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Between 縺ッ and 縺

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Between 縺ッ and 縺

I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard the question, 窶弩hat is the difference between the 縲後ッ縲 and 縲後′縲 particle?窶 This question has successfully managed to baffle countless generations of people learning Japanese. This has been followed by countless number ofツequally confusing (and sometimes wrong) explanationsツinvolving a great deal of mumbo-jumbo such as contrast, emphasis, subordinate clauses, and voodoo magic. However, with my genius, I was able to provide a complete explanation in one small sentence.

縲後ッ縲 and 縲後′縲 have different meanings.

I think the more appropriate question would be, 窶弩hatツisn窶冲ツdifferent about 縲後ッ縲 and 縲後′縲?窶 You may be thinking, 窶廝ut in English, they both identify the subject of the sentence.窶 Ahh, English. Isn窶冲 English that language that can窶冲 even express the very concept of 縲後ッ縲 and 縲後′縲? Well, no wonder it looks the same inツthatツlanguage. That窶冱 like a red-green color-blind person holding a red and green sheet of paper and saying, 窶廩ey, isn窶冲 this the same color?窶

Japanese: A language of context

Since 縲後ッ縲 and 縲後′縲 mean totally different things, the only thing we need to do in order to identify their differences is to fully understand what they actually mean and why they exist. The first thing we need to realize is that a Japanese sentence is not required to have a subject. You can just say, 窶廩it ball窶 and you窶决e good to go. So how do you know what the heck everybody is talking about?

Well, there are several ways and they all involve making assumptions from context. For example, if I suddenly asked you, 窶廣te lunch?窶 you assume I窶冦 asking ifツyouツate lunch because I窶冦 surely not talking about anyone else. Therefore, you answer, 窶廣te lunch.窶 Then I assume you are talking about yourself since I just asked you the question and so I now know that you ate lunch. However, if we happened to be talking about Alice when I asked you the question, you will likely assume that I窶冦 asking if Alice ate lunch because that窶冱 who we were talking about.

Ok, so what does 縲後ッ縲 mean?

If we take a language like Japanese where the subject is so heavily based on context, we need to be able to identify a couple things. While making assumptions from context will work for simple question and answer sessions, anything more complicated will soon become a mess as everybody starts to lose track of who or what they窶决e talking about. Therefore, we need to be able to tell the listener when we want to change the current topic to say, 窶廩ey, I窶冦 going to talk aboutツthisツnow. So don窶冲 assume I窶冦 still talking about the old thing.窶 This is especially important when you strike up a new conversation and you need to tell the listener what you窶决e talking about. This is what the 縲後ッ縲 particle does; it introduces a different topic from the current one. For that reason, it is also referred to as the 窶topic particle窶.

Lets take the previous example where I wanted to ask you if you ate. The conversation might look like the following:

Me)ツ鬟溘∋縺シ 窶 Didツyouツeat?
You)ツ鬟溘∋縺縲 窶 I ate.

Now, what if I wanted to ask you if Alice ate? Then I need to use the 縲後ッ縲 particle to indicate that I窶冦 talking about Alice. Otherwise, you would just assume I窶冦 talking about you.

Me) 繧「繝ェ繧ケ縺ッ鬟溘∋縺シ 窶 DidツAliceツeat?
You)ツ鬟溘∋縺縲 窶 She ate.

Notice how once I establish Alice as the new topic, we can continue to assume that we are talking about her until someone changes the topic.

So what does 縲後′縲 mean then?

Ok, so we can introduce a new topic using the 縲後ッ縲 particle. But what if we don窶冲 know what the topic is? What if I wanted to ask, 窶弩ho ate the chicken?窶 What I need is some kind ofツidentifierツbecause I don窶冲 know who ate the chicken. If I used the 縲後ッ縲 particle, the question would become, 窶廛id who eat the chicken?窶 and that doesn窶冲 make any sense because 窶忤ho窶 is not an actual person.

This is where the 縲後′縲 particle comes into play. It is also referred to as the subject particle but I hate that name since it means something completely different in English grammar. Instead, I move to call it theツidentifierツparticle because it identifies something unknown.

The conversation about the chicken-eater culprit might go something like this:

Me)ツ隱ー繝√く繝ウ鬟溘∋縺シ 窶 Who ate the chicken?
You) 繧「繝ェ繧ケ鬟溘∋縺縲 窶 Alice [is the one who] ate it.

Notice that the 縲後′縲 particle is used twice because you need to identify who ate the chicken in the answer. You can窶冲 say 縲後い繝ェ繧ケ縺ッ鬟溘∋縺縲ゅ because we窶决e not talking about Alice. We窶决e trying to identify the unknown person that ate the chicken.

Conclusion

Now, that I窶况e clearly explained what 縲後ッ縲 and 縲後′縲 means, I hope this will finally clear up that question that has been haunting your mind. Remember, if you are talking about something new, use 縲後ッ縲. If you are trying to identify something unknown, use 縲後′縲. Simple, huh?

Is there a subject in Japanese grammar?

Originally published: 2007/9/3

One of my biggest pet peeves in the field of Japanese as a second language is the 縲後′縲 particle being called the 窶徭ubject particle窶. This misleading terminology comes from my second biggest pet peeve, which is educators trying to artificially tie Japanese into English language concepts. I think one of the problems is that Japanese teachers, especially native speakers, really don窶冲 understand their own language from a conceptual point-of-view and more importantly how it logically differs from English.

I can illustrate howツstupidツit is to call 縲後′縲 the subject particle in the following simple dialogue.

シ。縺輔sシ 蜴溷ョソ縺ォ陦後%縺繧医
シ「縺輔sシ 縺ェ繧薙〒シ
シ。縺輔sシ壹繧ッ繝ャ繝シ繝励′鬟溘∋縺溘>縺九i縲

Looking at the last sentence, if 縲後け繝ャ繝シ繝励′縲 is indeed marking crepe as the subject, we can only assume that シ。縺輔s wants to go to Harajuku because the crepe wants to eat. But that doesn窶冲 make any sense! In reality, 縲後け繝ャ繝シ繝励 here is supposed to be the object of the sentence, the subject being シ。縺輔s, who wants to eat crepe.

The most simple conclusion, if you insist on thinking in English, is that the 縲後′縲 particle can either represent the subject or the object of the sentence. But why would you use the same particle to represent something completely so different as the subject and the object? And to make things even worse, consider the following dialogue.

シ。縺輔sシ壻ス輔°鬟溘∋繧医≧繧医
シ「縺輔sシ壹け繝ャ繝シ繝励ッ縺ゥ縺シ
シ。縺輔sシ繧ッ繝ャ繝シ繝励ッ縺ゅ∪繧企」溘∋縺溘¥縺ェ縺縺ェ縲

If you throw in the fact that the 縲後ッ縲 can also be the subject OR the object, it窶冱 no wonder that Japanese particles seem so confusing! It窶冱 natural that students can never figure out the difference between 縲後ッ縲 and 縲後′縲 because it seems that either can be used to indicate the same things in English. This is where Japanese teachers should really beat into their heads that the concepts they窶决e looking for such as the subjectツdoes not existツin Japanese.

The subject traditionally indicates who or what is doing the verb in the sentence but 縲後ッ縲 only indicates the topic. For example, 縲御サ頑律縺ッ蠢吶@縺縲 doesn窶冲 mean that 窶弋oday is busy窶, it means 窶廣s for today, [I, he, she, we, they] is/are busy.窶 Only when we translate into English are we forced to create the subject by context. In this case, the translation might be 窶廬窶冦 busy today.窶

The 縲後′縲 particle also does not indicate the subject, it only identifies the unknown. For example, 縲後け繝ャ繝シ繝励′鬟溘∋縺溘>縺九i縲ゅ is identifying that it窶冱 because crepe is the thing that he/she/we/they wants to eat. In English, the subject would be 窶彿t窶 as in, 窶It窶冱ツbecause I want to eat crepe窶. But because Japanese doesn窶冲 even have a subject, there is no need for such a construction.

This is why I窶况e been calling the 縲後′縲 particle the 窶彿dentifier particle窶 for the longest time, and you should too because that窶冱 what it does. There is no such thing as a subject in Japanese so it makes no sense to have a 窶徭ubject窶 particle. (Please feel free to do the double quote sign while saying 窶徭ubject窶 in 窶徭ubject particle窶.)

For further reading, I highly suggest this blog post: 縲譌・譛ャ隱槭↓荳サ隱槭ッ縺ゅk縺ョ縺具シ縲.

逧シ A very useful ally

While the word 縲後※縺阪 usually means 窶彳nemy窶, that窶冱 not the word we窶决e talking about today. The word I窶冦 going to talk about uses a completely different Kanji from 縲梧雰縲 meaning 窶彳nemy窶 and is in fact a very useful and helpful ally.

If you窶况e studied Japanese for a while, you窶决e bound to have encountered the 縲檎噪縲 kanji. While this kanji by itself is read as 縲後∪縺ィ縲 and means a 窶徼arget窶, its usefulness really shines as a noun suffix. This kanji can be attached to countless nouns to easily change them to aツna-adjective. In this case, you read the kanji as 縲後※縺阪 and you窶冤l see it all over the place: 荳闊ャ逧縲∝悸蛟堤噪縲∵─蜍慕噪縲∫ソ呈」逧縲∵橿陦鍋噪縲∝渕譛ャ逧縲‖nd on and on.

Let窶冱 take the word 縲梧─蜍輔 meaning 窶彭eep emotion窶 and say we want to say the following sentence.

That movie was very moving.

Unfortunately, since 縲梧─蜍輔 is a noun, we can窶冲 just say, 縲後≠縺ョ譏逕サ縺ッ縺ィ縺ヲ繧よ─蜍輔 because the movie is not a deep emotion. So you窶决e going to have to say something complicated like the following:

縺ゅョ譏逕サ繧定ヲ九※縲∵─蜍輔@縺溘
I saw that movie and I was moved.

But wait! We can just use 縲檎噪縲 to make 縲梧─蜍輔 into an adjective!

縺ゅョ譏逕サ縺ッ諢溷虚逧縺縺」縺溘
That movie was very moving.

縺ゅl縺ッ諢溷虚逧縺ェ譏逕サ縺縺」縺溘
That was a very moving movie.

What could be argued as even more useful is if you use theツ縲後↓縲 target particleツwith 縲檎噪縲, you can make the noun into an adverb! (Actually, this applies toツall na-adjectives)

縺昴l縺ッ謚陦鍋噪縺ォ辟。逅縺ァ縺吶
That窶冱 technically impossible.

譛昴#鬟ッ縺ッ鄙呈」逧縺ォ豈取悃鬟溘∋縺セ縺吶
I customarily eat breakfast every morning.

In fact, without 縲檎噪縲 there are just so many things that can窶冲 be expressed. I would definitely put this kanji on my top 100 list.

繧「繝。繝ェ繧ォ縺ァ縺ッ縲∬サ翫〒騾壼共縺吶k縺ョ縺荳闊ャ逧縺縲
In America, people generally commute by car.

螳「隕ウ逧縺ェ隕也せ縺九i閠縺医◆縺サ縺縺後>縺縲
It窶冱 better to think of it from a objective viewpoint.

Debunking the Japanese sentence order myth

I窶况e mentioned this before, but I窶囘 like to repeat myself here to hopefully help the debunking of the age-old Japanese sentence order myth.

Many of you have probably heard this before but to review, here窶冱 how the myth goes.

An English sentence must consist of at least a subject, verb, and object in that order. However, in Japanese, the order must be subject, object, then verb.

Myth
English sentence order = [Subject] [Verb] [Object]
Japanese sentence order = [Subject] [Object] [Verb]

I can debunk this myth is 2 seconds. Let窶冱 see, is this sentence correct?

シ托シ譫玲ェ鬟溘∋縺溘
-Apple I ate.

Why, yes it is. And look, the object appears to come before the subject. Boy, that was easy.

There are several misleading things about this myth besides the fact that it窶冱 just plain incorrect. First of all, as I窶况e partially explained in aツprevious post, Japanese doesn窶冲 require or even have anything equivalent to the English subject. In addition, you only need a verb to make a complete thought in Japanese.

シ托シ鬟溘∋縺
-Ate.

What gets tricky is that the state-of-being verb (the English verb 窶徼o be窶) can be implicitly implied by a noun or adjective. That窶冱 because Japanese doesn窶冲 have an actual verb for the state-of-being.

シ托シ縺昴l縺ッ谿句ソオ
-That [is] unfortunate.

Why Japanese doesn窶冲 have strict sentence order

In Japanese, we have things called particles that come after almost every word in the sentence to identify exactly what role that word is playing. That means that no matter where the word is in the sentence, we窶冤l know whether it窶冱 an object, topic, identifier, target, context, etc.. The only reason sentence order is so strict in English is because without clear rules of ordering, we won窶冲 have any idea which word is supposed to play which role.

In English, sentence order changes the meaning of the sentence.
シ托シ Dog saw Tree.
シ抵シ欝ree saw Dog.

In Japanese, because of particles, no matter how you move things around, the dog is still the topic and the tree is still the object.
シ托シ Dog[topic particle] tree[object particle] saw. = Dog saw tree.
シ抵シ Tree[object particle] dog[topic particle] saw. = Dog saw tree.

Clauses

In order to really understand Japanese sentence structure, you need to break things down into clauses. A clause is the smallest part of a sentence that expresses a complete thought. As mentioned previously, in order to express a complete thought, you must have a verb or a noun/adjective that is a state-of-being. Now, the only thing you have to remember is that everything that applies to that verb must come before it. And that each clause can have only one such verb.

The verb (or state-of-being) must come at the veryツendツof the clause

シ托シ迥ャ譛ィ隕九◆縲 窶 The dog saw tree.
シ抵シ譛ィ迥ャ隕九◆縲 窶 The dog saw tree.

シ托シ縺ッ蟄ヲ逕縺ァ縺縲 窶 I am student.
シ抵シ蟄ヲ逕縺ッ縺ァ縺縲 窶 The student is me.

That窶冱 it!

Surprisingly, that窶冱 really the only thing you have to worry about in terms of Japanese sentence ordering. It窶冱 one of the great benefits of particles actually because sentence order no longer defines a word窶冱 function.

All of the following sentences are correct.
シ托シ蠖シ縺ッ縺縺、繧蝗ウ譖ク鬢ィ縺ァ蜍牙シキ縺吶k
シ抵シ縺縺、繧蝗ウ譖ク鬢ィ縺ァ蠖シ縺ッ蜍牙シキ縺吶k
シ難シ蝗ウ譖ク鬢ィ縺ァ蠖シ縺ッ縺縺、繧蜍牙シキ縺吶k

It is also important to realize that the farther away you get from the main verb, the more extraneous the information becomes. In sentence シ, the sentence is mostly centered on the fact that the studying is done at the library while in sentence シ, the focus is on the fact that heツalwaysツstudies.

In order to make more complicated sentences, you can take separate clauses and combine them with either withツconjunctionsツor byツdirect noun modifications. But as long as the sentence structure in each separate clause is correct, there should be no problems with sentence ordering no matter how complicated and long the sentence is.

Addendum

(added 2017/10/19)

I窶冦 sure linguistic experts will claim I窶冦 totally wrong and SOV is a classification, word order preference, or whatever you want to call it and doesn窶冲 technically require an 窶彜窶 or 窶廾窶. My original point in the article (though admittedly I was younger and more dramatic) is that this classification doesn窶冲 help SLA and in fact creates a lot of confusion and common mistakes for beginners learning Japanese as a second language.

It窶冱 a BIG stretch to say there窶冱 some equivalence to English as an SVO language. In English, saying 窶廝all boy hits窶 is grammatically incorrect. On the other hand, in Japanese, not only are both 窶廝all boy hits窶 and 窶廝oy ball hits窶 grammatically correct, theyツhave the same meaningツif the particles remain unchanged regardless of order. There窶冱 a fundamental difference in the two languages that is not accurately portrayed by this misleading classification.

Furthermore, I believe the whole viewpoint of SOV vs SVO linguistically is very western-centric and not a good way to describe Japanese. If you want to prove me wrong with a mathematical proof in the style of formal language theory, that窶冱 one thing but this is far more subjective and to say one is 窶忤rong窶 because it doesn窶冲 adhere to an established curriculum is short-sighted. I highly doubt linguistics created in a vacuum purely for Japanese would have taken the same approach here.

Cut it out with 縲悟繧後k縲!

縲悟繧後k縲, theツintransitive versionツof 縲悟繧九, not to be confused with the short-handツpotential formツ縲悟繧峨l繧九, is one of those common words with many definitions and usages.

If you look up 縲悟繧後k縲 on Jim Breen窶冱 WWWJDIC, you will get a huge list of definitions:

蛻繧後k 縲舌″繧後k縲 (v1) (1) to cut well; to be sharp; (2) to break (off); to snap; to wear out; (3) to be injured; (4) to burst; to collapse; (5) to be disconnected; to be out of; to expire; to sever (connections) with; (6) to be shrewd; to have a sharp mind;

If you窶决e just starting out, I would NOT recommend using these definitions verbatim. It窶冱 important to see how it窶冱 used in context in order to see the specific types of situations and common particles used together. Let窶冱 take a look at some examples.

For instance, what if you wanted to say something ran out or expired?

シ托シ蛾崕豎縺後b縺縺吶$蛻繧後k縺九i縲∵眠縺励>縺ョ繧定イキ縺」縺滓婿縺後>縺縲
窶 The batteries are going to run out soon, so you should buy a new one.

シ抵シ峨%縺ョ蝠蜩√ッ繧ゅ≧螢イ繧雁繧縺ァ縺吶
窶 This item is already sold-out.

シ難シ芽ウ槫袖譛滄剞縺後b縺蛻繧後◆縺九i縲∵昏縺ヲ縺滓婿縺後>縺繧医
窶 The sell-by date has already expired so you should throw it out.

Or what if your connection gets cut off such as on the phone?

シ托シ峨ヨ繝ウ繝阪Ν縺ォ蜈・縺」縺溘i縲髮サ豕「縺悟ア翫°縺ェ縺上※髮サ隧ア縺蛻繧後◆
窶 Once entering the tunnel, the signal didn窶冲 reach and the phone got cut off.

You can even use it for when you lose your temper.

シ托シ峨b縺謌第「縺ァ縺阪↑縺上※縲蛻繧後◆縲つ
窶 I couldn窶冲 take it anymore and I lost my temper.

Perhaps, one of the most useful thing about 縲悟繧後k縲 is that you can take the negative and use it as a verb suffix for things you can窶冲 cut off and put an end to. This has a similar meaning to the expression 縲悟繧翫′縺ェ縺縲 for things that have no cut-off point and seems to be endless. As you can see by the examples, you just take theツstemツof the verb and attach 縲後″繧後↑縺縲 .

シ托シ峨%繧薙↑縺ォ縺溘¥縺輔s鬟溘∋縺阪l縺ェ縺繧医
窶 I can窶冲 eat this much (you know).

シ抵シ峨←縺鬆大シオ縺」縺ヲ繧ゅ√%縺ョ螳ソ鬘後ッ邨カ蟇セ繧繧翫″繧後↑縺繧医
窶 No matter how much you try, there窶冱 no way you will finish this homework.

シ難シ臥憾豕√ッ縺セ縺謚頑升縺励″繧後※縺ェ縺縺溘a縲∵取律縺セ縺ァ讀懆ィ弱&縺帙※縺上□縺輔>縲
窶 Because I haven窶冲 finished getting a handle on the situation, please let me consider/investigate until tomorrow.

Don窶冲 README

Originally published: 2012/11/30

This post is about how you shouldn窶冲 be reading this post.

Still here? Tsk tsk.

Lately, I窶况e been wrestling with how much English vs Japanese to use in my guide. The more Japanese there is to read, the better. However, if there窶冱 too much, it will be too difficult and overwhelming, which would be counter-productive.

If your Japanese study material consists of mostly reading in your native language, you might want to try something that has more Japanese text. This post is in English as well, so really, you probably should stop reading and spend your time on something more productive.

When I first started writing the grammar guide, I wanted to cover every possible topic. Today however, my goal is to kick you out of the bird窶冱 nest so to speak but perhaps a bit more gently than a sink-or-swim approach. I certainly DO NOT expect visitors to be reading about every nuance in grammar or vocabulary in English, especially those who have already mastered the basics. My primary goal is to cover the core concepts and illustrateツhow to teach yourselfツand maybe even have some fun in the process. Teach a man to fish and all that jazz.

So, if you understand all the particles, sentence structure, and how to use dictionaries to learn new vocabulary, maybe it窶冱 time to consider trying to fly out of the nest. Take your time though, I won窶冲 kick you out!

As a fellow Japanese learner, I should probably be writing this in Japanese too窶ヲ 縺ァ繧ゅ√a繧薙←縺上&縺縺九i繧繧√→縺薙≧縲

What窶冱 the best way to learn Japanese?

Originally published: 2015/12/4

Q: What窶冱 the best way to learn Japanese?
A: It depends.

Q: What窶冱 the best way to learn Kanji?
A: The question isツvague.

Q: How long until I can become fluent?
A: What does 窶彷luent窶 mean? Also, it depends.

I get very short emails of this kind all the time and I usually don窶冲 respond (sorry if this was you). But really, 99% of these generic, vague questions I can answer: 窶廬t depends窶.

Time Management

Learning a language is a big job. You窶况e been practicing and learning for pretty much your entire life starting with your parents, to school, and all the way up to adulthood and beyond.

Don窶冲 believe the stupid 窶彷luent in 3 months!窶 marketing lies of various paid products (who does really?) and be prepared for a long term significant time commitment. There are countless strategies for maintaining dedication and achieving goals, which I窶冦 not going to get into because different approaches work better for different people.

What I can say definitely based on basic memorization principles is that it窶冱 far better to spend a little time regularly rather than a large chunk with big gaps of neglect. The best way to achieve this is to integrate Japanese into your daily schedule.

Personally, I did a lot of studying back in the old days when I had literally nothing better to do (no TV or internet). Nowadays, with smartphones, there窶冱 obviously a lot more distractions to deal with. Depending on your schedule, try to find a regular time that you can dedicate such as your commute or scheduling conversation practice once a week.

Allocate a regular time in your schedule

It would be even more ideal if you can take one of your existing hobbies or interest and apply Japanese to it. The obvious example would be switching media such as music, movies, TV, books, and games to Japanese, perhaps with subtitles. Even if you spend an hour or so browsing on the internet or social media, consider watching Japanese Youtube videos or joining some Japanese Facebook group for example.

Of course, language is a tool for communication so you also want to make sure you窶决e not holed up by yourself and that you get out and socialize (more on this later). Ultimately, it窶冱 very important that your 窶徭tudy窶 is enjoyable and provides some degree of satisfaction and positive feedback in order to prevent burn out and giving up.

Make it fun!

Prioritization

Assuming you are able to devote some amount of time on a regular basis, there窶冱 still the issue that you have a lot of catching up to do compared to a native adult who has a head start of 2+ decades of education and immersion. So it窶冱 time to set some priorities and have realistic expectations.

Even if you don窶冲 set priorities, they will get set whether you like it or not. Of course like you (I hope), I strive to be natively proficient at everything but frankly, my writing skills can use work, a LOT of work. That窶冱 because instead of writing in Japanese, I窶冦 spending my time writing this blog post in English and mostly reading. Even though I can naively wish my writing would magically improve, it won窶冲 happen unless I work on it (I窶冦 not).

So if you need Japanese for your work, have family, interested in anime or whatever, you can easily break it down into one of four skills: listening, speaking, reading, writing. Once you have your priorities, you need to work on improving those skills by actually DOING IT.

Triage and focus on one of:

  1. listening
  2. reading
  3. speaking
  4. writing

However, when it comes to output skills, you need input otherwise you窶决e just making up random nonsense. So if you want to work on speaking, start by listening, reading before writing (about 2-4 times more input over output).

2-4X input over output:

      listening > speaking

    reading > writing

Finally, even if you triage (which will happen regardless), you should still work on the other areas. Our brains are a complex neural network and stimulating different parts of it helps retention. So if you spend all your time buried in a book, get out and talk to some people. If you窶决e just winging it in Japan, go home and do some reading.

Having a visual image of an object for example, a 窶vending machine窶 with the Kanji 閾ェ蜍戊イゥ螢イ讖 窶徭elf moving sell machine窶 after hearing the word in conversations is the best way to cement it in long-term memory.

Maintain a good balance

Counter examples

Take these stereotypical examples and it窶冱 easy to see where the problems lie because priorities were not in line with desired result.

  1. Stopped studying Japanese because 窶彙usy with life窶
    Spends several hours watching Youtube on the weekend.
  2. Advanced Japanese student who can窶冲 hold a conversation
    Didn窶冲 actually spend time outside classroom speaking to people.
  3. Cannot speak with Japanese significant other
    Always speaks in English with significant other. Has some excuse for not studying or reading.
  4. Loves anime, can窶冲 understand a word
    English subtitles always on. Doesn窶冲 spend time looking up the words. Doesn窶冲 read manga or light novel with a dictionary.
  5. Can窶冲 write Kanji by hand (this is me)
    Always uses an electronic device to type. Rarely writes by hand.
  6. Can窶冲 write that novel in Japanese
    Writes English blog post about learning priorities (yeah you know who you are).
  7. Grammar is confusing
    Didn窶冲 readツmy bookツ(shameless plug).

You can窶冲 窶徑earn窶 Kanji!!

One of my pet peeves is when somebody says the phrase 窶徑earn Kanji窶 such as, 窶廬 learned 100 Kanji in one week!窶 Kanji has way too many parts to simply say that you 窶徑earned窶 it. Saying you learned Kanji is like saying 窶廬 learned computer!窶 or 窶廬 learned a car!窶 What does that even mean? Let窶冱 break down the concrete things youツcanツlearn with Kanji.

  1. Learn the meaning(s)
  2. Learn all the readings
  3. Learn the stroke order
  4. Learn how to write it

Now, let窶冱 see how useful all these possibilities are for learning Japanese.

Learn the meaning 窶 Useful

Learning the meaning of a Kanji is great if it窶冱 a word by itself. For example, 縲悟鴨縲 is also a word meaning 窶徭trength窶 so the meaning directly translates into a word you can actually use. However, you can also argue that since 縲悟鴨縲 is also a word, you are essentially saying that you learned the meaning of a word. So in the end, this is really the same as learning words and doesn窶冲 really count as 窶徑earning Kanji窶.

Having said that, knowing the meaning of a Kanji is certainly very useful for simpler words and concepts. Memorizing the meaning for Kanji such as 縲檎カ壹 or 縲碁」縲 will definitely help you remember words such as 謗・邯壹騾」邯壹‖nd 騾」荳ュ. In conclusion, there窶冱 nothing wrong with learning the meaning of a Kanji and something I would recommend.

Learn all the readings 窶 Waste of time

To put it bluntly, learning all the readings of a Kanji is a complete waste of time. Yes, as a general rule of thumb, Kanji compounds use the on-reading while single characters use the kun-reading. However, this rule is nowhere consistent enough to make it more than a good guess (this is particularly true for 螟ァ which we can窶冲 seem to decide to read as 縺翫♀ or 縺縺).

In addition, many Kanji have multiple readings kun or on-readings such as 諤ェ蜉(縺九>繧翫″ or 縺九>繧翫g縺?), 螟夜%(縺偵←縺 or 縺後>縺ゥ縺?), or 螳カ霍ッ(縺縺医§縲√≧縺。縺倥√d縺?). Even if you guessed the correct reading, it might be voiced or shortened such as 豢サ逋コ and 逋コ螻. Also, Kanji such as 逕 have so many readings, it窶冱 completely pointless to memorize them because you won窶冲 know which one will be used in a word such as 闃晉函縲∫函繝薙シ繝ォ縲∫函邊九‖nd 逕滓カッ. Not to mention the various words that only use the Kanji for the meaning while completely ignoring the reading. These words such as 莉イ莠コ縲∫エ莠コ縲‖nd 縺雁悄逕」 are literally impossible to guess the readings for. At the end of the day, if you see a new word, you always want to look up the reading to make sure you learn the correct combination. In addition, the readings will be easier to remember in context of real words that you can actually use. Essentially, memorizing the readings by themselves is a complete waste of time.

Learn the stroke order 窶 Essential at first

I窶冦 not going to go into all the reasons why memorizing the correct stroke order is important. Without going into detail, of course you want to make sure to remember the correct stroke order. However, you窶冤l find that once you窶况e mastered the basics and all the radicals, stroke order for most Kanji are consistent and easy enough that you no longer need to look it up. Every once in a while, you窶冤l run into odd Kanji such as 鬟 or 鬯ア where you窶冤l want to check the stroke order. So yes, definitely look up the stroke order and make sure you窶决e not developing any bad habits until窶ヲ you don窶冲 need to look them up anymore. That happens sooner that you might think.

Learn how to write it 窶 Depends

This is going to be a controversial stance but nowadays, technology has progressed to the point where we never really have to write anything by hand anymore. Yes, it窶冱 embarrassing if you窶决e fluent in a language but can窶冲 write it by hand. This is an issue even for Japanese people.

By 窶忤riting Kanji窶, I don窶冲 mean just 2,000+ characters based on keywords. Unless you know which combination of Kanji to use for any given word with the correct okurigana, that is a useless parlor trick.

Being able to write anyツwordツin Kanji is an extremely time-consuming goal that may not have much practical value. If your daily life requires writing a lot by hand such as teaching Japanese, I feel that necessity and practice would naturally lend to better writing ability. In other words, if you don窶冲 need it, it窶冱 extremely difficult to keep up your memory of how to write Kanji by hand.

However, that is not to say you should never bother practicing writing in general. For beginners, it窶冱 highly recommended to practice writing in general (especially kana!) in order to help develop muscle memory for stroke order as well as getting a sense of proper character balance.

Conclusion 窶 Learn words with Kanji!

I hate the phrase 窶徑earn Kanji窶 because almost every time someone says that, they don窶冲 realize that they haven窶冲 really learned anything that窶冱 directly applicable to Japanese. Compare 窶徑earning Kanji窶 to learning a word. In order to learn a word, you obviously need to learn the definition, reading, Kanji, and any Okurigana if applicable. There is no question of what you learned and whether it窶冱 useful for Japanese. And yet the idea of learning 2,000 Kanji is so attractive that we can窶冲 seem to get away from that broadly undefined notion.

I don窶冲 consider a Kanji as being learned until I know the most common words using that Kanji with the correct readings and can write those words randomly months after I initially memorized it. Unfortunately, given that standard, I probably know about 100-200 Kanji but hey, we all need goals, right?

Whatever cool method to 窶徇emorize Kanji窶 someone tries to peddle you, at the end of the day, you still have to do lots of reading and memorizing tons of vocabulary. This involves daily struggles starting with remembering that 縲後″縲 in 縲悟・ス縺阪 is okurigana and continuing with which Kanji to use for 逵溷殴 vs 隧ヲ鬨 vs 讀懈渊 vs 髯コ縺励>, or constantly forgetting which kanji is for net vs rope シ育カイシ冗カアシ. You may be thinking, 窶弩ow, 2,000 is a lot!窶 But don窶冲 worry, it pales in comparison to the tens of thousands of words that an adult has memorized in her lifetime. And believe it or not, having a fixed set of characters with mnemonics and compounds actually helps with the much bigger job of learning vocabulary. Once you窶况e learned a new word in seconds based on characters you already know, you窶冤l know what I mean. Trust me.

Addendum: Learning the radicals

Many of the simpler and common characters such as 蜿」 are also radicals that are used as parts of more complicated characters. Obviously you want to learn those as words by themselves. However, there are some radicals that are not characters on their own, for example, 蜆ソ or 霎カ.

Memorizing them if it helps is fine, especially those that are conceptually easy to visualize such as 蜆ソ for 窶徑egs窶. In particular, you should learn to recognize when they are derivatives of actual Kanji such as 莠サ from 莠コ and 蠢 from 蠢. A common example is to remember the person radical 莠サ next to a temple 蟇コ as meaning 窶徭amurai窶 シ井セ搾シ. Learning the radical meaning will really help differentiate from other similar Kanji with different radicals eg 縲梧凾謖∬ゥゥ蠕迚ケ縲.

However, I personally can never remember some of the more abstract ones such as 謾オ so while useful, I wouldn窶冲 go full speed and memorize every single radical in existence. Again, learning in context and with actual words is your best bet.

Using 縲後槭ず縲 for real

Originally published: 2005/5/31

I窶冦 back! Most of you probably don窶冲 know this (or care) but I actually have a real full-time job. And this being Japan, full-time means more like 9 to 8 rather than 9 to 5. So those of you who think I sit at home in my boxers working on my computer, I窶冦 actually stuffed in a crowded train disguised amongst hundreds of Japanese businessman. And since our project is running late on the release date, I窶冦 working more like 9 to 10窶ヲ and I don窶冲 mean one hour. No really. 繝槭ず縺ァ縲 And I suppose that窶冱 just as good as any lead-in to the topic at hand: 窶廩ow to use 繝槭ず to talk about what窶冱 real.窶

What is 繝槭ず?

Once you start practicing Japanese with real people outside of the classroom, you窶决e bound to run into the word 縲後∪縺倥 probably sooner rather than later.

You probably already know 縲梧悽蠖薙, the word you use when you want to say things like, 窶彝eally?窶 or 窶弸es, really.窶 But most of the time, you don窶冲 want to sound like a wimp by saying things like, 窶廾h really? That窶冱 nice.窶 What you really want to say is something like, 窶廡or real?窶 or 窶廸o way!窶 or maybe even, 窶弸ou窶决e shitting me!窶. That窶冱 where 縲後∪縺倥 comes in. 縲後∪縺倥 is often said to be a shortened form of 縲檎悄髱「逶ョ縲 which means 窶徼o be serious窶 (although there are other theories regarding its origin). 縲後∪縺倥 is also often written in katakana to show that great emphasis that 縲後槭ず縲 contains.

A: 繧ッ繝ェ繧ケ縲∝スシ螂ウ縺後〒縺阪◆繧薙□縺」縺ヲ縲
窶 I hear Chris got a girlfriend.

B: 縺クス槭繝槭ず
窶 Heh, for real?

Using the 縲後〒縲 Particle for 繝槭ず

One thing to remember in terms of grammar is the use of particles. When you use 縲梧悽蠖薙 as an adverb, you attach 縲後↓縲. However, for 縲後槭ず縲 you attach 縲後〒縲. There窶冱 no logic that I can figure out to this but then we are talking about slang here.

A:ツ譛ャ蠖薙↓蠢吶@縺上※螟ァ螟峨□縺」縺溘h縲
窶 I was really busy and it was tough

B: 縺昴≧縺ェ縺ョシ
窶 Is that so?

A: 縺ゅ>縺、縲繝槭ず縺ァ騾蟄ヲ縺励■繧縺」縺溘ョシ
窶 Did that guy really drop out of school?

B: 縺繧薙繝槭ず縺ァ
窶 Yeah, for real.

Differences between 縲梧悽蠖薙 and 縲後槭ず縲

Besides the difference in the particles, 縲梧悽蠖薙 and 縲後槭ず縲 are quite different in their tone and usage. For instance, 縲梧悽蠖薙 sounds cuter, more polite, and more feminine than 縲後槭ず縲 which sounds very rough and crude. In fact, you should take care in using 縲後槭ず縲 with your superiors. Having said that, I think 縲後槭ず縲 is a really useful word to know that you窶决e going to hear over and over again in daily conversations.

Comments   

 
0 #1 Guest 2019-02-01 16:18
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