Break It Down

This is a rather long post.  Proceed at your own risk.

My homework now involves lots of really loooooooooooooong sentences, and I have a tendency to get lost somewhere in the middle of them.

For example, take the one that I ran in to today:


What a sentence, right?  I started out okay, but I quickly found myself wandering aimlessly around totally confused.  In order to make sense of this, I am going to have to break it apart, like this:

1:  個人の情報が金もうけに使われるくらいならまだ許せるが、財産、戸籍、思想、宗教、

2:  そして遺伝子情報のようなものまで他人に知られて管理され、

3:  万一それが悪用されたら、

4:  それこそ恐ろしいことである。

So, why did I break it apart in these particular locations?

Part 2 beings with そして which is something like “and then” or “thus”, so it seems like a natural break point.  I ignored the commas in part one because that is clearly a list.

I did use the comma at the end of Part 2 as a break point, especially since part 3 beings with 万一 meaning “by any chance and then I broke it apart again at the next comma.

So…is there any part of this sentence I can decipher quickly?  Yes.

4:  それこそ恐ろしいことである。 – that really is a terrible thing.

それこそ – that with emphasis, or that precisely or that exaclty

恐ろしい – terrible, regrettable

こと – thing (used for insubstantial things such as ideas)

である – exists

Okay.  That gives me an obvious starting point.  So..what would be a really terrible thing?  And, is there any other part of this monstrosity that I can readily deciper?

3:  万一それが悪用されたら – if, by any chance, it should be abused

万一 – by any chance

それが – that followed by the subject marker

悪用されたら – if abused

Which obviously makes the second half of this sentence:  if, by any chance, it is abused, that really is a terrible thing.  So far so good.

I am actually going to go ahead and hit part 2, since it looks pretty straightforward.

2:  そして遺伝子情報のようなものまで他人に知られて管理され、

そして – and

遺伝子情報 – genetic information (Yeah, I had to look the first part of that word up)

のようなものまで – even that type of thing

他人に – by others

知られて – known

管理され – managed

(知られて is ending in て because it is the first in a list of verbs, and 管理され is missing it’s ending because there is more sentence to follow)

And even things like genetic information is known and managed by others

Which only leaves us the first part of the sentence:


個人の情報が – individual information followed by the subject marker.  I might actually translate this as personal information which, although not a literal translation still works and sounds better in English.

金もうけに – to make money

使われる – is used

くらいならまだ – you know, I’m still kind of working on this part…this makes the sentence conditional and gives it a sense of “if…”

許せるが – is acceptable

財産 – property, assets

戸籍 – family register, census (I had to look that one up, too!)

思想 – ideas, thought

宗教 – religion

So, we start with if something is acceptable

If what is acceptable?  The use of personal information to make money, that’s what.

If the use of personal information to make money is acceptable, assets, who is in the family, ideas, religion and even things like genetic information is known and managed by others, if, by any chance, it should be abused, that really would be a terrible thing.

Well, that is obviously not quite right, so let’s consider and redo it a little bit.  How about:

The use of personal information to make money is acceptable, but if assets, who is in the family, ideas, religion and even things like genetic information are known and managed by others, if, by any chance, it should be abused, that would really be a terrible thing.

And, yes, it would.

Well, I don’t know that I hit the bullseye, but I think I at least got pretty close to sorting this one out.  It is the next to last sentence in the article I’m reading, but the last sentence isn’t bad at all, so that’s a relief.

Now, I can tackle that newspaper article a friend in Japan sent me about the new Japanese currency.  Being from a newspaper written in Japanese for Japanese people, it has no helpful furigana, and I’m quite sure that some of the kanji are going to be totally unfamiliar to me, so wish me luck.



Coming Up

I do not like second shift.

Not for myself, mind you, but for my wife.  She is working second shift tonight, which means that I will be home alone all evening.

Hm.  I wonder what I should do with that time…

So, here’s the part of the plan that is related to Japanese:

Bunpro.  I have 24 reviews scheduled, and I like to add 1-3 new grammar points a day.  This does not mean, by the way, that I am keeping up with them.  I am beginning to think that they add new grammar points (or at least new example sentences) every day!

Memrise.  I don’t know how many reviews I have scheduled for today because I haven’t looked yet.  Memrise is undergoing some changes right now.  They are moving all community-created courses to a new sites which doesn’t yet have a mobile app, and there is some talk that, when there is a mobile app, it might not be free to use.  We’ll see soon, I hope.

TV.  I will probably watch episode 2 of チャネルはそのまま!this evening (or rewatch episode 1.  It was fun but pretty chaotic.  A second (or third) viewing wouldn’t hurt a bit.

Reading.  Well, something or other, anyway.  I don’t know what, yet.

The point is that I am going to have several hours of quiet time, so I might just as well use it to do some studying.  I have my Cafetalk lesson tomorrow, and I have a lot of questions about my homework, so I’m not going to beat my head against it any tonight.  I’ll just wait until tomorrow and ask for help.

Mind you, all of the explanations will be in Japanese, which is its own challenge, but it’s good for me.





I have found two new shows to watch, one of them on Neflix and on on Amazon Prime.

The one on Netflix is called チャネルはそのまま! which they have rendered in English as Stay Tuned!  It is an absolutely nutso comedy about Hanako Yukimaru who has been hired as a news copy writer by a TV station even though she is totally disorganized and utterly incompetent.  It is fast paced, hard to understand and very funny.  It looks like there are only 5 episodes, though.

The one on Prime is called Samurai Cat, though it isn’t about a Cat who is a Samurai.  Kyutaro is a Samurai who is hired by a dog loving gang to assassinate the cat belong to the leader of another gang.  He decided the cat is too cute to kill, so he kidnaps it (catnaps it?) instead.  Now he is trying to learn how to care for cat while keeping it secret that he has a cat while dodging the police who are the hunt for the cat killer while dodging the cat loving gang who want to kill the cat killer while not letting the dog loving gang know that he isn’t, in fact, a cat killer.


It is also hard to understand – apparently Samurai never enunciate clearly – but it is also funny.  There appear to be 25 episodes.  The description probably sounds like it should be anime, but it isn’t.  It is fun, though.  Oddly, there are several spots where there is no episode and the screen is just black, and you have to fast forward for a few minutes each time.  I don’t have an explanation for that, but it happened in each of the first three episodes.

If you have Netflix or Prime and are looking for something fun (but hard to understand!) in Japanese to watch, try those two and let me know what you think.




Do The Difficult Thing

I spend way too much time explaining that, yes, I am learning Japanese, and, no, that doesn’t make me a genius, because it isn’t impossible to learn Japanese.

This is usually followed by wanting to know how I do it, as if there is some secret trick that they need to know.

There isn’t.  The answer is that you study Japanese the same way you study scholastic theology, or particle physics or renaissance art or whatever else you happen to be studying.  You put in the time and the effort.

Should I try to sell that secret?

I guess not.

So, what should you focus on?  Where should you apply that effort?

In the beginning, I focused on vocabulary, basic grammar and conversation.  I leaped right into conversation (via Skype) from almost the very beginning.

That was then.  This is now.

Now I have a reasonable amount of vocabulary and grammar under my belt, I have conversations in Japanese every week, I watch the occasional DVD…so what should I focus on?

What should you focus on?

I think that you should focus on whatever gives you the most trouble.

What are you having the most difficulty with?

For me, it is reading stories, news articles, etc, and it is a problem because I have slacked off working at it because it’s hard… (Be sure to read that in a suitably whiny voice so you get the full impact.)

The fact that it is hard enough to put me off means that it is the thing I need to be working on the most.  It’s hard because I don’t do it well, and I don’t do it well because I haven’t spent enough time doing it because it’s haaaaaaaaard.

Which is why I have a book to read sitting in front of me waiting for me to finish typing this post, so, enough procrastination.


Japanese IO

So, I found this site called Japanese IO.  It is a site to help you with reading.  I haven’t had a chance to explore it much yet, so I will let it speak for itself.


When click on “Feed” you get a bunch of random articles.  You can choose a category to narrow it down, but the category list is pretty standard:  Business, Entertainment, Food, Travel, Science, etc.  That means that your ability to focus on articles that might actually interest you is pretty limited.  There is also the fact that you don’t appear to be able to limit articles by difficulty level, so you may get something well beyond your reading level.

However, there is also a section labeled “Classics” which calls up what looks to be about 18 or 20 Japanese folk tales, and they are labeled by difficulty level:  novice, intermediate, pre-advanced, and advanced.  It isn’t a large selection, but it is reading practice.

I grabbed some random text in Japanese off of the web and pasted it into the “New Text” box, and in just a few seconds it had the text prepared.  It would provide you with furigana or call up the translation of any word I clicked on.  I was pretty impressed with that.

Oh, and it is our favorite price:  ただ (free)!

All in all, it looks like a pretty useful site.  I’ll definitely bookmark it.

Check it out and see what you think.


Now, What is that Kanji…?

You have just stumbled across an unknown Kanji.  What do you do?

Well, that depends…

Is it in a document or something that you are reading online? You have two options.

1. Just copy and paste it into your favorite online dictionary.  I’m rather partial to Jisho myself.  Even the app is free.

2. Look it up using the radicals.

But what if it is in a pdf file so that you can’t just paste it into Jisho?  You have two options.

1. Copy it (or make a snip of it) and use a Japanese OCR site to identify it.  (This doesn’t always work, because the site doesn’t always recognize the characters, though.)  Then, when the site translates the image into text, you can look it up in any dictionary.

2. Look it up using the radicals.

But what if it isn’t online at all?  What if it’s in a book or a newspaper or on a poster or painted on the side of a wandering cow?  What do you do then?

Look it up using the radicals.  I do it using Jisho again.

This is…how shall I put this…a real pain in the backside when you first start trying to do it, because it takes some practice to learn how to recognize the radicals.  How many radicals are there?

This many:


And it can get a little frustrating when you spend some time looking up pieces of a character only to (eventually) discover that the entire character was a radical.  It can get extremely frustrating when you have something like 鬱 or something and you’re trying to figure out what the radicals are.

But, and here’s the good news, just like all of learning Japanese, it gets easier the more you do it.

Oh, yeah, and don’t procrastinate and, just to pick a random example with no significance whatsoever in the current circumstances, spend time writing a blog post about looking up the kanji instead of actually looking up that pesky kanji in your homework that you’re stuck on.



So…what’s the best way to learn Japanese?

Well, what’s the best way to learn any language?


This is the sink or swim method.  (I don’t recommend this method for learning to swim, by the way.)

The problem is, I don’t live in Japan.

I also don’t live in a place where there are very many Japanese people, and I don’t have ready access to much in the way of Japanese TV or music or reading or conversation…

So, how can I immerse myself?

An excellent question.  I wish I had an excellent answer.

In short – do the best you can.

So, I have access to the internet.  (Since you’re reading this, I assume you do, too.)  I can certainly find some Japanese audio and music out there and save mp3s and burn cds.  I can also find some things to read.  I could decide that my car (or my room, or my house!), for example, is a Japanese only zone and only listen to Japanese audio and music when I’m there.

It seems that a lot of video streaming services have at least some shows in Japanese.

There are Japanese radio stations online.

If you have a ham radio license and use echo link, you could connect to a repeater in Japan.  (If you aren’t a ham radio operator and have no idea what you just read, don’t worry about it.  Or, alternatively, become a ham radio operator and learn about it.  It’s not that difficult to do.)

I can’t actually immerse myself in Japanese, but I can at least do my best to get myself soaking wet in Japanese, I guess.  What I mean is, I could force myself to experience more Japanese than I do now.


The trick in all this is to realize that it’s up to me.  It comes down to my desire to learn and how much I motivate myself to do it.

And it’s the same for you, right?