characters in common use” used usually now.) Please see Japanese Kanji Dictionary with Pronunciation and Japanese Kanji Dictionary help page, if you want to learn in detail about each Kanji.The Kanji can be written using Kana characters. If so, why does we use the Kanji purposely? The Kanji has the advantage that we can understand a meaning on the shape. For example, it is “kanji sample1” when Kanji is written in Hiragana. There are some words pronounced “kanji sample1” as follows. kanji sample2(Chinese character), kanji sample3(organizer), kanji sample4(inspector), kanji sample5(feeling), a name of a person called Kanji. If it is written as “kanji sample1” in hiragana, we have to interpret the meaning in the context. However, if it has written with the Chinese character, we can understand the meaning only by seeing the word. Of course, if we do not know the Kanji, it is not meaningful. So, it is significant to study the kanji.

Pronunciation of Kanji

Kanji has two kinds of readings “On-yomi” and “Kun-yomi”. “On-yomi” is Chinese pronunciation. “Kun-yomi” is the original pronunciation of Japan. At the time of “Kun-yomi”, “Okurigana(a declensional kana ending)” is added to a Kanji in almost cases. The inside of the parenthesis of the following example is “Okurigana”.

On-Yomi Kun-Yomi Meaning
bi 美しい utsuku(shii) beatiful
raku 楽しい tano(shii) pleasent, happy
gaku 学ぶ mana(bu) learn

Jyukugo (Idiom)

Kanji has a meaning in each and is equivalent to a word. They can combine and can make idioms indicating various meanings.
The number of idioms has tens of thousands.

Idiom Meaning Component Kanji
Kanji Meaning
学問 gakumon learning gaku 学 knowledge, learn
mon 門 question
登山 tozan mountain climbing to 登 climb
zan 山 mountain
自信 jishin self-confidence ji 自 oneself
shin 新 trust

Tags: , , , ,

Categorised in:

This post was written by Mathew Ryan

In the “western world” Japanese is commonly considered a difficult language to learn, mostly because of it’s writing system and unfamiliar logic of building sentences. Japanese has no genealogical relationship with Chinese, but it makes extensive use of Chinese characters, or kanji (漢字), in its writing system and a large portion of its vocabulary is borrowed from Chinese. Japanese was not studied much by non-Japanese before the Japanese economic bubble of the 1980s. The economic boom of the 1980’s and an increased interest in Japanese culture worldwide generated a significant upturn in students learning the language. This section will give you a brief and informative overview about some basic concepts of the Japanese Language.

Facts about Japanese grammar

  • Word order in sentences is normally subject–object–verb with particles marking the grammatical function of
    words.
  • Nouns have no grammatical number or gender.
  • There are no articles like in the grammar of most western languages.
  • Verbs are conjugated, primarily for tense and voice, but not person.
  • Japanese equivalents of adjectives are also conjugated.
  • Japanese has a complex system of honorifics with verb forms and vocabulary to indicate the relative status of the speaker, the listener, and persons mentioned.

Written Japanese

In Japanese, there are three kinds of characters: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji (Chinese characters). Nowadays,
Japanese people use roughly 1945 Kanji on a daily basis. Hiragana & Katakana are original Japanese characters
derived from Chinese characters, and one letter represents one syllabic sound. People now use Kanji and Hiragana to
write Japanese words, while Katakana is used to write foreign words (and some Japanese vocabulary originated from
foreign/english words) and express sounds.

Greeting and Goodbye

English Phrase

Japanese Phrase

Japanese Writing

Hello! Konnichiwa こんにちは。
Hello! (on phone) Moshi moshi もしもし。
Good morning Ohayou Gozaimasu おはようございます。
Good evening Konbanwa こんばんは。
Good night Oyasumi nasai おやすみなさい。
Goodbye Sayonara さよなら。
Bye (see you later) Ja (mata) ne じゃ(また)ね。
Bye (when ‘you’ leave) ittekimasu 行ってきます!
Bye (when somebody else leaves) itterasshai いってらっしゃい!
What’s your name? O-namae ha nan desu ka? お名前は何ですか?
My name is … (Watashi no namae ha) … desu (私の名前は)…です。
How are you? O genki desu ka? お元気ですか?
I’m fine, thanks! Watashi wa genki desu. Arigato! 私は元気です。ありがとう!
Long time no see! Hisashiburi ! 久しぶり!
(O) hisashiburi desu ne ! (more formal) お久しぶりですね!
Pleased to meet you! Hajimemashite! はじめまして!
Where are you from? Shusshin ha doko desu ka? 出身はどこですか。
Doko no shusshin desu ka? どこの出身ですか。
Dochira kara desu ka? どちらからですか。
I am from Japan / the U.S. nihon/amerika kara desu. 日本・アメリカからです。
Welcome! Youkoso! ようこそ!
Welcome! (at a store or restaurant, etc.) Irasshaimase! いらっしゃいませ!

Simple conversation & travel

English Phrase

Japanese Phrase

Japanese Writing

Yes. Hai / ee はい。
Un (less formal) うん。
No. Iie いいえ。
Uun (less formal) ううん。
Thanks! Arigatou ありがとう。
Thank you (very much)! (doumo) arigatou gozaimasu どうもありがとう。
You’re welcome! Dou itashimashite どういたしまして。
(Expression of the wish to get on well with somebody) Yoroshiku onegai shimasu よろしくお願いします。
Do you speak English? eigo o hanasemasu ka? 英語を話せますか。
eigo o dekimasu ka? 英語をできますか。
Do you speak Japanese? nihongo o hanasemasu ka? 日本語を話せますか。
nihongo o dekimasu ka? 日本語をできますか。
How much is this? Kore ha ikura desu ka? これはいくらですか。
Until what time (are the the opening hours)? Nan-ji made desu ka? 何時までですか。
What time is it? Ima nan-ji desu ka? 今何時ですか。
What time does it start? Nan-ji ni hajimari-masu ka? 何時じに始まりますか。
What time is the depature? Shuppatsu ha nan-ji desu ka? 出発は何時ですか。
What time does the bar close today? Baa ha kyou, nan-ji ni shimari-masu ka? バーは今日、何時に閉まりますか?
I’d like to buy this Kore o kudasai これをください。
Kore o negai shimasu これを願いします。
Where is … (for example: Tokyo Station) … (Toukyou eki) ha doko desu ka? …(東京駅)はどこですか。
Can I walk there? Aruite ikemasu ka? 歩いて行けますか。
Please turn right Migi ni magatte kudasai 右に曲ってください。
Please turn left Hidari ni magatte kudasai 左に曲がってください。
Please go straight Massugu ni itte kudasai まっすぐに行ってください。

Asking for help

English Phrase

Japanese Phrase

Japanese Writing

Excuse me! (to ask for something or to pass by) Sumimasen すみません。
Can you help me? Tetsudatte kuremasuka? 手伝ってくれますか。
Can I help you? O-Tetsudai shimashou ka? お手伝いしましょうか。
Tetsudatte agemashou ka? 手伝ってあげましょうか。
I’m lost. Mayotte shimai-mashita 迷ってしまいました。
Where is the bathroom? O-Tearai ha doko desu ka? お手洗いはどこですか。
I’m looking for … … o sagashite imasu (ga). …を探しています(が)。
One moment please! / Hold on please! Chotto matte kudasai ちょっと待ってください。
Come with me, please! Watashi to isshoni kite kudasai. 私と一緒に来てください。
I feel sick Choushi ga warui desu 調子が悪いです。
I need a doctor Byouin ni ikitai 病院に行きたい。

(Solving) Misunderstandings

English Phrase

Japanese Phrase

Japanese Writing

I don’t understand! Wakarimasen! 分かりません。
I am sorry! Gomen nasai! ごめんなさい!
No problem! daijoubu desu 大丈夫です。
Can you say it again please? Mou ichido itte kuremasu ka?

もう一度行ってくれませんか?

Can you speak slowly please? yukkuri shabette kuremasu ka?

ゆっくり喋ってくれますか?

I don’t know! Shirimasen しりません。
I have no Idea. Wakarimasen 分かりません。
What’s that called in Japanese? (Are ha) nihongo de nanto iimasu ka? あれは日本語で何と言いますか?

Borrowed Words and Japanized English

Japan is a country with many borrowed words. Katakana is used when writing borrowed words, foreign names and place-names.
The borrowed word is the word established with the original meaning. "Japanized English" was constructed by combining English words.
Although they sound like English, they are the words of expression which is not in original English. As a matter of course, only Japanese people
can understand "Japanized English". And, in order that they have flooded too much, we are confused to the difference with original
English.

  • Examples of borrowed words
    The word borrowed from German "Arbeit". A meaning is "work". In Japan, it means short-term labor contracts, such as a side job and temporary employment.
    The word borrowed from Portuguese "Castella". This is the baked confectionery imported from Portugal to Nagasaki at the Muromachi period (1338-1573).
    The word borrowed from French "Croissant". The word about cooking and dress has much borrowing from French.
    The word borrowed from English "Radio".
    The word borrowed from Spanish "Medias" or Portuguese "Meias". A meaning is stretchy cloth.

  • Examples of Japanized English
    "Salary" and "man" were combined. People who are working for a company by getting salary. It is used in the same meaning as "Office worker" of English.
    "Personal computer" was abridged.
    "Back" and "mirror" were combined. It is used in the same meaning as "Rear-view mirror" of English.
    "Pair" and "look" were combined. It is used in the same meaning as "same outfit, matching outfits" of English.
    "Paper" and "driver" were combined. It is used in the same meaning as "Sunday driver" of English.

This symbol is used when lengthening a vowel sound.

Kanji (Chinese Character)

What is Kanji?

The Chinese character was imported from China. However, the Chinese character of Japan has improved so that a Chinese character can be written briefly. For example, the basis of the Kanji “sakura sample1” was “sakura sample2”. There are many kanjis which Japanese character culture produced. (The kanji of 10,000 or more are in the “Chinese-Japanese dictionary” of Japan. There is a kanji of 6000 or more which can be used with a personal computer. There are about 2000 also with the “Chinese characters in common use” used usually now.) Please see Japanese Kanji Dictionary with Pronunciation and Japanese Kanji Dictionary help page, if you want to learn in detail about each Kanji.The Kanji can be written using Kana characters. If so, why does we use the Kanji purposely? The Kanji has the advantage that we can understand a meaning on the shape. For example, it is “kanji sample1” when Kanji is written in Hiragana. There are some words pronounced “kanji sample1” as follows. kanji sample2(Chinese character), kanji sample3(organizer), kanji sample4(inspector), kanji sample5(feeling), a name of a person called Kanji. If it is written as “kanji sample1” in hiragana, we have to interpret the meaning in the context. However, if it has written with the Chinese character, we can understand the meaning only by seeing the word. Of course, if we do not know the Kanji, it is not meaningful. So, it is significant to study the kanji.

Pronunciation of Kanji

Kanji has two kinds of readings “On-yomi” and “Kun-yomi”. “On-yomi” is Chinese pronunciation. “Kun-yomi” is the original pronunciation of Japan. At the time of “Kun-yomi”, “Okurigana(a declensional kana ending)” is added to a Kanji in almost cases. The inside of the parenthesis of the following example is “Okurigana”.

On-Yomi Kun-Yomi Meaning
bi 美しい utsuku(shii) beatiful
raku 楽しい tano(shii) pleasent, happy
gaku 学ぶ mana(bu) learn

Jyukugo (Idiom)

Kanji has a meaning in each and is equivalent to a word. They can combine and can make idioms indicating various meanings.
The number of idioms has tens of thousands.

Idiom Meaning Component Kanji
Kanji Meaning
学問 gakumon learning gaku 学 knowledge, learn
mon 門 question
登山 tozan mountain climbing to 登 climb
zan 山 mountain
自信 jishin self-confidence ji 自 oneself
shin 新 trust

Tags: , , , ,

Categorised in:

This post was written by Mathew Ryan