If you are learning Japanese, you may wonder what it takes to be able to read a book in Japanese. Since you’re reading this, you already know how to read English. It may seem like the quickest path to Japanese reading fluency would be to find the English equivalent for each word and expression, then let your brain process the English. Very straightforward.
I have seen a couple examples of this approach for learning a second language. When I was a college student, I had the opportunity to be a home tutor for a Japanese high school student, helping him with his English homework. I was surprised to see that one of his objectives was to precisely and rigorously translate English sentences into Japanese. The resulting Japanese was not natural, but he was being taught to use those sentences as an intermediary when trying to understand English. Although challenging, it didn’t seem to me like he would get very far if his objective was to truly understand English. Even if he could understand written English using this method, he would be left behind, brain filled with Japanese, in any kind of English conversation.
Continue reading “Do I Need to Translate to Read Japanese Novels?”
I posted a bilingual review of Honey Bees and Distant Thunder by Onda Riku here. To follow up, I’m posting a translation of a short story that is embedded into the novel as part of the description of one of the songs that a character performs in a piano contest. This short story is one of the many creative ways Onda Riku expresses music through words.
I decided to translate this because it was challenging for me to catch the details the first time I read through it. I realised that it was because I had trouble determining the subjects of some of the sentences and who some of the pronouns were referring to.
In my attempt at a translation into English I tried to clarify many of the subjects. English writing tends to use sentences with explicit subjects more frequently, while in Japanese, the subjects are often inferred from contextual clues.
I won’t give away who performs the song or what song this story is describing in case you plan on reading the book yourself.
Continue reading “Unofficial Translation of a Story From “Honey Bees and Distant Thunder” by Onda Riku”
Winning two major awards, the Naoki Prize for 2016 and the Booksellers’ Award for 2017, this book has been very popular in Japan. I don’t live in Japan but get a sense of popularity based on rankings from Bookmeter.com.
I decided to read this book because I knew I liked Onda Riku’s writing style from reading her novel Night Picnic. Night Picnic is about an entire school taking an annual epic walk through the night, so it is filled with descriptions of a monotonous activity: walking. In Honey Bees and Distant Thunder she describes song after song performed by a young person alone on a stage with a piano. In both of these novels she demonstrates her skill as an author by engaging the reader through vivid and creative descriptions of something that doesn’t seem like it could be so interesting on the surface. Each new song is a new experience, and I think I enjoy reading her descriptions more than I would be able to appreciate an actual piano contest. Although, after reading her novel, I do think I would be able to appreciate real piano music a bit more than before.
Continue reading “Bilingual Review: Honeybees and Distant Thunder by Onda Riku (蜜蜂と遠雷 恩田 陸）”
Learning to understand numbers in Japanese intuitively has not been easy for me. The biggest challenge is that the groups of place values are handled differently when talking about large numbers. In English the place values are grouped in threes, while in Japanese the place values are grouped in fours. You can see what I’m talking about in the tables below.
|| Arabic Numerals
|| Arabic Numerals
|一万 (ichi man)
|一億 (ichi oku)
Continue reading “Japanese Numbers Through “Energy” by Kuroki Ryo”
I’m usually reading one e-book and one paper book at any given time. Lately, I picked two long books, and I haven’t been able to get through either. I’ll be back to write about those later. In the future I’ll be careful to choose something easier to finish in one format or the other.
Since I have missed having something to write about, I tried browsing around on Amazon.co.jp for something shorter, and I found a new Kindle Single, by an author I enjoy, that came out on the 14th of this month. It’s called ロングレンジ by 伊坂幸太郎 (Long Range by Isaka Kotaro). I took the opportunity to grab something I could finish quickly and write about while it’s still current.
Continue reading “Japanese Short Story Review: Long Range by Isaka Kotaro”
Four-character idioms are an interesting feature of the Japanese language. From here on I will call them yojijukugo, which is the romaniztion of 四字熟語. One example that a beginner may be familiar with is, “一生懸命 (is shou ken mei)”, which basically means to try hard. It’s often quite relevant for someone trying to learn Japanese.
I have been interested in yojijukugo since soon after I started learning Japanese. I bought a pocket-size yojijukugo dictionary and would highlight entries as I came across them in real life. I have mostly discovered them reading but have sometimes noticed them in podcasts after I know what to listen for. I would be very unlikely to pick up any yojujukugo from context by listening. When I re-discover an idiom in a podcast, I get a very rewarding feeling—lots of reading is paying off.
The Night is Short, Walk on Girl by Morimi Tomihiko (夜は短し歩けよ乙女 by 森見登美彦) is filled with interesting yojijukugo. As with any vocabulary, yojijukugo are hard to learn in isolation, so this novel provides a great opportunity to see many instances used in context by an expert. I will pull out my ten favorite and include the sentence they came from as well as the context.
Continue reading “Ten Japanese Four-Character Idioms in Context from “The Night is Short, Walk on Girl””
夜は短し歩けよ乙女 by 森見登美彦 has been popular for a long time, and has recently gained in popularity as I watch it’s rankings in bookemeter.com. I think this is because an animated movie based on the book came out in theaters this month in Japan.
I have read a couple of novels from Morimi Tomihiko, and his writing style is my favorite I’ve encountered so far. The extensive and out of the ordinary vocabulary he uses, and his roundabout ways of expressing things makes his writing very interesting to read. His books are also a treasure trove of new (to me) and interesting, but not necessarily common, vocabulary to learn.
I haven’t been too drawn to the plots and settings of the Morimi books I have read so far. It’s not that they’re bad, but they’re just not quite my taste. I find that the writing style is so interesting, that I’m not too worried if the plot and setting are not my favorite and look forward to reading more of his books.
I will translate a strange scene from the middle of this novel. I’m not able to do the writing style justice in translation, but I try to get the meaning across. The section I translated was not actually too dense with challenging vocabulary.
Continue reading “Translation of a scene from Morimi Tomihiko’s “The Night is Short, Walk on Girl””
In this post I will talk about the Japanese language used in the Parable of the Prodigal son, called 放蕩息子のたとえ話 in Japanese.
To make it easy for a beginner to read this passage in Japanese, I add furigana to all the kanji. Even if you are brand new to Japanese, you could learn hiragana in a week or two from lots of different apps or internet resources and be able to sound out the passage in Japanese. Each verse is shown from the ESV translation in English and the 新改訳 in Japanese. I’ll try to explain any of the aspects of the Japanese language that may be tricky or interesting.
There is a lot to say about this famous parable, and every time you read it, you can discover something new. One way to see it, is as a depiction of the two ways people react to knowing that they fall short of God’s glory. One reaction, represented by the prodigal son, is rebellion. The son that won’t come into the house during the celebration of the prodigal son’s return represents someone reacting by striving to be worthy of God’s glory through legalism. Outside of being under grace instead of the law, as described in Romans 6:14, people’s lives are comprised of a combination of these patterns.
Continue reading “The Parable of the Prodigal Son – Japanese Language Walkthrough”
I’m still reading through Mori Hiroshi’s (森博嗣）W-series, and this is the third book, “風は青海を渡るのか？ The Wind Across Qinghai Lake?”. This one is a bit more philosophical than the the previous book, but there is a bit of action as well. The main theme is the exploration of the difference between humans and a robots, and whether we will we get to a point where humans and robots are the same.
As someone that looks to the Bible as the foundation of truth, I believe that God made us as more than our physical bodies, so the non-physical part is something that humans would never be able to create.
Continue reading “Translation of the Prologue of “The Wind Across Qinghai Lake?””
Japanese borrows a lot of words from English. I have heard some Japanese learners lamenting the fact that new katakana versions of English words are replacing perfectly good pre-existing Japanese words.
The influx of too many new foreign words in Japanese makes the language more difficult to understand, less precise, and it may take away some of the charm of Japanese. This problem is acknowledged by the MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology). They have a document on their website talking about the state of the Japanese language with respect to international society.
Here is my translation of a small portion of the document.
Continue reading “Don’t Be Tricked by Katakana Words”