Friday, August 3, 2007

Beginner Tips for Learning Japanese

I promised this site would be for beginners, and I intend to keep that promise. I've read many blogs that had some great ideas for beginners ( is one of them), and I thought I'd provide a few of my own.

Recently, I've taken a lot of beginner classes at a few different schools, only because each school uses a different textbook, and therefore, it's something I didn't want to miss. In doing so, I've noticed a lot of things that would make my classmates' Japanese a lot better if they would only do the following:

  1. LEARN hiragana and katakana as soon as possible. Romaji is fine, for the first few weeks, but you MUST wean yourself off of it as soon as you can for at least two good reasons: your pronunciation, and reading ability. Videogames, manga, and signs in Japan are not in romaji. :)
  2. Whether you study on your own or in a classroom environment, get yourself the CD accompaniment. I've noticed that those who listen to the CDs have excellent pronunciation, and those that don't, well, don't.
  3. Learn the patterns and internalize them. What do I mean? Well, for instance, one of the first patterns you learn is "X は Y です。”  (X wa Y desu). This example might be too simple for many of you, but for those of you that haven't learned it yet, once you internalize a pattern, you simply substitute the appropriate words into that pattern, and your Japanese flows much smoother. There are a lot more patterns than that, but each time you understand and internalize it, it makes learning a lot more enjoyable, and you won't stumble as much. (Perhaps I'll go over this in a future post.)
  4. Finally, be patient, but study, study, study. Studies have shown that at the college level, at least 2-3 hours for every hour you are in class. I followed this formula in college and got mostly A's, especially in Japanese. :) Try it for at least two weeks, and if you don't find that you are learning things a lot easier than before, then go back to your old methods.
  5. This last technique/tip can be used for any class you may be taking: READ THE NEXT CHAPTER, before class. Why? This gives your mind time to adjust to the new topic, perhaps form new questions you might want to ask, and makes the next class that much more interesting. If you read before the class, then you attend class, and finally, review your notes, you have effectively "seen" the material at least 3 times. It's much easier to absorb the material this way, instead of a cram session the night before a test.

I hope these tips get you started on your path to becoming an expert in Japanese!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

te-form, Part II: Basic usage

Okay, last time we went over how to obtain, or conjugate a verb into its te-form.

Today, we will go over two basic, but major, uses of te-form verbs.
1. Making requests
2. Linking verbs together, like "and" in English

Making Requests
To make a request to do something, add 下さい (kudasai) to the end of the te-form.
~て + 下さい

まどをあけて下さい。 [mado o akete kudasai]
Please open the window.

  すわってください。 [ suwatte kudasai]
Please sit down.

  テレビをみてください。[terebi o mite kudasai]
Watch tv, please.

Linking verbs together
In Japanese, you can not link verbs using と (to). You must use the te-form to link verbs.

For instance, if you were to say that you will go home and eat dinner, you could say:
じゃ、いえ に かえって、ばんごはんをたべます。
[ja, ie ni kaette, bangohan o tabemasu.]

Note that the te-form of a verb has no tense on its own; the tense is determined by the final verb in the sentence. In this case, かえて (kaete) is in the present affirmative tense, because of the last verb, たべます(tabemasu).

You are not limited to just two verbs in a sentence, however. You can link as many as you would like; just keep in mind that the last verb should not be in te-form, and determines the tense of the entire sentence.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Conjugating te-form (て-form) verbs

Ah, the te-form of verbs. They're not that difficult to learn, if you remember the rules.
First, you should familiarize yourself with the dictionary, or short-form of verbs.

For instance, the dictionary form of かいます (kaimasu) is かう (kau).

Once you are familiar with the dictionary forms, all you need to do is determine if it is an u-verb, ru-verb, or irregular verb.

  1. First, if it is a ru-verb, you simply drop the -ru ending, and add te. So, 食べる (taberu) becomes 食べて (tabete).
  2. There are two irregular verbs: する (suru) and くる (kuru). You will simply have to memorize their conjugations, which are して (shite) and  きて (kite), respectively.
  3. Now the fun part. U-verbs conjugate differently, based on their last syllable.

Last syllable of verbExample
う、つ、る -> かって

-> まって

かえ -> かえって
-> しん

-> よん

あそ -> あそんで

 -> かいて

およ -> およいで
はな -> はなして

** Exception for 行く:
行く -> いって

Wow! I realize that's a lot to digest, but once you memorize this, it gets a lot easier. At least that's what I was told. :)

So take your time, and memorize a few rules at a time. It's best to repeat the dictionary form, the present, polite form, and the te-form together.

Next time, we'll go over the uses of the te-form.

ようこそ! (Welcome, again)

This is the new home of Nihongo Ninja. We've moved from Wordpress to Blogspot.
Welcome everyone!
I'll be adding some new content within the next few days.