Beginner Lesson #2: Negative State-of-Being and Referring to people

Beginner Japanese Lesson #2: Negative State-of-Being and Referring to people (length: 42:21) and original lesson details.

Here is the recording for the second beginner Skype lesson. You can subscribe to this podcast with iTunes from the following link:

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The echo is gone only to be replaced by equally annoying static. It gets better later on but if anybody has any ideas on where the static is coming from or how to remove it, let me know. Those of you who are signed up for the third lesson, make sure you are familiar with the contents of the first two lessons.

On another note, please don’t sign up and then not show up. It’s not fair to the other people who couldn’t participate.

Details of the next beginner lesson and lesson date will be posted afterward in another post.

Lesson Notes

In the previous lesson we talked about tones and how to practice them by mimicking Japanese speakers. Another way to practice tones by yourself is to get some sort of audio material, record yourself and compare the pronunciations.

However, be careful to find a good model because the degree of change in tones depends on the gender.

Females tend to have more drastic changes, and pronunciations are clearer, making listening comprehension easier. Males have much less variation and pronunciation tends to be more muffled making it more difficult to understand.

In the last lesson, we also learned how to say, “I’m doing good” using 元気 but not how to opposite, “I’m NOT doing good.”

Rules for negative conjugation
1. Add 「じゃない」 for casual
2. Add 「じゃないです」 for polite

Politer and former forms such as 「じゃありません」 or 「ではありません」 exist but for conversation, these two are fine

・Saying different degrees of 元気

1. まあまあ – so-so
2. とても
3. あまり – Can only be used with negative
4. 全然 – Mostly only used with negative

As before, the negative also works with nouns such as 「日本人じゃないです」.

・Getting somebody’s attention
In Japanese, we almost never use the word “you”. Instead, we usually refer to people by their name or title. And only when necessary. A important principle in Japanese is that less is better.

Today, we will learn the polite name suffix which you probably heard of already: さん.

Now that I have your attention, how am I going to tell you what I’m going to talk about?

Answer: the topic particle

・What are particles?

One or two hiragana characters that define the role the sentence is playing in the sentence. It comes after the word that it applies to. There are many different types of particles but we’ll just cover the topic particle today.

When the other person has no way of knowing what you are going to talk about, the topic particle is like picking a topic from a bag of the topics of the universe. You can only hold one topic at a time, to change the topic, you have to put the first topic back in the bag and pick out another one. Once a topic is out of the bag, you can but you don’t have to repeat it (and often don’t).

The topic particle is a haragana 「は」 and attaches to the end of the topic. It is read as /wa/ and not /ha/.
It was also in the expression 「こんにちは」 and 「こんばんは」 from the last lesson.

元気です。(same topic) Yさんは? (changes topic)

This is why context is so important in Japanese because people don’t repeat things that were said previously and subject/objects aren’t required.

Now that we are learning more and more vocabulary, you’ll want to start learning Kanji to help your memorization.

16 小学校【しょうがっこう】 – elementary school
17 中学校【ちゅうがっこう】 – middle school
18 高校【こうこう】 – high school
19. 大学【だいがく】 – college

All use the kanji for school: 「校」. Also, if you know the kanji for small, medium, large, you can easily learn elementary, middle, and college by reusing 学校 and 学. Same goes for 高校 using the kanji for high and school.

Let’s use kanji to easily learn 4 new words (purposely not on the list). We learned 学生 in lesson 1. It uses 生, the kanji for life so with 学 (study, learning) it becomes student. How would we use the same 生 (life) kanji to say elementary school student, middle school student, high school student and college student?

Learning these characters will help you learn other words like 予備校, 校庭、大事, the list goes on and on.

・How to learn Kanji
When learning a kanji for the first time, practice the correct stroke order and count. You can look online for most characters by using the Kanji dictionary at WWWJDIC by clicking the sod link. Unfortunately, it doesn’t show the stroke direction but it is top to down for more vertical strokes and left to right for more horizontal strokes.

You’ll notice that there are readings in both katakana and hiragana. The katakana reading is called 音読み and is written in katakana because it’s a Chinese-derived pronunciation. (Though the actual Chinese pronunciation is probably very different) Words such as 学生 that are a combination of characters usually use this reading.

The other hiragana readings are called 訓読み. Originally Japanese words that was latched onto the Chinese character when they imported them into their writing system. Verbs, adjectives, and single character words usually use this character.

Some characters can have only one, both, or multiple such readings. Don’t worry about them until you actually learn words that use those reading. Learning just the readings doesn’t help as much as learning actual words with the readings along the way.

Again, because, there are so few sounds in Japanese, so many words look alike and you really need the visual aspect as a memory aid to keep tham all seperate.

9 thoughts on “Beginner Lesson #2: Negative State-of-Being and Referring to people

  1. “On another note, please don’t sign up and then not show up. It’s not fair to the other people who couldn’t participate.”

    Did you get my email in time? I said I would be better prepared for next time. I would like this to flow smoothly. Please let me know when you will have the next one. Thank you.

  2. Oh yes, I got your email. That was for the third lesson anyway so no problem. I was referring to somebody else who didn’t show up for the 2nd.

  3. Oh the second lesson was today. Oh, yeah well if next Sunday is the third lesson then please sign me up for that. I got confused there. Take care.

  4. Hey Tae if you have openings for the third I’d like to join. My new ID is presidentrufus. Also, you can actually have up to 10 people in a conference call (if you want that many lol).

  5. Thanks for the info, and I’m looking forward to the next lesson.

    However, I’d really have to disagree with your statement that learning just Kanji readings, especially onyomi, doesn’t help. Please don’t consider the following a criticism of yourself, just of that statement.

    Learning kanji readings helps to understand the form and structure of the language (especially regarding onyomi readings). While I agree looking words (not individual kanji) over with no context will take a long time to sink in for the sake of meaning, for those willing to study readings and kanji on their own as a supplement to other methods, (especially those living in Japan), it certainly does no harm, and DEFINITELY helps. Of course having context is what will ultimately make any words stick in your mind, but exploring readings on their own (especially onyomi) is a great way to start understanding the form and make-up of the language, which can then be applied to compounds or the like right from the start.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that a lot of people (including myself) trust you with your observations and insight into the language, and to just outright say “there’s no point to doing things this way” is an unnecessary claim that can only take away a viable study method rather than helping anybody.

    It’s fun to play with languages, especially kanji readings whether on their own or not if that’s what you choose to do. I did, and in the last month I’ve whisked through kyouiku grades 1 – 5, and can quite happily READ now. There are a lot of mistakes indeed, but that’s part of the process, and it’s just as enjoyable to be wrong and discover why as to be right. It’s an amazing feeling, and whether or not I know what’s happening with any English relevance is completely besides the point to me. Being on the threshold of literacy itself puts a smile on my face. And that’s why you would do it. Literacy!

    It definitely will not be for everybody, but exploring those basic individual readings indeed has merit. Maybe not to your lessons currently, or to the way you approach the language, but if that’s the case it’d be better to state those as facts rather than to simply claim that something useful is not. Especially to those who look to you as a teacher. It may seem insignificant, but I’d argue the joy of become literate for the sake of literacy and the exploration of the kanji system is anything but insignificant, and quite an exciting journey all on its own.

    Whew. Again, no criticism to you yourself, or your lessons, and I’m looking forward to getting in on the next one!

  6. Thanks for the feedback. I should have said that it doesn’t help as much as if you were learning them in context. You make a good point about on-yomi because the reading tends to be a word in itself. But then, you are learning the word itself so that is still in the context of a real word.

    It certainly doesn’t hurt to learn the other readings but then I recommend learning some compounds that use those readings otherwise all you have is a reading with no idea of how it might be actually used.

    My line of reasoning is, why learn just the readings when you can be learning actual words WITH the reading. But of course, that’s just my opinion so I guess the best advice is to go with the method that works best for you.

    (I changed the lesson notes a bit too)

  7. Luis,
    I’m really sorry but I added another person in your place after getting your email. I can sign you up for the 4th lesson, if that’s ok with you. The third lesson might end up being next Sunday if I can’t get my notes together for this week.

  8. I did’nt read this until now. Are you serious? What about the idea of having ten people with the conference call, I’m ready to go. I’m eager to learn!

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