Your name in Japanese

We will look at several strategies to figure out your name in Japanese. The best way is to ask a Japanese speaker how he/she would write your name in Japanese. If your name is fairly common, you’ll want to make your life easier and write it the way everybody else does. In the end however, your name is your own and will stay with you forever once you start using it in Japanese documents. So make sure you’re comfortable with it by being familiar with Katakana and what your name will sound like.

If you have a fairly common first name, you can find the Japanese equivalent at this website: http://japanesetranslator.co.uk/your-name-in-japanese/.

Here’s a list of common surnames in Japanese.

  1. Smith: スミス
  2. Johnson: ジョンソン
  3. Williams: ウィリアムズ
  4. Jones: ジョーンズ
  5. Brown: ブラウン
  6. Davis: デービス
  7. Miller: ミラー
  8. Wilson: ウィルソン
  9. Anderson: アンダーソン
  10. Jackson: ジャクソン

In the highly likely event that your surname is not on this list, you might want to see if there’s a famous landmark or person with your name. The WWWJDIC has a name dictionary you can search for other people with your name.

*Make sure you select the Japanese Names (ENAMEDICT) dictionary.

As you can see, it found several options for the name “Gilbert”. Since the one I was looking for was with a “g” sound and not a “j” sound, I would pick 「ギルバート」.

In the end, if you can’t find your name anywhere, you may want to decide to roll with your own. For example, while my name is Tae Kyong Kim in English, the “k” sound in Korean is closer to a hard “g”. So I decided on 「ギョン」 for my middle name. However, “Kim” is a very common name in Japanese and is written as 「キム」. Also, in Korean, there is no middle name so my actual name is TaeKyong. So while my full name is 「キム・テギョン」, I use Tae among friends. But 「テ」 is a bit too short so I go by 「テイ」, which is closer to the English pronunciation.

Your own circumstances may be just as unique. Just make sure you’re familiar with Katakana and Japanese sounds in general before coming up with your own name and don’t hesitate to ask a Japanese speaker for his/her opinion if you’re unsure!

Setting up Japanese for your computer

Before you can fully start taking advantage of online resources, you’ll want to make sure your computer is properly configured to support Japanese. Fortunately, this has become a lot easier with modern software, often only requiring setting some configuration options and in some cases, inserting the original installation disk.

Below are guides that explain the process fairly well.

  1. Instructions for Windows
  2. Instructions for Mac OS X
  3. Instructions for Ubuntu

Here are a few tips that I found useful for using Japanese on the computer.

Windows Tips

  1. You can safely remove the English language setting. This is done in the same window you used to add Japanese input language. Simply click the “EN” English input language and click “Remove”. It will inform you that you will need to restart to remove it completely.
    The Japanese input mode already allows you to switch to English so having a separate English setting is redundant and only adds more key-strokes for switching languages.
  2. Press the Alt and “~” keys (the tilde key left of the “1” key) to quickly switch between English and Japanese input. If you have a Japanese keyboard, you can simply press the 半角/全角 key, also located left of the “1” key.
  3. Press the F7 key after you type something to quickly change it into Katakana.
  4. While not necessary for displaying and inputting Japanese, some older Japanese programs may require you to set Japanese as the default language in order to function properly. This will also replace your backslash key with the Yen mark.

Mac OS X Tips

  1. Press the command key and space-bar to toggle between the current and the previously used input method. This shortcut replaces the shortcut to bring up spotlight. That shortcut should now instead be ctrl+space. All shortcuts can be configured in the “System Preferences” under “Keyboard & Mouse”.

Japanese Input Basics

In order to start typing in Japanese, you should be at least somewhat familiar with the main concept of Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji.

Though there are some minor differences, the basic concept behind typing in Japanese is the same for all platforms. The vast majority of people type using a modified form of romaji, or the latin representation of Japanese sounds.

By default, the text will display as Hiragana.

When you’ve finished typing a word (or words), you can press space to convert the Hiragana to Kanji. If you do not wish to convert, you can simply press “Enter” to enter as is. Or you can press “Esc” to quit and start again.

After you’ve converted the text by pressing space, you can simply continue typing the next phrase without having to press “Enter”.

Special Characters

Here are some tips on how to type certain characters that differ from regular romaji.

  1. 「ん」 = “nn”
    Some input methods will be able to figure it out with just one ‘n’ most of the time but others require you to type it exactly as ‘nn’.
  2. Small Characters = prepend ‘x’ or ‘l’ (depending on the OS).
    For example, 「ぁ」 (smaller than the regular 「あ」) can be typed as “xa” or “la”. The input editor will usually type small characters automatically by context such as 「きゃ」 (“kya”) or 「ファ」 (“fa”). However, you will sometimes need to type it explicitly for ambiguous situations such as 「ティ」 (typed as “texi” or”teli”). The phonetic representation “ti” will output as 「ち」 instead.
  3. 「ぢ」 = “di” and 「づ」 = “du”
    Though these characters don’t actually have a “d” sound, they belong to the same category as other d-consonant sounds. If you wanted the phonetic “di” (ディ) and “du” (ドゥ) sound, you would need to type “deli/dexi” and “dolu/doxu” as explained above.

Resources

There are many tools and resources that are helpful for learning Japanese (and perhaps some that are not as helpful). For the beginner, it’s not obvious exactly what resources are available and how to use them.

Here, we will go over some of the best tools and resources for learning Japanese along with a simple tutorial of how to use it and for what purpose.

Quick Links

For those who don’t want to read the entire tutorials, here’s a list of all the resources which are covered. In addition, NIHONGO eな is also a good site to go for learning how to use various online sites and tools for learning Japanese.

  1. Courses for learning Kana
  2. Setting up Japanese for Windows
  3. Setting up Japanese for Mac OS X
  4. Setting up Japanese for Ubuntu
  5. Translate your first name to Japanese
  6. Another Japanese-English Dictionary
  7. English-Japanese Dictionary
  8. J<->E and J<->J Dictionary
  9. Firefox plugin dictionary
  10. Finding Japanese meetup groups
  11. Finding Skype conversation partners
  12. Writing practice
  13. Word usage search
  14. Kanji by frequency

Inaction

In this section, we’ll learn ways to describe situations where things don’t happen.

Express “without doing” with 「ないで」

We learned how to chain sequences of events using the te-form of the verb a few chapters back so we already know how to say, “I didn’t do this and that.” However, it is not the same as saying, “I did this without doing that.” For the latter, we need to use a different grammar.

Using 「ないで」 to express “without doing”

  • Append 「で」 to the negative form of the verb
    Examples

    1. 食べる → 食べない+ = 食べないで
    2. 払う → 払わない+ = 払わないで
    3. する → しない+ = しないで

Example

  1. 歯を磨かないで寝ちゃうの?
    Are (you) going to sleep without brushing (your) teeth?
  2. 手数料を払わないで済む方法はありますか。
    Is there (a) method where (it) can be done without paying (the) handling charge?
  3. あの人は、仕事もしないで毎日何をしてるのかな?
    (I) wonder what that person is doing every day, without even working?

You may have noticed we already used this form when we learned how to ask other to not do something. This is the more generic usage of the same conjugation.

  1. それを食べないでくれる?
    Can you not eat that?
    lit: Can you give (me the favor) without eating that?
  2. それを食べないで(ください)。
    Please don’t eat that.
    lit: Please give (me the favor) without eating that.
  3. 何も食べないで出かけた。
    Went out without eating anything.

Express “without doing” with 「ずに」

「ず」 is another type of negative form of the verbs used mostly for more formal contexts and some expressions. It’s also often used with the 「に」 target particle to express the same thing as 「ないで」 we just learned. The conjugation rule is mostly the same as the regular negative form except 「ず」 is attached at the end instead of 「ない」. However, unlike the regular negative form, there is no exception for 「ある」 as it follows the same rule as all other u-verbs and becomes 「あらず」.

Rules for conjugating to 「ず」 negative

  1. For ru-verbs: Replace the last 「る」 with 「ず」
    Example: 食べ + ず = 食べ
  2. For u-verbs that end in 「う」: Replace 「う」 with 「わ」 and attach 「ず」
    Example: 買 + わ + ず = 買わず
  3. For all other u-verbs: Replace the u-vowel sound with the a-vowel equivalent and attach 「ず」
    Example: あ + ら = あらず
  4. Exceptions:
    1. する → せず
    2. くる → こず

Example

  1. 何も言わずに帰っちゃうなんて、失礼ね。
    To think (he) went home without saying anything, (it’s) rude, isn’t it?
  2. 手数料を払わずに済む方法はありますか。
    Is there (a) way to get by without paying (the) processing fee?
  3. 一日に何回もメールをチェックせずにはいられない。
    (I) can’t help but check (my) email again and again in (a) day.
    lit: (I) can’t exist without checking email numerous times in (a) day.

Expressing a lack of change

「まま」 is a noun used to express leaving something as is without making any changes.

Example

  1. このままでいいですか。
    Is it fine just like this?
  2. コンタクトをつけたまま寝たらどうなるの?
    What happens if (you) sleep with contacts left on?
  3. 由美子ちゃんはそのままでいいよ。
    Yumiko-chan, (you’re) fine like that (just the way you are).

Recent Actions

In this section, we are going to learn some ways to express actions that just happened. While one option is to use various adverbs such as 「たった今」, we will learn grammar that can be applied to the verb.

Example

  1. たった今 【たった・いま】 – just now
  1. たった今空港に着きましたよ。
    (I) just arrived at the airport.

Expressing what just happened with 「ばかり」

In the previous section, we learned one usage of 「ばかり」 with nouns and adjectives to describe an abundance. We can also attach it to the end of the past tense of verbs to an action just completed.

Using 「ばかり」 for actions just completed

  • Append 「ばかり」 to the past tense form of the verb. The result becomes a regular noun.
    Examples

    1. 食べる → 食べた+ばかり = 食べたばかり
    2. 買う → 買った+ばかり = 買ったばかり
    3. する → した+ばかり = したばかり

Example

  1. 昼ご飯を食べたばかりですから、おなかがいっぱいです。
    (I) just ate lunch so (I’m) full.
  2. 習ったばかりの単語を使って会話を練習する。
    Using words (I) just learned and practice conversation.
  3. 買ったばかりなのに、もう壊れるなんて信じられない。
    (I) just bought it, despite that (it’s) already broken, how unbelievable.
  4. 引っ越したばかりで、何がどこにあるか、全然分からない。
    (I) just moved so (I) don’t know what’s where at all.

Same as the previous section, 「ばかり」 can be shortened to 「ばっかり」 or 「ばっか」 for casual conversations here as well.

Example

  1. 付き合い始めたばっかりなのに、もう別れたの?
    (You) just started going out and (you) already split up?
  2. 今、帰ってきたばっかだよ。
    I just got back home now.

More amount expressions

We already learned some grammar dealing with amounts in chapter 5. In this section, we’ll learn some other useful expressions dealing with various amounts.

Expressing nothing but with 「ばかり」

「ばかり」 has many different usages some of which we’ll cover later. For example, it can have the same meaning as 「だけ」 or 「ぐらい」. However, in conversational Japanese, it’s often used to describe an abundance ie, “it’s nothing but…”. It comes after a noun or adjective just like a particle and the result becomes a noun.

Example

  1. 職場はいい人ばかりだ。
    Workplace is nothing but good people.
  2. 仕事ばかりをしていると、大切なことを見失う。
    If (you) do nothing but work, (you) will lose sight of important things.
  3. 最近は、肉ばかりを食べているから野菜をもっと食べるようにしている。
    (I’ve) been eating nothing but meat lately so (I’m) trying to eat more vegetables.

In casual Japanese, it can also be shortened to just 「ばっかり」 or 「ばっか」.

Example

  1. うそばっかり
    Nothing but lies!
  2. アドレス帳は何で女の子ばっかなの?
    Why is (your) address book nothing but girls?

Expressing degree with 「さ」

「さ」 is used to convert an adjective into a scale or degree. For example, changing the adjective for “tall” to “height”.

Rules for using 「さ」 with adjectives

The result becomes a regular noun.

  • I-adjectives: Replace the last 「い」 with 「さ」
    Examples

    1. + さ = 高さ
    2. 楽し + さ = 楽しさ
  • Na-adjectives: Append 「さ」 to the end
    Examples

    1. 静か + さ = 静かさ
    2. + さ = 暇さ

Example

  1. 世界で一番高い建物の高さは何?
    What’s the height of (the) tallest building in the world?
  2. 犬の聴覚の敏感さを人間と比べると、はるかに上だ。
    If you compare the level of sensitivity of hearing of dogs to humans, it is far above.
  3. 靴は、見た目より歩きやすさの方が大事だと思わない?
    As for shoe(s), don’t (you) think ease of walking is more important than looks?

Expressing an excess with 「も」

The 「も」 particle can be used with an amount to describe something that’s excessive.

Example

  1. 昨日、電話三回もしたよ!
    (I) called you even three times yesterday!
  2. アメリカに行ったら、5キロも太っちゃった。
    Once (I) went to America, (I) gained even 5 kilograms.
  3. あいつに30分も待たされたよ!
    (I) was made to wait even 30 minutes by that guy!

Using 「ば」 and 「ほど」 together

The 「ば」 conditional and 「ほど」 can be used together to express, “the more something, the more something else.” This is essential a fixed sentence pattern.

Using 「ば」 and 「ほど」 to express “the more it is the more…”

  • Conjugate to the 「ば」 conditional, then repeat the phrase with 「ほど」
    Examples

    1. 楽しければ+楽しいほど = 楽しければ楽しいほど
      The more fun it is the more…
    2. 簡単であれば+簡単なほど = 簡単であれば簡単なほど
      The easier it is the more…
    3. れば+見るほど = 見れば見るほど
      The more you look the more…

Example

  1. 楽しければ楽しいほど、時間が経つのが早い感じがする。
    The more fun (it) is, the more it feels like time is passing quickly.
    (lit: If (it’s) fun, to the extent that (it’s) fun, feels like time is passing quickly.)
  2. レシピは簡単であれば簡単なほどいいですよね。
    As for recipe(s), the easier (it) is, the better it is, isn’t it?
    (lit: If recipe is simple, to (the) extent that (it’s) simple, (it’s) better, isn’t it?)
  3. 見れば見るほど美しい。
    The more (I) look, the more beautiful (she is).
    (lit: if (I) look, to the extend that (I) look, beautiful.)

Easy or difficult actions

We already know how to describe things as easy or difficult regular adjectives such as 「簡単」 or 「難しい」 but in this section, we’ll learn another way to describe an action as easy or difficult.

Easy actions

To describe an action as easy, attach 「やすい」 to the verb stem. The result is treated just like an i-adjective.

Example

  1. このワインは飲みやすい
    This wine is easy to drink.
  2. このパソコンは使いやすいですか。
    Is this computer easy to use?
  3. 分かりやすく説明してください。
    Please explain in a easy to understand way.

Difficult actions

Similarly, to describe a difficult action, we can attach 「にくい」 to the verb stem.

Example

  1. この教科書はちょっと分かりにくい
    This textbook is (a) little hard to understand.
  2. ちょっと高くてもいいですから、壊れにくい方がいいです。
    (It’s) ok even if (it’s a) little expensive so (it’s) better that (it’s) hard to break.
  3. ステーキは切れ味鋭いステーキナイフがないと食べにくいよね。
    If (you) don’t have (a) sharp steak knife, steak is hard to eat.

We can also use either 「づらい」 or 「がたい」 to express difficulty, which have the following differences in nuance and usages.

  1. 「にくい」 is the most generic version.
  2. 「~づらい」, which comes from 「辛い」(painful), is more subjective.
  3. 「~がたい」 is mostly limited to emotions and thoughts.

All three are attached to the verb stem and the result becomes just like an i-adjective.

Example

  1. 携帯の画面が暗くて読みにくい
    (The) cellphone’s screen is dark and hard to read.
  2. この靴はかわいいけど、歩きづらいから、あまり履かない。
    These shoes are cute but (it’s) hard to walk so (I) don’t wear (them) much.
  3. 信じがたいかもしれませんが、本当の話です。
    (It) may be hard to believe but (it’s a story) that’s true.

Other states using te-form

We learned how to express the progressive form by using the verb 「いる」 with the te-form of the verb. In this section, we’ll learn some other verbs we can use with the te-form to describe other kinds of states. When using these verbs in this fashion, it is customary to use Hiragana instead of Kanji.

Using 「ある」 to express an action already set

Till now, we have been using 「いる」 quite frequently with the te-form to express a progressive action. The other verb for existence: 「ある」 can also be used with the te-form, though the meaning is completely different.

Appending 「ある」 after the te-form of another verb is used to indicate the state of the verb as already completed. For example, you could use this grammar to ask what is written in a book as it describes a completed state of being written as opposed to “writing” or “wrote”. It also carries a nuance that the action was done as preparation for something else though it’s not as explicit as the 「~ておく」 grammar we’ll learn next.

Example

  1. その本には、何が書いてあるんですか?
    What is it that’s written in that book?
  2. 予約は、もうしてあるから、心配はいらないよ。
    (I) already made (the) reservation so (there’s) no need to worry.
  3. この店に頭痛薬は、置いてありますか?
    Are headache medicine(s) placed in this store?

Because 「~てある」 by itself described state after an action was completed, the past tense described that state as being in the past, for example to imply that the state is no longer true, invalid, or contradictory.

Example

  1. メールには、この駅で待ち合わせしようと書いてありましたよ。
    It was written in the mail, let’s meet up at this station, you know.
  2. 冷蔵庫に置いてあったプリン・・・。まさか、食べたんじゃないよね。
    The pudding (I) was placed in (the) refrigerator… No way (you) ate (it), right?

Using 「おく」 to prepare for the future

While the previous 「~てある」 grammar we learned can carry a nuance of preparation, it could only be used for completed actions. We can use the verb 「おく」 (“to place”), to describe an action specifically to prepare for something else. In addition, unlike 「~てある」, it can be used to described other tenses besides the past tense.

Example

  1. 今から行くから、デザートを少し残しておいてよ。
    (I’m) going now so please leave me some desert.
  2. 明日からは、連休だから、現金を下ろしておいたほうがいいよ。
    Holidays are from tomorrow so (you) should withdraw cash.
  3. 鍵をここに置いておくから、忘れないでね。
    (I’m) placing (the) key here so please don’t forget it, ok?

In casual speech, 「~て/~で+おく」 can be shortened to 「とく/どく」.

Example

  1. 鍵をここに置いとくから、忘れないでね。
    (I’m) placing (the) key here so please don’t forget it, ok?
  2. 船に乗るなら、酔い止め薬を飲んどいた方がいいよ。
    If/since (you’re) riding (a) boat, (it’s) better

Using motion verbs with the te-form (いく/くる)

The verbs “to go” and “to come” (いく and くる respectively) can be used with the te-form of another verb to add a motion. This can either be a physical motion (eg to hold and bring something) or an abstract direction/trend (eg plans for the future going forward).

Example

  1. 仕事しなくて、これからどうやって生きていくつもりですか。
    How (do you) plan to live from here on out and not work?
  2. 明日の鍋パーティーに何を持ってくればいいの?
    What should (I) bring to the Nabe party tomorrow?
  3. うるさい!ああ、なんか頭が痛くなってきた
    Noisy! Ah, (my) head has come to become hurting.

Common patterns in slang

Casual speech patterns and slang in any language is rich, diverse, and constantly evolving so it’s difficult to really pin down “rules” on how to learn it. It’s best to pick it up by ear as you gain experience with conversation practice. For the beginner however, it can be quite confusing to read or hear slang that can’t be found in the dictionary.

In this section, we’ll take a look at some patterns in order to understand many common types of slang.

Using 「の」 vs 「か」 for questions

One common area of confusion is whether to use 「の」 or 「か」 to ask questions in casual speech. Previously, we learned that 「の」 is used to ask for or give additional explanation. This is the same for both polite and casual speech.

Example

  1. 今から時間ありますか。
    Do (you) have time from now?
  2. 今から時間ある?
    Do (you) have time from now?
  1. 今から時間があるですか。
    (Why do) you have time from now?
  2. 今から時間がある
    (Why do) you have time from now?

「か」 on the other hand, is very different when used in casual speech from what we’re used to in polite speech. It’s often used to either confirm something, make a rhetorical question, or show disbelief or doubt. In order words, it’s rarely a real question at all. It’s also more rough and masculine in tone.

Example

  1. そんなこと、俺が知るよ?!
    Like I would know that kind of thing!
  2. これで本当に大丈夫
    Is it really ok with this?
  3. まあ、いい
    Ah well, whatever, (it’s) fine.
  4. もう遅いし、そろそろ帰る
    It’s already late so shall (we) go home soon?

In conclusion, if you want to ask an actual question in casual speech, you’ll most likely want to use either 「の」 or just a rising intonation.

Shortening /r/ sounds to 「ん」

Many sounds get shortened or slurred together in slang just like any other language. For Japanese, the /r/ sounds in particular often get slurred into 「ん」. This is definitely a useful pattern to be aware of as it will make sense of a lot of words you wouldn’t normally find in a dictionary.

Example

  1. よくわかない。(from 分かない)
    (I) don’t get really get it.
  2. ちょっと、そこをどいてくない?(from くない)
    Hey, can (you) move from there a bit?
  3. 何しての?(from して
    Whatcha doing?

Chapter Overview

In this chapter, we’re going to learn explore other useful expressions and grammar for various situations. In addition, we are also going to get a lot more reading and writing practice to expand our power of expression.