Wow, is the year almost over already AGAIN?! I’m just getting older and older and seeming to accomplish less and less. I guess I’m playing games too much as usual. Some words I learned from my twitter account. Firework trivia Game publishers that annoy me Finally finished watching K-ON! A free webcomic of a canceled PSP game when Level-5 used to be cool The list is way shorter this year mostly because I stopped adding to it. Still, some good stuff. すべからく ほくそ笑む 不実 忘れ形見 来歴 包容力 叙情 石膏像 のたまう 点在 腕白 言葉のあや 万事休す 好機到来 カンテラ どよめき 一意専心 近衛 野卑 乳母 意趣返し 粛清 駆け引き 追いはぎ
WHAT???? It’s already well into 2015??? Where does the time go?? Obviously, I haven’t been studying as much this year or OMG maybe the number of words I need to learn is going down? NAH! That can’t be it. But anyways, in 2014, I ran into 152 new words that I was too newb at Japanese to know already or just can’t quite seem to memorize completely. That’s not even half a word a day! Tsk Tsk.
Some words I learned last year from my Twitter account.
So another year has gone by which means I’ve been studying Japanese for around 13 years now. In 2013, I encountered a little over 400 words I didn’t know while playing games, reading books, and watching TV shows. That’s more than 1 word a day! The highlight in my study materials this year for me would definitely be 逆転検事2, one of the best games I’ve played in a while. There’s still a few weeks to go before the year ends so I’m sure the list will grow a bit more before 2014 arrives but here are some highlights from my #JWOTD (Japanese word of the day) tweets.
Some funny gifs with Japanese captions
Song by popular Korean Pop group
A really good Anime series
Really racy girl’s talk
Cool song about losing touch with cellphones
Cats (of course, it’s the internet after all)
The truth behind “Heros” stealing your stuff in RPGs
Tense relations between China and Japan as usual
And here’s the full list which is pretty much useless to anybody else since you’re not seeing it in context but whatever. If you already know these words, congratulations, you knew more Japanese than me! But don’t slack off, I’m catching up!
Looking back, it’s kind of shocking how many words I didn’t know. But then again, I’ll probably feel the same way looking back at the next 300 words I learn. For example, I tweeted 「処方」 back in 2011/11/2 and I had a Skype conversation (via mixxer) recently with a 「薬剤師」. I can’t believe I didn’t know those words till last year.
I also recently remembered 「男尊女卑」 and I see that I tweeted this way back in 2011/11/11 so I’m pretty happy about that.
I always learn new words in context and so I got to catch up to quite a bit of culture by searching for additional usages online. These words originally come from books I’m reading (huh? you mean on dead trees?), chatting locally and online (wha? like with… people?), games, shows online (Hulu/Youtube), and various podcasts.
For example, I learned the expression 「二進も三進も」 while playing FF13 (I used my phone to save the word). Much later (in this case several months), I look for other stuff online from my list that uses the same vocab like this.
Catching up on culture
Here are some highlights from my Twitter feed.
Looking back, 300+ words is actually a pretty small list. I still have over 600 stocked up that I have learned to various degrees in the last year. Us language learners have to do a lot of memorizing. 🙂
I feel sorry for those learning from just flash cards, classes, and textbooks. Real life is so much more interesting.
When I tutor Japanese, I try to correct non-Japanese interjections whenever possible, the most common one being “umm”. Even the most skilled speakers including native speakers sometimes need to fill the air with fillers to buy a little time to collect their thoughts. But it doesn’t sound very Japanese to say, 「私の趣味は umm サッカーです」. I also suspect it taps your English part of the brain and makes it difficult to stop thinking in English. That’s why I gently remind my student to say 「ええと」 instead of “umm”. It’s a simple change that can instantly make your Japanese sound more natural. Have you been saying “umm” while speaking Japanese? If so, a quick tip from me, replace it with 「ええと」.
Here are some other interjections to practice:
- ええと – Err, umm
- あのう – Umm (usually to get somebody’s attention)
- あれ？ – huh?
- えっ – eh?
- あっ！ – Oh!, Ah!
- こら！ – hey!
- うーん – hmm (wondering/pondering)
- へえ – really? (surprised/impressed)
- いたっ – ouch
- よいしょ – when exerting effort such as picking up something heavy
When I’m in a new situation, it really reminds of of how convenient immersion is as you can learn all sorts of words without even realizing it. It’s even more noticeable when you’re NOT in a immersion environment.
Since I’m no longer living in Japan, I’ve been trying to learn baby-related words mostly on the internet. Since just looking up words in the dictionary almost never works if it’s from English to Japanese, I learn by reading sites like this one. It helps to be prepared in case I want to talk about my baby in Japanese.
Wow, Japanese sure is dependent on Katakana.
ベビーカー – stroller
ベビーベッド – crib
ベビー布団 – baby futon
ベビーチェア – baby chair (seems like mostly high chairs)
はいはい – crawl
伝い歩き – cruise
子守唄 – lullaby
つみき – building blocks
Somehow I don’t need to have a real baby to know all the English words. Just goes to show how great immersion is.
I’ve written before about how I memorize vocabulary such as here and here. To start with the usual disclaimer, everybody has different learning styles so what works for me may not work for you and vice-versa.
To summarize, the way I learn vocab is by sheer volume and in context. Reading, in particular, is how I learned most of the vocabulary I know. And boy is there a lot of vocabulary to learn. I know enough Kanji at this point that I can pretty much guess the reading of words most of the time. So I look up a lot of words and very quickly. Now, can I say that I’ve completely memorized all those words? Not by any means, but they’re definitely in my brain somewhere, one step closer to memorization until the next time they come up.
Here’s what my recent dictionary history looks like. Yes, after 10 years since I started my website for learning Japanese, I’m still learning all these words. Now, should you memorize my words? Absolutely not, you should encounter your own words in context of whatever you’re reading or hearing.
Boy, learning a language is a lot of work. Share some of your dictionary history in the comments!
Minako has a great post about the difference between 「べき」 and 「はず」: http://nihongodaybyday.blogspot.com/2011/09/blog-post.html
I’ve been meaning to write about this in a post sitting in my draft folder since early 2008. Oops. But now you can read about it and get some reading practice at the same time. Like she says, the only reason English speakers have a reason to confuse the two is because they happen to translate to the same word in English: “should”. But that word itself has many different meanings so it’s yet another example of why you should avoid translating to English as much as possible.
I would add that 「べき」 is a fairly formal phrase to use when making suggestions. So you normally wouldn’t use it to suggest eating more vegetables, for example. In a conversational setting, you should stick with 「～方がいい」. In English, it’s more formal to say “it’s better to…” as compared to “you should…” but it’s the exact opposite for Japanese.
A bit of uncertainty
I would also add that 「はず」 is not always used with absolute certainty. In English, people often say “supposed to” to try to avoid accountability and 「はず」 can be used the same way.
Ａ：Huh? No word from Tanaka-san?
Ｂ：That’s right. Even though (he/she) was supposed to contact (me) by yesterday.
One of the first batch of words that students of Japanese usually learn is the 「こ」、「そ」、「あ」、「ど」 series of words for things and locations.
- これ – this
- それ – that
- あれ – that (over there)
- どれ – which
- ここ – here
- そこ – there
- あそこ – over there
- どこ – where
Most will also probably learn the shortened version of 「これの」 etc. such as 「この」. And that’s usually about all that’s ever covered even though there’s a bunch more 「こ」、「そ」、「あ」 vocabulary that are really useful! So let’s look at a few.
You know how you’re not supposed to use the word “like” all the time. Well, we all do anyway because it’s so useful, right? The 「こう、そう、ああ」 series of words are arguably just as useful.
If somebody asks you how to do something, one common answer is “do it like this or that” and that’s exactly what 「こう、そう、ああ」 means. Now you see where 「そうです」 comes from.
A: How do you write this Kanji?
B: You write it like this.
The real power from these words come when you combine them with 「いう」 to define what something is like. The English equivalent would be “this/that kind of thing”. It’s a great way to talk about abstract or complicated matters.
I don’t understand that kind of difficult talk (topic).
Really don’t feel like doing anything in times like these.
You can extend this further by attaching 「風」 (pronounced 「ふう」 in this case), to describe a certain way of doing things.
You write this Kanji in this kind of style/manner.
Another incredibly useful series of words are: 「こんな、そんな、あんな」. Combined with the 「に」 particle, these words will allow you to say common things like “Are you that hungry?” or “Did you have to buy this much?”. You can also use them without the 「に」 particle but the meaning is a bit hard to explain and is not used as often (in my opinion).
Are you that hungry?
Did you have to buy this much?
If you’ve learned the grammar for comparisons, you are probably already familiar with the phrase 「どちらの方が」. This literally means “which way” which you can obviously answer with “this or that way”. It can also be used for plain directions as well, of course.
- こちら – this
- そちら – that
- あちら – that (over there)
There are others like 「こいつ、そいつ、あいつ」 that I’m not going to discuss here. I don’t want to be accused of corrupting the pure and proper Japanese that is taught in most classes. 🙂
You know you’ve struck gold when you look up a word and it has 23 definitions.
掛ける(P); 懸ける 【かける】 (v1,vt) (1) (See 壁にかける) to hang (e.g. picture); to hoist (e.g. sail); to raise (e.g. flag); (2) (See 腰を掛ける) to sit; (aux-v,v1) (3) to be partway (verb); to begin (but not complete); (4) (See 時間を掛ける) to take (time, money); to expend (money, time, etc.); (5) (See 電話を掛ける) to make (a call); (6) to multiply; (7) (See 鍵を掛ける) to secure (e.g. lock); (8) (See 眼鏡を掛ける) to put on (glasses, etc.); (9) to cover; (10) (See 迷惑を掛ける) to burden someone; (11) (See 保険を掛ける) to apply (insurance); (12) to turn on (an engine, etc.); to set (a dial, an alarm clock, etc.); (13) to put an effect (spell, anaesthetic, etc.) on; (14) to hold an emotion for (pity, hope, etc.); (15) (also 繋ける) to bind; (16) (See 塩をかける) to pour (or sprinkle, spray, etc.) onto; (17) (See 裁判に掛ける) to argue (in court); to deliberate (in a meeting); to present (e.g. idea to a conference, etc.); (18) to increase further; (19) to catch (in a trap, etc.); (20) to set atop; (21) to erect (a makeshift building); (22) to hold (a play, festival, etc.); (aux-v) (23) (See 話し掛ける) (after -masu stem of verb) indicates (verb) is being directed to (someone);
Yahoo!辞書 goes in more detail and has a whopping 32 definitions for 「掛ける」. There’s no way a word like that is not going to be useful. The trick is finding the common thread or concept behind all these definitions so you can actually sort it out in your head. That’s what this post is for.
Just think of Captain Hook and his umm… special hand
Basically, this verb is used to hook or hang things. What can you hang? Why anything of course including clothes on hangers, covers, your butt to a chair, emotions, bother, time, voice, money, traps, bets, and even magic spells. It’s usually just written in Hiragana.
- 迷惑をかける – hang bother (to bother someone)
- 時間をかける – hang time (spend time)
- お金をかける – hang money (spend money)
- 声をかける – hang voice (call out)
- アイロンをかける – hang iron (iron clothes)
- 電話をかける – hang phone (make phone call)
- 腰をかける – hang hip (sit your ass down)
- 魔法をかける – hang magic (cast magic)
Don’t forget about the intransitive version as well: 「かかる」. For example, 「時間がかかる」 means something takes time instead of spending time.
Most of these examples make sense if you think about it the right way except for maybe the phone. Maybe it’s because you hang the phone to your ear? Though 「電話がかかる」 means the phone is ringing before you pick it up. Maybe you expect your mom to call and the phone call is hanging on your conscience? Ha ha. Anyway, there are also some additional compound verbs such as 「出かける、見かける、話しかける、引っかかる」 that combines hanging with another verb.
What’s the best way to learn all these countless different uses of the same verb? You can take my approach and just learn them as you see them.