10 Tips on How To Write Japanese Well!

Unless you’re from a country such as China that already uses Asian characters similar to that of Japanese kanji, the chances are many people will look at you’re writing and think “cute”. Why will they think it’s cute? Probably because the mistakes you made are similar to that a small child would make. This is the same for every language – that’s why I’ve put together this list of 10 tips on how to write Japanese well!

 

(1) No spaces!

Japanese does not use a space in between words or even at the end of the sentence – so don’t try to put them in!

わたし は 外国人 です。 >わたしは外国人です。

 

(2) Use Kanji!

I know it’s hard, but if you don’t use kanji, you’re going to give anyone reading your work a headache.

わたしはみせにいったがだれもいなかった。>私は店に行ったが誰もいなかった。

 

(3) Don’t use incredibly difficult kanji!

Just because a word has kanji, it doesn’t mean that it is often used or that you should use it. Not even Japanese people can read the kanji for some very simple words since they are not used.

何卒 > どうぞ

 

(4) Write it all the same size!

It may take some practice, but Japanese characters should all take up roughly the same space. That means kanji such as 難 and 鬱 should take up almost the same space as い and 、(comma).

日本きです!>日本が好きです!

 

(5) Balance your kanji!

The best way to write kanji in a balanced way is to practice on squared paper e.g. 2mm squares and draw one kanji/hiragana in every 4 squares (per 8 mm).

how to write japanese

 

(6) Write in the correct form!

Just like when speaking there are different levels of politeness, when you write there are, too. である is for writing essays, informal is for your friends, and keigo is for business and people you don’t know well.

です > である

 

(7) Cut corners when taking notes.

If you’re taking notes or writing something primarily for your own eyes, you’re allowed to cut a few corners when writing kanji. If you write every kanji completely perfectly each and every time – you’re writing will be so perfect it will actually look childish!

how to write japanese how to write japanese

 

(8) Write them in the right order!

It’s often possible to tell if you wrote a kanji in the right order. If you mess it up, some people may notice. It’s easy to forget the correct order and fall into bad habits, so don’t let your guard down! Pretty much all kanji start from the top and work there way down.

 

(9) Keep in mind how similar some kanji and hiragana are!

Unlike fonts, when it comes to handwriting it can be pretty easy to mistake a couple of similar kanji. That’s why you need to make sure both you and someone else can actually differentiate them.

ソン・ツシ・人入・日曰

 

(10) Practice!

One, if not the most important way to get your Japanese writing skills up is to practice. However, don’t make the mistake of rewriting the same kanji a hundred times over. When you practice writing kanji, you should practice writing it from memory. I usually write about 10-20 words in hiragana or in English and try to write them all one after the other. If you can’t remember, have a little peak and try to write again. Repeat until you can write them all from memory!

how to write japanese

 

So, that’s it. 10 tips on how to write Japanese well. If you’re looking for tips on how to do Japanese calligraphy well… then I’m afraid that’s a whole other story!

How to Colloquialize and Emphasize Adjectives and Adverbs in Japanese

Want to add more flavor and emphasize adjectives and adverbs in Japanese? This quick guide will show you how to naturally emphasize your Japanese just like a native. 

Naturally, this Japanese is best used with friends and not in formal situations. Also, many of these words are only used verbally and often look a little weird when actually written down. 

NOTE: If you don’t understand how the small tsu っ works in Japanese, I recommend that you first brush up on how to use it. 

 

(1) Totemo とても (very) 

This is one of the first adverbs you learn and can be used in pretty much any sentence or situation. If you want to strengthen it, then all you need is to add a little tsu. 

totemo > tottemo   とても > とっても

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(2) Hontou ほんとう 「本当」(really) 

You can’t learn Japanese or go to Japan without hearing this word pretty much where ever you go. There are a couple of ways to spice this over-used adverb up. 

Hontou > Honttouu ほんとう > ほんとうー

 

(3) Hayai はやい  「速い・早い」(fast/early) 

This is a good idea to learn since it can be applied to a whole bunch of words! 

Hayai > Hayya はやい >はやっ (It actually sounds like はっや)

 

(4) Osoi おそい 「遅い」 (slow)

This is pretty much the same as above, but I thought another example may help you really get the hang of it. 

Osoi > Osso おそい>おそっ (Actually sounds like おっそ)

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(5) Umai うまい [上手い」(Tasty, yummy)

You really can’t watch Japanese TV without at least hearing a few variants of this word (some people even reverse it and say maiyu in an attempt to be more interesting)

Umai > Umma うまい>うまっ  (Once again, the small tsu is actually said in the middle of the word rather than the end). 

 

(6) Yabai やばい (uh-oh, oh sh*t, dangerous)

Yabai > Yabba やばい>やばっ

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(7) Yukkuri ゆっくり (slowly)

This adverb already has a small tsu, so instead, you elongate the first syllable… yes, you say it sloowly. 

Yukkuyi > Yuukkuri ゆっくり>ゆーっくり 

 

(8) Chou  ちょう 超 (super, ultra, very)

With only one syllable, there isn’t any room to put a small tsu in this word. Instead, we elongate it. 

Chou > Chouu  ちょう>ちょうー

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Since you can do this with a huge amount of Japanese words, the list could go on forever. However, now you know the basic rules and ideas about emphasizing Japanese adjectives and adverbs, you should hear them pretty much everywhere and eventually pick up on the ones I haven’t listed (if you haven’t already). 

Let me say one last VERY IMPORTANT thing. If you are speaking in fairly broken Japanese and you don’t use these variations skillfully – there is a chance that people will assume you’re a foreigner and are making mistakes. We foreigners (myself included) are known for putting in extra pauses and elongating sounds when it really isn’t needed, so be warned! 

How To Learn Japanese: The Ultimate Guide

 

 

So, I’ve been learning Japanese for a long time – over eight years. That’s so long I don’t even like to think about it! I’ve always been interested in finding the fastest and most efficient methods, but of course, things don’t always go as you’d hope. Therefore, I have created this article – the ultimate guide to learning Japanese according to me. If you’re interested in learning Japanese, you might find something of use written here.

 

But be warned – when I say learning Japanese, I mean investing your life and soul into an addiction of language acquisition. Without further ado, here is my guide on how to learn Japanese!

 

Step 1. Learn Hiragana and Katakana

A good place to start is the alphabet, right? While Romaji (Japanese written in Roman letters) may seem helpful at first, it’s generally a waste of time as it soon becomes redundant. Make some flashcards and practice reading AND writing both of these alphabets from memory. You can learn these in a day (or a few hours) but you’ll need to regularly revise them for a while.

 

Step 2. Learn Basic Verbs, Nouns, and Adjectives

Don’t go over the top here – learn the basic ones. The idea here is just to give you enough vocabulary so that you can experiment with grammar. Colours, animals, actions are all good starters. While learning these words, reinforce the hiragana and katakana you learned. Pay close attention to how they join together.

 

Step 3. Learn Basic Grammar

It’s time for you to start making your own sentences. To properly learn Japanese, you need to understand how to conjugate verbs into different tenses, the differences between adjectives, and how to use ‘desu’.

 

Step 4. Start Listening to Audio Lessons

I’m going to recommend Japanesepod101, since you can download them for free and there are thousands of lessons that will take you years to listen to. One time each isn’t enough, you need to listen to lessons several times each over the course of weeks or months. Where possible, mimic/shadow along with the lesson to also increase your speaking ability.

https://www.japanesepod101.com/

 

Step 5. Reinforce and Expand

Everything you’ve learned so far – expand on this. Practice you’re hiragana and katakana again, making sure you’re not making pronunciation mistakes or writing mistakes. Increase your vocabulary as much as possible (flashcards is the best way for me). Increase the amount of grammar you know and listen to as much Japanese as you can.

 

Step 6. Japanese Phrases/Travel Japanese

You’re now probably good enough that if you learn a Japanese phrase, you can understand how it is constructed, rather than just blindly remembering it. Japan is full of phrases used for different times, so it’s a good idea to get to understand as many as you can.

 

Step 7 (optional). Remembering the Kanji

One way to learn Japanese is with a book called ‘Remembering the Kanji’ written by James Heisig. Heisig suggests that you should first learn kanji like an alphabet through mnemonics (a remembering technique). If you follow the book as suggested, it will take a long time to complete and you won’t actually learn any pronunciation of the kanji. However, it is a good way to familiarize yourself with kanji and their radicals, allowing for much less confusion later on.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remembering_the_Kanji_and_Remembering_the_Hanzi

 

Step 8. Learn Basic Kanji

Once again, flashcards come in useful for quickly improving your kanji reading skills. For writing (if you want to learn to write), it’s the old fashioned way I’m afraid. Get a pen and paper, choose 10 kanji you want to remember and write them from memory several times. Make sure you don’t simply write the same kanji over and over, but alternate between the ones you write. Make sure to practice these the next day and the next and the next, while also adding new lists to learn.

 

Step 9. Learn Sentences

You’re now good enough to read a wide variety of sentences. Flashcard software such as Anki has sentence decks you can download. There will be a lot of words and grammar you don’t know, but that’s why you’re doing it. Learn anything you’re not sure about.

 

Step 10. Take a Moment and Reorganise

Hold your horses a second and think about everything you’ve learned and everything you’re weak at. If needed, alter your study pattern to improve areas you think you’re weak at and improve on everything you’ve done so far. More, more, and more!

 

Step 11. Learn From Paragraphs

Don’t dive into difficult paragraphs, but read low-level paragraphs that you can understand at least 50% but not 100% of. Paragraphs can be structured differently from sentences, so it’s good to start getting familiar with them.

You can find such paragraphs on several websites. The NHK Web Easy site isn’t bad. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/easy/?utm_int=all_header_menu_easy

 

Step 12. Study Japanese Language Proficiency Test N3

You don’t need to take the test – I don’t even advise it. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t study for it, though. Buy/download a couple of N3 level books, familiarize yourself with relatively hard grammar and paragraphs. Download/buy a mock test until you’re confident enough you could pass it if you want.

https://www.jlpt.jp/e/

 

Step 13. Find a Japanese Language Partner

Find someone to talk to! There are websites where you can do language exchange, or if you can afford, you can even find online teachers. If you don’t actually practice with real conversations, you’ll feel like you’re not improving as much as you actually are.

 

Step 14. Go Wild With Anki

After JLPT N3, your next step will be N2 – but that’s a lot of work. Make use of Anki to give you an advantage when it comes to vocabulary and kanji.

https://ankiweb.net/shared/decks/japanese

 

Step 15. Aim for JLPT N2

This step could take you a while, there is a lot of stuff you need to learn. If it’s possible, actually take this test because it’s pretty useful to have if you plan to live in Japan.

 

Step 16. Re-evaluate

Let’s assume you’ve passed N2 now. Well done, that’s a big deal. Now you should take some time to think about what you want to do with your language and where you’re going to go from here. Think about the areas you’re weak in and try to improve them.

 

Step 17 (optional). Head to Japan

While some people say all you need is artificial immersion to master Japanese, nothing actually beats going there. Learn to use everything you’ve learnt so far and let the compliments fly in to boost your confidence. Don’t put all you’re studying on halt just because you’re in Japan, though!

 

Step 18 (optional). Study for JLPT N1

This test is really difficult. Unfortunately, it makes N2 look like a nice stroll in the park. So advanced is the language used in this test that there is little chance of you using it in your day-to-day life. However, it does make a great benchmark to push you up to that next level.

 

Step 19 (optional). Study in a Japanese School

You can choose to study N1 in a language school, or if you’re thinking long-term, you could study in a specialist school or even university. These are pretty life-altering decisions, but it’s a great way to learn Japanese – and by this point, Japanese is already a huge part of your life, anyway.

 

Step 20. Books, TV, and Media

This should be further up on the list and it’s likely you’ve already started this anyway. If you want to improve your Japanese past 99% of all other foreigners, then you need to start being able to listen and read like a Japanese person. Novels, talk shows, Japanese social media, news – practice and master! (I’m on this stage, but I still have a long way to go).

 

That’s it, I couldn’t possibly include any further steps because I haven’t got there myself! Now, go,  learn Japanese… and tell me how it’s going in eight years! XD

 

Here is an article on how I actually learnt Japanese, as opposed to how I wish I had!

 

And here’s a list of websites you may find useful to learn Japanese. 

http://tangorin.com (free dictionary app/website)

http://ejje.weblio.jp/ (free dictionary website)

https://kanji.sljfaq.org/drawj.html (use to draw and look up kanji you don’t know)

https://japaneseclass.jp/ (a point-based leveling game where you learn Japanese)

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/ (NHK news website)

http://lang-8.com/ (language exchange website)

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/rikaikun/jipdnfibhldikgcjhfnomkfpcebammhp?hl=en (hover your mouse over words to look them up in your browser, chrome extension)

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-GB/firefox/addon/rikaichan/ (same as Rikaikun but for Firefox and Edge)

 

Japanese Anime Grammar Yagare! やがれ

 

If you’ve watched a lot of shounen anime, you will probably have heard this before (you may just not have realized it). Yagaru (やがる) is a slightly vulgar verb suffix that can indicate hatred or contempt for someone else’s actions.

 

Here, we’ll be looking at the grammar yagare (やがれ), which is the imperative form that is attached to the end of the -masu stem of a verb. When attached to a verb, the verb becomes quite a rude way of ordering someone to do something.

 

Taberu (to eat) > tabe (verb stem) + yagare = tabeyagare

食べる > 食べ + やがれ = 食べやがれ

“Eat this now, damn it!” 

 

There is a lot of ways you could translate this, and depending on the anime and the audience. It wouldn’t be strange if it was translated with a curse word (remember the concept of swearing is very different in Japan). 

 

Due to the rudeness and strength of this grammar – it’s very unlikely you’ll hear it normal conversation or even see it in many grammar books. In anime though, it is used much more frequently – and sometimes to comic/hyperbole effect.

 

The Grammar Yagare in Anime

 

The anime that I really started taking notice of this grammar was Gintama (that I personally believe to the greatest anime ever made!).

 

Here is an example taken directly from Gintoki!

 

 

Did you catch it? The sentence itself is very difficult and would is probably nearly impossible to understand if you don’t know about Gintama, so don’t worry if not. 

 

この攘夷志士白夜叉取れるもんなら取ってみやがれ

Let’s see if you can take down the Joi patriot known as the White Devil” 

This is the translation from the anime, as you can see it’s been made PG (and pretty much completely ignored).

A more accurate translation could be:

Take the head of the Joi patriot known as the White Devil? If you think you can, come and (obscene word) try it!” 

 

This example is pretty difficult, so here are a few simple ones to help you understand.

 

Damariyagare! だまりやがれ!

Shut the (obscene word) up!

 

Hairiyagare! 入りやがれ!

Get the (obscene word) inside now!

 

Hopefully, this will help you understand the grammar yagare. Make sure to keep an eye (ear?) out for it the next time you watch Gintama!

5 Difficult Japanese Words You Could Be Saying Totally Wrong

Japanese Words – Are You Actually Pronouncing Them Right?

 

I think a huge proportion of Japanese learners study in their home, without help from a teacher. This makes it pretty common for someone to pick up a few bad habits when learning Japanese, or any language for that matter. The following five difficult Japanese words actually have different pronunciations compared to their spelling! Are you sure you’re not making these common mistakes?

 

Okay, guys – come me some slack on these first two. While they aren’t difficult, I find their etymology interesting and anyone learning Japanese should know about it! 

 

(1) こんにちは

Meaning: hello;  good day; good afternoon

Actual pronunciation: こんにちわ (konnichiwa)

The reason the は in こんにちは is pronounced like the grammar particle, instead of the ha hiragana is because the phrase was originally a part of the longer phrase. “今日はお元気そうですね”  was the original phrase, meaning “You look well today” which was then shortened into a greeting. The same applies for こんばんは

Note: The kanji for konnichi is 今日 and means “these days”. However, the more common reading is “kyou” that means “today”.

 

(2) こんばんは

Meaning: good evening

Actual pronunciation: こんばんわ (konbanwa)

 

(3) 原因 げんいん

Meaning: cause; origin; source

Actual pronunciation: げいいん (gei-in)

 

(4) 全員 ぜんいん

Meaning: all members (unanimity);  all hands;  the whole crew;  everyone.

Actual pronunciation: ぜいいん (zei-in)

 

Note: You may be tempted in thinking words such as 範囲 はんい follow the same pronunciation pattern as 全員 and 原因because い follows the ん vowel, but it does NOT.

 

(5) 雰囲気 ふんいき

Meaning: atmosphere;  mood;  ambience

Actual pronunciation: ふいんき (fuinki)

 

These are five difficult Japanese words that can trip up the careless learner. Leave a comment about anything you found difficult or got embarrassingly wrong – I may even write the next article about that!

 

Happy learning!

How To Use The Sentence Ending Particle “wa” (Japanese)

What Are Sentence Ending Particles?

If you’re learning Japanese, I’m sure you’re well aware of sentence-ending particles (終助詞). That’s quite a mouthful, so I’ll refer to them as suffix particles to make things easier.

 

A few examples of such suffixes are yo, zo, ze, ne, na  よ、ぞ、ぜ、ね、な

For this lesson, we’ll be focusing on the suffix particle ‘wa.

The suffix ‘wa’ is NOT to be confused with the joshi (助詞) particle  which is pronounced the same way.

 

While Japanese suffixes don’t have an exact meaning, they are often used to emphasize, add hyperbole, add femininity or masculinity, and to strengthen what one says. This means learning to use them is more about hearing them firsthand, than studying them with a pen and paper.

 

The most common rule you hear about this suffix is that it is only used by females, but this isn’t actually true. Traditionally, the wa suffix can be used by both men and women – but you still need to be careful if you don’t want to sound like a girl!

 

Wa‘ わ Is For Women?

First, we’ll look at how the suffix should be used by females.

This is pretty much exactly the same as how you will have learnt it in books or from teachers. Here are a couple of example sentences.

 

やっぱり行くわ↑      I’ll go, after all!

すごい疲れたわ〜↑    I’m really tired!

 

As the arrow implies, females often use the wa suffix with a rising intonation (although in reality, it’s not always the case).

 

As you can see, there is no real translation to the wa suffix, except perhaps the exclamation mark that I added. Now, we’ll have a quick look at the male version.

 

Wa‘ For All, And All For ‘Wa’?

The masculine version of this suffix is mainly used from speakers of the Kansai dialect, which is probably why you don’t see this appear in textbooks very often. (Textbooks teach hyoujungo 標準語 – the standardized Tokyo dialect).

 

ちょっと外に出てくるわ。↓    I’m going to pop outside for a while.

そんなこと知らんわ。↓     I don’t know anything about that!

 

As you can see, the masculine version has descending intonation and is much stronger than the feminine version.

It’s probably advised for male learners of the language to avoid using the wa suffix until you’ve got a decent hold on the language (or hold off altogether since it’s part of a dialect).