Archive for the “Japanese” Category

This one will probably be a little obscure for those of you with no interest in etymology. Or the Japanese language. Or etymology of unusual terms in the Japanese language.

See I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but Japanese is a really hard language to learn. F’r instance, there are different counters for all sorts of things. The words for counting bottles, books, large animals, small animals, appliances, cars, people, and pieces of paper are all different, (and there are many more) which brings me to today’s word.

The two kanji there are read “tsuitachi,” which is the word for the first day of the month, and up until now I’ve had a hard time remembering it because it bears no resemblance to any of the other counters I mentioned. In my Japanese lesson this evening, I was fumbling for the word when my Japanese teacher gave me a brief history lesson explaining the root of the word. (It gets a little geeky here…)

The word for “moon” is “tsuki,” and the verb “to stand” is “tachimasu.” (You may already see where I’m going with this.) It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump from “tsuki” + “tachi” to “tsuitachi.” Knowing that Japan used to use a lunar calendar will help you draw the logical connection between a “standing moon” and a new month.

If you’re not quite there, it may help to know that the first kanji (朔) by itself means “new moon,” and the second kanji (日) by itself means “day.” Again, “new moon day.”

See, now doesn’t that help? 😛

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Here’s a picture of my test voucher enabling me to sit for level N4 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test today. Though they sound different, it’s the same difficulty as the level 3 test I failed last year, due to the system being reorganized.

The JLPT tests applicants’ knowledge of vocabulary, kanji, and grammar through listening comprehension and reading comprehension in Japanese. The hardest section for me (and most of my friends who’ve taken the test) is the grammar section, mostly because Japanese particles are a serious PITA.

I passed the former level 4 test (the current N5 test) two years ago, but this one is (of course) harder. N5 tests your knowledge of about 100 kanji and 800 words, while N4 tests your knowledge of about 300 kanji and 1500 words, so you can definitely see the difficulty ramp up.

Anyway, I think I passed, but not by a huge margin. I’d been taking practice tests with my Japanese teachers and regularly passing them, but the actual test seemed noticeably harder. Having now spent Â¥12,000 (~$145) just for this level (Â¥6000 each for last year and this), I certainly hope I passed this time.

I’d like to know soon, but because this is Japan and only the trains are efficient here, applicants don’t get the results of this scantron test for two months. Keep your fingers crossed. (^_^)

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SudokuI just learned tonight what sudoku actually means in Japanese. It’s a compound formed from two Japanese kanji.

数字 = すうじ = suuji = figure; number; numeral

独 = どく = doku = alone, single (when used in context) (This kanji also means Germany, for some reason.)

Huh. Who knew?

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Kinda sounds like some sort of parable name, doesn’t it? 🙂
Last weekend, I had my first training session for my new part time job as wedding minister. While I was at Dogo Catholic Church for that, a local singing group came to rehearse in the chapel, and when they started singing a couple of Christmas songs, I began humming along from the back room where we were working. On the way out, the wedding officiator with whom I was working stopped to tell the director that I was also a singer, and director invited me to come to what I thought was their next performance.

When I arrived back at the church last night, however, I discovered the director had invited me to a rehearsal. I was a bit surprised, but I stayed and sang for about two hours of their 3.5 hour(!) rehearsal. (Incidentally, one of the pieces they’re working on is “Hail, Holy Queen” from Sister Act, which I thought was a nice stretch.) I hadn’t realized how much I missed singing until I had the opportunity to do so. Another reason it was neat was that I was the only non-Japanese person there, and of course the rehearsal was conducted all in Japanese.

Thankfully, I understand numbers well enough to understand bar numbers, and most musical markings are in Italian, regardless of what country the music is being used in- I just had to adjust my ear to listen for highly accented versions of “diminuendo” and “staccato.” A lot of the Japanese was pretty basic, too: “<from the head>” means “from the beginning,” for instance.

Anyway, I found out the group is named “Seagulls,” and is mostly university students, but not all. Also, it isn’t associated with the church, but they rehearse there. I told the director I needed to go during a break, and he asked me to say a few words to the rest of the members about myself, at which time he invited me to join the group. Everyone seemed very welcoming, and they were eager for me to come to their performance next weekend. As a spectator, of course. 😉

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I recently read a sentence in Japanese and fully understood every word.

It was no big deal, just a piece of labeling on a pamphlet accompanying some classy souvenir sweets, but I realized after reading it that it was the first sentence in Japanese (standard kanji and hiragana mix not simplified or intended for learners) that I’d read and understood. It was one of those slow motion realizations that only hits you a minute or two afterward. I was particularly proud of myself because I just learned most of the kanji in the last few weeks running up to the JLPT.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m sitting for a national Japanese test this Sunday. It’s called the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT for short), and it’s the national certification method used to gauge one’s Japanese ability. There are four levels (4-kyu through 1-kyu), and I’m taking the lowest one, level four.

I had my last Japanese lesson before the exam this morning, and it went reasonably well. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been taking practice exams in my lessons, and steadily improving my scores. I think I’ll pass the test with a decent margin.

In other news, I came to the realization that unless I blog more often than I do interesting things, I’ll never catch up. It’s in that vein that I’m making this post right now. I have a huge backlog of pictures and potentially interesting things to describe, but they’ll have to wait until at least next week.

Hey, just be glad I posted this. 😉

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When I was working for Silver State Helicopters, there was a young woman working as the administrative assistant for the IT department named Kristin. Kristin had (and presumably still has) a tattoo on the back of her neck of two kanji. She requested the kanji because the shop told her they meant “angel.”

Many Americans seem to be fascinated with the idea of getting something ancient tattooed on themselves, adding history and significance by association with indelibly-marked symbols and ideas. Many people get tribal tattoos from tribes they’ve never met (or that never existed), military symbols from armies of which they’ve never been a part, and writing in languages they don’t speak.

The problem with this of course, is that if you’re not actually in the group with which you’re associating yourself, you can’t really be sure of all the baggage that comes with the symbology- or worse, that the symbols you’ve chosen to mark your skin for life mean something wholly different than what your tattoo artist told you they mean.

Kristin thought she was getting a tattoo of the Japanese kanji for “angel,” and I’m happy to report that she basically got what she paid for. I asked my school’s office manager to look at the photo Kristin kindly let me take of her tattoo, and she said that while the kanji certainly says “angel,” it doesn’t look Japanese, but likely a script form of older Chinese kanji. The modern Japanese print form is on the left.

If you’re interested, the first symbol is 天, often pronounced “ten,” and is the symbol for “heaven” and “sky.” It’s also the first part of the word “tempura.” The second symbol is 使, with many different readings, most of which are a derivation of “messenger” or “envoy.” Thus 天使 means “heaven’s messenger,” or “angel.”

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