Japanese For Dummiesby Eriko Sato
Japanese is a wonderful language, very different from European languages. It is also the gateway to the rich culture of the exciting and complex island nation of Japan. Some people get intimidated by the prospect of speaking Japanese—worried that it’s just too complex and different—but these fears are unfounded. While you can devote a lifetime to
Japanese is a wonderful language, very different from European languages. It is also the gateway to the rich culture of the exciting and complex island nation of Japan. Some people get intimidated by the prospect of speaking Japanese—worried that it’s just too complex and different—but these fears are unfounded. While you can devote a lifetime to the study of this or any language, picking up the basics of Japanese doesn’t require any more than an interest and a willingness to try something new.
Japanese For Dummies has everything you need to get off the ground with speaking the language. Author and Professor of Japanese Eriko Sato starts you off with the essentials of grammar and pronunciation, giving you a working sense of the language, before showing you Japanese in action. You’ll then explore vocabulary and expressions through dialogues taking place in situations such as:
- Introductions and greetings
- Eating and drink ing
- Exploring the town
- Talking on the telephone
- Asking directions
- Getting around
- Staying at a hotel
You’ll also discover social customs, formalities, and manners, from how and when to bow to how to unwrap a present. Whether you simply want to introduce yourself to the Japanese language, say a few words to a neighbor or coworker, or you’re planning a major trip or study abroad in Japan, Japanese For Dummies will enable you to get the basics fast and work towards your own goal at your own pace. You’ll also find out about:
- How to use karaoke to help you learn Japanese
- Movies that will introduce you to Japanese culture and language
- Learning Japanese the “gourmet” way
- When ignoring “no, thank you” shows good manners
- Proper table manners
- Proper body language
- How to sound fluent
- And much more!
With helpful vocabulary summaries, a mini-dictionary at the end, and an audio CD full of conversations and pronunciations, Japanese For Dummies assumes no prior knowledge of Japanese on your part—providing the perfect guide for a quick-but-thorough, lighthearted-but-not-lightweight introduction to the language.
Read an Excerpt
Japanese For Dummies
By Eriko Sato
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-7645-5429-8
Chapter OneYou Already Know a Little Japanese
In This Chapter
* Getting the basic sounds down
* Sounding fluent
* Recognizing the Japanese you already know
* Perfecting some phrases
* Using gestures
Welcome to Japanese! This chapter lets you open your mouth and sound like a totally different person - a Japanese person! Isn't it exciting? In this chapter, I show you how to start saying familiar Japanese words like sushi with an authentic Japanese accent. Next time you go to a Japanese restaurant, you can amaze your server by pronouncing sushi properly. This chapter also provides you with some convenient Japanese phrases and interesting tips on Japanese body language.
Use your eyes, ears, mouth, and intuition a lot as you go over this chapter and apply what you see, hear, pronounce, and feel to your daily life. To practice the language, work with your family, your close friends, or even your pets until you get the chance to talk with a Japanese person. The more you apply a language in your daily life, the better you grasp its essence.
When you speak a foreign language, don't be afraid of making mistakes and be sure to keep smiling. If you speak even a little bit of their language, Japanese people will open their hearts to you right away and appreciate your effort. Simply making the effort to communicate in another person's language is one of the best waysto act as an ambassador and contribute to international friendship.
Learning to speak a foreign language perfectly should take a back seat to this cultural exchange. Foreign language education is the greatest way to explore a different culture and the related values and ways of living. Encountering another culture helps you know your own culture and values better. Opening your eyes to Japan is actually opening your eyes to yourself and to your roots.
Basic Japanese Sounds
Japanese sounds are very easy to hear and pronounce. Each syllable is simple, short, and usually pronounced very clearly. With a little practice, you'll get use to them quickly. This section gets you off on the right foot (or should I say the right sound) by looking at vowels, consonants, and a couple of combinations of each. All vowels and consonants are specified by romaji (rohh-mah-jee; Roman letters) in this book, so you see the familiar English alphabet. Japanese use their own system called kana (kah-nah) and about 2,000 Chinese characters in their daily life, but they also use romaji for the convenience of foreigners. In this book, you won't see any kana letters or Chinese characters, just romaji.
The Japanese language only has five basic vowels - a, e, i, o, and u - all of which sound short and crispy - plus their longer counterparts, represented by a, e, i, o, and u in this book.
The difference between short and long vowel sounds in Japanese is quite a bit different than in English. In Japanese, long vowels have the same sound as short vowels - you just draw out the sound for a moment longer. To an English-speaking ear, a long vowel sounds as if it's being stressed - as if it has an accent mark.
The difference between a long vowel and a short vowel can make all the difference in the meaning of a Japanese word. For example, obasan (oh-bah-sahn) with the short vowel a means aunt, but obasan (oh-bahh-sahn) with the long vowel a means grandmother. If you don't differentiate the vowel length properly, no one will understand who you're talking about when all of your relatives get together.
Not getting the vowels right is a very common mistake new Japanese speakers make and one that can cause a lot of confusion, so concentrate on getting the vowel sounds right as you go through this book.
Listen for the difference between short and long vowel sounds on the CD to get the idea about vowel length. Table 1-1 lists all the Japanese vowels. Listen to their pronunciation using the CD and imitate them a few times, pretending to be a parrot. Now you know what a day in a parrot's life is like. In this book, a straight bar (¯) over a vowel indicates that it's a long vowel.
In Japanese, any two vowels can be next to each other in a word, but you might hear them as one vowel sound. For example, the combination ai (ah-ee; 102020230love) sounds like one vowel sound, the English i (as in eye), but to Japanese, this is actually two vowels, not one. The Japanese word koi (koh-ee; carp) sounds like the English one-syllable word coy, but to Japanese, koi is a two-syllable word. Other common vowel combinations are in Table 1-2. To you, some of them may sound similar to each other, but Japanese speakers hear them differently. Try hearing and saying the difference.
The vowels i (ee) and u (oo) come out as a downright whisper whenever they fall between the consonant sounds ch, h, k, p, s, sh, t, or ts or whenever a word ends in this consonant-vowel combination. What do all those consonants have in common? They're what linguists call "voiceless," meaning that they don't make your vocal cords vibrate. Don't believe me? Put your hand over your vocal cords and say a voiceless consonant like the k sound. Then say a "voiced" consonant like the g sound. Feel the difference? Whispering i (ee) and u (oo) with these voiceless consonants almost makes it sound as though these vowels disappear. Listen to the examples from Tables 1-3 and 1-4 with and without the whispered vowels.
Good news. Most Japanese consonants are pronounced like they are in English. Check out the descriptions of the sounds you need to pay attention to in Table 1-5.
Like most other languages, Japanese has double consonants too. To say these double consonants - pp, tt, kk, and ss - you pronounce them as single consonants preceded by a brief pause. Check out the following examples and listen to the pronunciation on the CD.
If you want to sound like a native Japanese speaker, you need to imitate the overall intonation, rhythm, and accent of native Japanese. These almost musical aspects of the language make a big difference, and they're not that difficult to achieve. In the following sections, I show you some tricks to make you sound like a Japanese.
English sentences sound like they're full of punches, one after another, because they contain English words that have stressed syllables followed by unstressed syllables. But Japanese sentences sound very flat because Japanese words and phrases don't have any stressed syllables. So unless you are very angry or excited, suppress your desire to stress syllables when you speak Japanese.
Get in rhythm
English sentences sound very smooth and connected, but Japanese sentences sound chopped up because each syllable is pronounced more clearly and separately in Japanese than in English. You can sound like a native speaker by pronouncing each syllable separately, not connecting them as you do in English.
Although Japanese speakers don't punch their syllables, they may raise or lower their pitch on a specific syllable in certain words. A raised pitch may sound like a stress, but if you think in terms of music, the high notes aren't necessarily stressed more than the low notes. But pitch differences in Japanese are a lot more subtle than differences between musical notes. Sometimes this slight difference can change the meaning of a word. That, however, also depends on what part of Japan you're in. For example, in eastern Japan, the word hashi (hah-shee), said with high-to-low pitch means chopsticks, but with low-to-high pitch, it means a bridge. In western Japan, it's exactly the opposite: High-to-low pitch means a bridge, and low-to-high pitch means chopsticks. How can you tell what anyone means? For one thing, the eastern dialect is standard because that's where Tokyo, the capital of Japan, is located. In any event, the context usually makes it clear. If you're in a restaurant and you ask for hashi, you can safely assume that, no matter how you pitch this word, no one will bring you a bridge. Listen to this word said both ways on the CD and try to hear what I mean by pitch.
Okay, so they don't sound terribly different. Rather than getting all bothered about pitch, just know that it exists and try as best you can to mimic the pronunciations on the CD.
Another interesting fact about pitch: The Japanese raise their overall pitch range when they speak to their superiors. So, to a boss, client, customer or teacher, people speak as if they are chirping birds, and to their friends, assistants, and family members, they speak using their normal pitch range. This is most noticeable among women. Female workers raise their pitch greatly when they deal with business customers. They don't mean to scare their customers; they're just trying to be super polite. Women also raise their pitch when they speak to young children, just to indicate a friendly attitude toward the little ones. A Japanese woman's flattering high pitch in these contexts has a totally different tone of voice from the high pitch that she uses when she raises her pitch out of anger.
You Already Know a Little Japanese
Believe or not, you already know many Japanese words: Some are Japanese words that English borrowed and incorporated; others are English words used in Japan.
Japanese words in English
Do you love eating sushi? Do you practice karate? Do you hang out at karaoke bars? Even if you answered no to every question, you probably know what these words mean and that they come from Japanese, so you already know some Japanese.
One tip about pronunciation: Remember that there are no accented syllables in Japanese. So when you say sushi, don't stress the first syllable. I know the English-speaker in you wants to do it, but don't. Check out these words that traveled from Japan to become part of the English language:
English words used in Japanese
A ton of English words have crossed the oceans to Japan, and the number is increasing quickly. You can use many English words in Japan, if you pronounce them with a heavy Japanese accent.
How many English words can you find in the following dialogue?
Talkin' the Talk
Ken and Yoko are making plans for Michiko's birthday. They use a number of English-influenced words during their conversation.
Ken: Michiko no tanjobi wa pati o shiyo. mee-chee-koh noh tahn-johh-bee wa pahh-teee oh shee-yohh. For Michiko's birthday, let's throw a party.
Yoko: Oke. Ja, watashi wa, basude keki o tsukuru ne. ohh-kehh. jahh, wah-tah-shee wah, bahh-soo-dehh kehh-kee oh tsoo-koo-roo neh. Okay. Then I will make a birthday cake.
Ken: Ja, boku wa kohi to, jusu o yoisuru. jahh, boh-koo wah kohh-heee toh, jooo-soo oh yohh-ee-soo-roo. Then I will prepare coffee and juice.
Yoko: Sorekara, kamera mo wasurenaide ne. soh-reh-kah-rah, kah-meh-rah moh wa-soo-reh-nah-ee-deh neh. And don't forget to bring the camera.
Start using the following short Japanese phrases at home. Make it a habit. You may need your family's cooperation with this, but if you get used to seizing the moment and saying the right phrase, you can seem like a Japanese even if you don't have black eyes. And the next time you associate with Japanese people, you can smoothly say these Japanese phrases:
Used for thanking, and also for brief greetings.
Used when you agree with someone's statement. It's almost like what you mean when you say yeah in the middle of conversations just to let the other person know that you're listening and agreeing.
Used when you want to stop someone doing something or when you want to say that something is bad or impermissible. You'd probably never say it to a superior or to someone older than you. You can say it to your children, your siblings, or your very close friends.
Excerpted from Japanese For Dummies by Eriko Sato Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Eriko Sato, PhD, is Professor of Japanese at State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook. Sato is a native Japanese speaker experienced in teaching Japanese and in translation.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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If you really want to learn the Japanese language, I don't recommend this book. All of it is taught using romajii- which will get you no where in Japan as they do not use romajii. I'm in a Japanese class at school and romajii can really hold you back when trying to learn the language. The one thing I did like about this book was the audio disk that pronounced the different sounds, which was helpful. The book does cover A LOT of material, it almost looks overwhelming when I went and flipped through it again. Overall, it has some good information about culture but a lot of things were not explained as well as I think they should have. If you are serious about learning the language, I would recommend skipping over this book.
This book will not get you speaking Japanese, however it will give you a very solid foundation to start with. I started with this book and moved on to the Living Language 'The basics' coursebook. I found that although the Living Language course book covered more topics and vocabulary, the Dummies book did a better job at explaining the grammer and sentence structure. The Dummies book is more elementary and will certainly not get you to be fluent, but it will help you understand the basics.
It covers numbers to complete conversations. But the most important thing is that you practice and make use of this book.
i loved this book. it take you through the steps to learn japanese without making you feel stupid.
If you want to learn Japanese as bad as i do use this handy book! But you might wanna gt he real one, this version dosent show you the Japanese symbols!
Sah embuta me yatos glee. I am awesome!
I nee to learn this so i can watch hetalia without subtitles...
Hai. usuratonkatchi will learn many things. Haha who am i kidding?!
I like this book alot. Its very good and the audio cd is amazing. I gave it 5 stars because its pretty fun to learn it
this book is great. the cd is sweet. befor i bought this book i was going on-line trying to learn some japanese. this book kick started it even further. simple, stright forward, and fun. if you want to learn japanese i recomend getting this book.
I dont know if i should or if i shouldnt
If you say it enough, you will bevome and know Japanese immediatly.
Bill is japenese