Nomad Survivors screenshot. "You've lead a life of suffering with nothing to show for it."

Just Good Enough

So what kind of person decides to study Japanese because they like languages? Many types, but one type is the person who loves languages and wants to be the best they can be at everything they do. (Self-insert? You tell me.) And that person comes to Japanese, and for the first six months or so in the average structured class, doesn’t think it’s so bad. “Hiragana? Psssh. Simple. Katakana? Weird shaped hiragana. Easy. Everything is just something something desu!” But then things start creeping in. Causative form. Passive form. Potential form. Causative-passive? Japanese verbs are easy, though. The most regular conjugation patterns ever. But then the non-baby kanji. Even the… Read More

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Dogen – Phonetics, or How I Learned to Love Morae

Japanese is hard enough as it is for someone with English as their native language. A wildly different grammar. A set of only 46 morae that  are used in every Japanese word. And the pronunciation of each one doesn’t vary between different words (ignoring the sort of nasal sound that you get with the か・き・く・け・こ in some words). And, of course, the 2000 or so kanji that are found in the words you need to be a literate reader of everyday Japanese, and… And then you throw pitch accent on top of it. Listen, you need a lot of dedication to learn this language. You have to have a real… Read More

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brown building

Dogen — The Early Years

(I was going to title this post “My Hero Academia”, but that would get angry anime fans leaving nasty comments. So I didn’t.) So what is his background? How did he achieve mastery over pitch accent? Did he achieve mastery over pitch accent? Let’s answer the last question first. Native speakers on YouTube have confirmed how good his Japanese is. So how did he get this expertise? Basically, he started back in undergraduate university. He began in Washington, and then got to study in Tokyo. He also decided to only focus on native pronunciation in his studies. This kind of laser-like intensity paid dividends, at the cost of maybe being… Read More

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Cranes and such building a building

I’m Back

It’s like I never left. If you were me. Because I’m always here. I took an immersion course recently and, well, let’s just say I stayed quiet through a lot of it. So I got annoyed at myself and my laziness. Which has reaffirmed my desire to learn this language as a long running bucket list item. Of course, I will never be 100% fluent in it. But I can work to get to at least 90% fluent. I’m back, baby! Hail to the まだまだ日本語を話すおやじ!

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All aboard! A ship raising the car ramp.

Time = Money

So learning Japanese takes a lot of time, or money, or both. では、クラスを始める前に調べなければいけません。 And it’s your time and money, so why not do some research first? If you don’t research, you just waste both of these precious resources. This applies to all Japanese classes and teachers. Sometimes you can’t know until you take the course, unfortunately. I tried doing a traditional classroom-based course for three years and it was good for what it was. A solid explanation of Genki I and II, a grammar foundation, and a lot of vocabulary that you never got to use because conversation was saved for the higher levels. (Just a personal gripe about Genki… Read More

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pagoda in gray scale shot

The Path of Pitch Accent

So what is pitch accent? Let’s go to the self-proclaimed 上手 of it all. Or at least in the English-speaking world. Kevin O’Donnell (who goes by Dogen [see below]) is certainly メッチャペラペラ. No argument from me as to how hard the man worked to get where he is today. He teaches you pitch accent. For the government-approved dialect of Japanese. I get a bit irked by his choice of pseudonym.  Dōgen, also called Jōyō Daishi, or Kigen Dōgen, (born Jan. 19, 1200, Kyōto, Japan—died Sept. 22, 1253, Kyōto), leading Japanese Buddhist during the Kamakura period (1192–1333), who introduced Zen to Japan in the form of the Sōtō school (Chinese: Ts’ao-tung). A creative personality, he combined meditative practice and philosophical speculation.… Read More

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Had an interesting discussion yesterday in Japanese class about particles in Japan, which led to a discussion about how natural fluency develops from childhood, which led to talking about an English dialect. The main example was we say “I am going home”, not “I am going to home”. But Japanese will always have に in the sentence when you’re going somewhere specific, 「家に帰る」。 Then someone said that they’ve heard some people in the States and the UK say something like “I went hospital”, which brought up briefly the notion of English dialects. And then after class, I reminded myself that the Japanese I’m learning is “standard” Japanese, and there are… Read More

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Fluent Forever?

I don’t think there is any single app or website that can give you the full Japanese experience.  Japan Activator comes very close, and if you haven’t seen it, check it out. One of the new entries in the overcrowded “Learn a new language easily at home” category is Fluent Forever.  I have to say, its origin story sounds like a superhero origin. “A young opera singer, surrounded by productions in multiple languages, broke out of his unilingual prison, and developed a method to quickly learn any language.” It’s a variation on the flashcard theme. You start off by setting your familiarity level with the language. Then, you choose words to create… Read More

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