Sunday, October 23, 2011

日本語 - Week 3 (Contemporary Japanese Vol. 1)

The book I am using is Contemporary Japanese Vol. 1 by Eriko Sato from the Tuttle Language Library. This is not a Japanese language learning program and I am no teacher. This is a personalized journal of my Japanese language journey, and the target audience would be other students of Japanese, beginners if possible. Let’s start! But before we do please watch the video after or while reading, it’s meant to complement the content of this blog article. If you watch just the video and not read, you’ll have no idea what I’m talking about. Volume 1 of the book has 61 lessons. I only study Monday to Friday, two days for each lesson, which means it will take us 122 days or 24 weeks and 2 days to finish the whole book. Target end date is March 20, 2012.

MONDAY: Lesson Six - Words for Family Members and Phrases for Getting Attention
Lesson six is a cool lesson because it teaches the words for family members! Or at least the more popular ones! Mother is おかあさん. Father is おとうさん. Older Brother is おにいさん. Older Sister is おねえさん. Okay, tell me what you’ve noticed. Nothing? Look again! They all contain a long vowel! Because they are old! Hahahaha. No, there is no logical connection but it’s a good thing to help you remember. The older they are than you, the longer their vowels, hahaha. And so, as a review for the vocabulary I’ve just learned today, I skipped the dialogues and went straight to the Writing Exercise where the book asks you to write those four new words five times each. I did them four times, and the fifth time is done in the video. I love the lesson today, not so complicated!

TUESDAY: Lesson Six - Words for Family Members and Phrases for Getting Attention
We only have three new words for expressions on getting attention and they have already been discussed in the video. If you want a package deal, just remember these three in sequence: あのう、ちょっと すみません. What does this mean? The first term is to catch someone’s attention, pretty much like “Hey!” The second one is an intensifier for the last term which means “Sorry” or “Excuse” would probably be more apt. So it means something like, “Hey, I am so sorry (for disturbing you).” Easy. Grammar? No, we just review some hiragana. Remember them? Well, we have not studied anything for pa, pi, pu, pe, po (ぱ、ぴ、ぷ、ぺ、ぽ); ba, bi, bu, be, bo (ば、び、ぶ、べ、ぼ); da, ji, zu, de, do (だ、ぢ、づ、で、ど); za, zi, zu, ze, zo (ざ、じ、ず、ぜ、ぞ); and ga, gi, gu, ge, go (が、ぎ、ぐ、げ、ご). What have you noticed? There are no special Hiragana symbols for them. You just add the tiny circle thingy for those that start with the P sound and you add that symbol that looks like open quotation marks for VOICED variants of the voiceless Hiragana we have already studied!

WEDNESDAY: Lesson Seven - Names of Japanese Cities and Phrases for Small Talk
The new lesson introduces four Japanese cities in Hiragana and Kanji. I think it won’t hurt if we memorize their Kanji for now since there are just two for each. They might come in very handy for you if you go to Japan. Tokyo is 東京 and take note that both of its vowel sounds are long. Kyoto is 京都 and for this one only the FIRST vowel sound is long. For the next city, only the first vowel sound is long as well: Osaka = 大阪. The last one is Narita, which does not contain any long vowel sound and is written in Kanji as 成田. Hiragana again? How do you write sounds where you have to use your palate? Examples: nya, byo, chu, kya, myu, ja? Just separate the into two syllables. nya = にゃ, byo = びょ, chu = ちゅ, kya = きゃ, myu = みゅ, ja = じゃ. If you are typing, just type them as they are since MS Word would format it automatically for you. Notice how the second syllable is smaller in size? That’s because even though they have two syllables, when pronounced in normal speech they only constitute one.

THURSDAY: Lesson Seven - Names of Japanese Cities and Phrases for Small Talk
Today we do small talk and that means the weather and a lot of How are you’s? After greeting your new Japanese friend, tell him or her how nice the weather is. Vocabulary first! Warm = あたたかい; Hot = あつい; Cold = さむい; Cool = すずしい; Good = いい; Weather = てんき. What is the formula? Plug one of those before “isn’t it?” which is ですね in Japanese. “Nice weather, isn’t it?” would be いいてんきですね? “It’s hot, isn’t it?” would be あついですね? Next would be to ask that person how he or she is at the moment. おげんきですか seems common but the book says that it is more or less reserved for people you have not seen in a long time. The thing is, the book does not provide an alternative, so let’s just use that one for the mean time. Answer? Just use the slang for “yes” ええ and add the affirmative げんきです. To ask back, “and you?” just say the person’s name + suffix + wa? ALFREDさんわ? The Japanese rarely use the second person personal pronoun. So although it might sound weird to talk about the person you are talking to as if he or she is not there, I am afraid you would have to do it. Alternative answers? おかげさまで (Good); まあまあです (So so); なんとか (Barely surviving).

FRIDAY: Lesson Eight - 私は日本人です
Lesson Eight is the first lesson in Chapter Two and I must tell you that we need to step up now. Since we are done with Hiragana, the written portion is mostly dedicated to Kanji, with four or more to be memorized each day. Having said that, there would be no more double discussions. This blog entry would be exclusive for grammar points and set phrases (key expressions), while the video would be for dialogue/Kanji practice and vocabulary words. We have four grammar points today. The first is about こちら which means “this side” but is used to refer to “this person” in a polite manner. The second is about personal pronouns, of which only the first person would be useful for us since the Japanese tend to just say a person’s name when they are talking to them or about them. It sounds weird but that’s the way it is. “I” is わたし and the Kanji is the first ever we would learn! This is very useful because we would be talking about ourselves most of the time There are other words for the first person personal pronoun but this is the safest to use for beginners so let’s stick with it. The last grammar point is regarding “yes” はい and “no” いえ. The book explains that in Japanese, these are strictly for agreement or disagreement and not for affirmation. If in English someone asks you “Is this not a book?” これは 本じゃあありませんか your answer would be “NO, that is not a book” which demonstrates negation. In Japanese, they would say はい 本じゃあありません which agrees to your negative statement. It could get tricky. My suggestion? Avoid negative questions! The last one before we go on a weekend break is about nationality. One of the Kanji we learned today (see video!) is which you connect to a country name to denote the appropriate nationality. Since “Japan” is 日本 a Japanese would be a 日本人 so on and so forth! How to ask someone’s nationality? Keep this set phrase in mind: どちらからですか meaning “Where are you from?”

See you next weekend! For next week I would be covering the second half of lesson eight until lesson ten. We can do this guys! The goal is to pass the N5 examination of the JLPT in December 2012! =)

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