Top 10 Kotowaza - How to Use Proverbs in Japanese

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Have you ever tried using kotowaza when talking with Japanese speakers? Kotowaza are Japanese proverbs. There are three different types of kotowaza: 言い習わし (iinarawashi, a short saying) 慣用句 (kanyouku, an idiomatic phrase) 四字熟語 (yojijukugo, a four-character idiom) In this article, I will introduce 10 different (and useful!) kinds of kotowaza, their figurative and literal meaning, and how each of these proverbs can be used in a sentence.

Kansai Dialect Dictionary

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When I was in Japan during the summer of 2010 and 2012, I got to travel to multiple cities all over the country. As much as I liked the famous city of Tokyo, what really captured my heart was the Kansai area. Not only is it home to ancient landmarks of Japan and delicious food, its dialect is what makes this western region stand out. Kansai dialect (known as "Kansai-ben" in Japanese) is a Japanese dialect mostly used in Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Nara, Mie, Wakayama, and Shiga. This dialect ...

Honorific Speech in Japanese - Kenjougo (謙譲語)

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Welcome to this other page! This article is devoted to Japanese humble language, kenjougo 謙譲語. In English, there isn't a way to humbly express an action unless you say 'I humbly...'. You use this speech when referring to yourself or inner circle, like family and close friends. When using kenjougo you are belittling yourself in order to automatically raise the person with whom you are speaking. However, this is only true if you are speaking with someone in a higher position than you. When ...

Introduction to Learning Japanese Kanji

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Learning Kanji can be a daunting task. There are about 1,000 – 2,000 Kanji that are necessary to learn in order to be able to read newspapers, street signs, and menus in Japanese. With all these Kanji characters, it’s important to know the most effective order for learning them. In this article we’ll explain how to start learning Kanji, and give you the very first beginning Kanji.

JLPT Info for NYC

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Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) The JLPT is a Japanese proficiency examination operated by the Japan Foundation LA that tests one’s listening skills, reading comprehension, and knowledge of vocabulary, kanji, and grammar. There are five tests available, ranging from N5 (the easiest) to N1 (the most difficult). The JLPT, however, does not assess a person’s speech or writing, and for testing in those areas, we recommend taking an ACTFL OPI in Japanese. For more information regarding ...

Japanese Particles - The Secret to Using Them in Sentences

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Don't be daunted by Particles! They are essential to sentence construction. This article will give an overview of the series of Japanese particles, and provide some helpful links. This article is the second half of our Japanese Sentence Structure series. Click here for the first half. Particles What are particles?  They are absolutely essential to Japanese sentences. Particles tell you what something is, where it goes, what it does, how it does it, why it does it, etc. They are ...

Honorific Speech - Sonkeigo (2nd Article of 3)

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Welcome to the this page! This article is on the beastly sonkeigo 尊敬語, Japanese respectful language. Sonkeigo, or keigo, is used when you are speaking with or about someone who is well respected, has your respect, or has a respectful position, such as any member of a royal family, presidents, professors/teachers, or senpai (big brother or sister in a club or company). You will often be the recipient of sonkeigo when in a Japanese restaurant. However, you never ever speak about yourself in ...

Honorific Speech - Teineigo (First Article of Three)

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Japan has an amazing history and culture, and many of its customs, such as bowing to another person, are related to the concept of respect. In Japanese, there are 4 levels of speech that reflect this concept: casual/informal speech, polite language 丁寧語 (teineigo), respectful language 尊敬語 (sonkeigo), and humble language 謙譲語 (kenjougo). The first two are pretty simple. Casual form is used with people with whom you have an intimate relationship, such as friends, family, and significant ...

Counters in Japanese

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One of the most difficult grammar points of Japanese is counters. As opposed to English, in Japanese there are only a few plural nouns, like 私たち, so you have to add number words, or counters, for the different things you want to pluralize; you can't just attach a number to a thing (well, you can but you'll be grammatically incorrect). Basically, the rule is that the thing you're pluralizing goes before its corresponding counter. For example, if you want to say '2 apples,' you do not say ...

Japanese Onomatopoeia

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Ah, onomatopoeia, the spice of life! One of the pleasures of speaking Japanese is being able to use onomatopoeia. It's everywhere - in manga, anime, television adverts, books, music, newspapers, conversations - you name it and it's there! This article will open your eyes to this beautiful world of オノマトペ! オノマトペ and Rules Giseigo Giongo Gitaigo Extras!   オノマトペ and Rules Believe it or not, English is a hard language. You can have several words that can mean the same thing. ...

Successful Strategies for Remembering and Using Kanji

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Let's face it, 漢字 kanji is torture. It is. It's Chinese characters that have been tweaked to *fit into Japanese, and have both Chinese readings, 音読み on'yomi, and Japanese readings, 訓読み kun'yomi. Not to mention that a lot of kanji has the same exact reading as other kanji. For example, the following characters have the same 音読み reading of しょう: 小, 性, 少, 賞, 正, 章, 生, 称, 省, 商, 症, among many others. *Many kanji resemble their original Chinese counterparts, but are not the same character. ...

JLPT NYC FAQ - Japanese Language Proficiency Test

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We're already halfway through 2014, and the time to register and take the JLPT is creeping up quickly! In fact, I will personally be taking the JLPT N2 test in New York. So if you plan on taking the JLPT this year and live in the New York area like me, here's a run through about what the JLPT is like, how to register for the test held in New York, and some study tips to prepare for the test. What is the JLPT? The JLPT, short for Japanese Language Proficiency Test, is an exam sponsored ...

Quick and Easy Learning with YouTube - Top 5 Japanese Channels

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Ever thought about learning Japanese but you don't have time to sign up for an actual class? Wait! Don't go out and buy a Japanese/English dictionary or Japanese textbook to self-study just yet! Instead, what if I told you can learn the language for free? In addition, what if I told you can learn the language for free online? While there are some websites that will charge fees for language lessons, the best way to access free Japanese lessons online is through YouTube. What makes ...

Japanese Sentence Structure 1

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Probably the first thing you have to learn when learning a language (other than your native one) is sentence structure. Even if you know grammar and vocab, without knowledge of sentence structure, you can’t build a sentence properly. But before I get into Japanese sentence structure, let me delve a little into linguistics. As linguistics is the science of (human) language, it’s good to know some of the mechanics behind the language(s) you want to study. Please bear with me as I explain ...

JLPT Test in New York - Top 5 Questions Answered

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It's that time of year again when students who are studying and enjoying Japanese contemplate whether to take the JLPT  (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) or not. If you're wondering whether to try to take the test or not, please go to question number 1 as we can hopefully answer that question for you. If you have taken the test before, know that you should take it, or just have further questions on the JLPT in New York look no further. Hills Learning has been teaching Japanese in NYC ...


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What can be the hardest part about learning a language is maintaining fluency. When you're outside of the classroom or the country of your target language or don't have native speakers with whom you can practice, you start getting rusty. However, a way to integrate bits of Japanese into your every day life is through what I like to call 'Nihonglish'. Please read further for more details! What is Nihonglish? The Basics Advanced Grammar   What is Nihonglish? It's a portmanteau ...

Having a Chat with Japanese Taxi Drivers

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What do you do when you're lost in the middle of Tokyo with nothing but an address to guide you towards your location? If you're rushing to your next meeting at the hotel you're staying at, the most obvious choice would be to take a taxi. However, this may be daunting task for some people. Holding an impromptu one-on-one conversation with a driver in a foreign language and trying to communicate where you want to go may not be something you want to do every day. However, this article has ...

Learning Japanese Particles - "Wo"

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Welcome back! This is the fourth article in my series on Japanese language particles. Language learning is like most other pursuits – everything comes back to basics. Japanese is no different. Usually the particles are all off partying and doing their thing in language land and the language learner can sometimes struggle to keep up. Here, the goal is to take some time to have a good ‘ol one-on-one with the particles. Where usually you might get a very scientific, sterile and lengthy ...

The Art of Speaking Japanese - "Chunking" Level 2

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A few weeks ago I wrote an article on “chunking.” This was a good article, I felt, which introduced a very critical concept for native English-speakers learning Japanese. Simply put, “chunking” means to treat long strings of modifiers along with the modified noun (usually) or action as a “chunk,” a unit. Longish Japanese sentences can look complicated and complex when they’re actually very simple, structurally. Chunking is a tool I use in my daily life as a translator to really make sense of ...