Thursday, July 27, 2006

Just a Few Words

In Japanese, I can say:

  • Do you understand English?
  • I understand a little Japanese.
  • I don't understand.
  • How are you? I'm fine, thanks!
  • I am American. Are you Japanese?
  • That's great!/It's all good!
  • Good morning/hello/good evening (various forms)
  • Thank you (various forms), excuse me, I'm so sorry, yes, no, goodbye
  • Dumb/crazy foreigner! (Used only in reference to myself--the polite thing to do here is to always denigrate oneself and praise the other person.)
  • "I am" and "You are" outright--usually it's implied. ("Nihongo ga wakarimasen" is "I don't understand Japanese," or literally "(I) Japanese understand not." Whereas "Watashi wa Americaijin desu" is "I am an American," or literally "I American is.")
  • Make a statement into a question (and make a statement ask for agreement -- adding "isn't it?" at the end. "So, desu ne?" is literally "So it is, isn't it?").
  • Turn a verb into a negative ("I don't ____," "I can't _____").
  • Various basic nouns, such as man, woman, boy, girl, dog, cat, toilet (very important!), coffee, meat, water, car, airplane, etc.
  • Various often-used Japanese words, like yama (mountain), cho (neighborhood), ebi (shrimp), sakura (plum blossom), o-nigiri (rice balls), hashi (chopsticks), etc.
  • Counting in Japanese, and the hand motions to go along with the numbers.
  • A few odd words and phrases, like "How cute/beautiful!" and "Would you like that microwaved?" (Said to me whenever I buy food at a mini-mart!)
  • Lots of words in the Japanese lexicon which are "Japanicized" English words, such as McDonalds = Ma-cu-do-na-ru-dos -- those are pretty easy to understand and remember.

Yes, I'm trying to learn Japanese. I've mentioned a little bit about the various "alphabets" the Japanese use, and now I'm working on learning hiragana and katakana. I have workbooks, just like first grade! I'm also using a language CD in the car (when I remember to turn it on!) and have learned enough to get me around. It's a difficult language, but very beautiful, and follows its rules better than our weird English does!

As for computer keyboards, the keys have katakana and hiragana symbols on them as well as numbers and letters. A Japanese keyboard has an extra "shift" key similar to the caps lock key, so one can hit that key to go from katakana/hiragana to romanji (required for URLs and e-mail addresses!) I don't know if there is a second key to switch between katakana and hiragana, or if they are all on the keyboard. I'll have to ask Miyuki. Typing must be very difficult to learn!!

Smart computers and e-mail-capable electronics like cell phones and Blackberries also have a "character completion" function. One types the first symbol/syllable or two, and the completion function offers all the kanji that match those phonetics...or one can continue to just write phonetically in katakana/hiragana. My cell phone allows me to do this, but it is so different from a computer keyboard.

More soon. I have to finish writing about Emily's visit, way back in May, and about all the experiences since then! Before this month is over, I want to be current. That gives me four days. Yikes!