Little Help Please Update

So, not too long ago I asked for help with this sentence:


And some people were kind enough to offer some suggestions.  Just to pass on a little information, I have learned that the stalker in question (this is fiction, everybody) is not 三谷。

How do I know this?

I finally came across this sentence:


The stalker’s name was Ryo Obuse.  You can’t get much clearer than that.  三谷 is not the stalker.

So, remembering suggestions from others and information learned, I am going to with this as a translation of the mysterious sentence:  Seeing the woman that Mitani brought with him (or her?  I don’t know) to repel the stalker, Aoi gasped.

And, by the way, kudos to Lady Caladium, whose try at translating this sentence was, I think, right on the money.








A Big Bite

Well, I wonder if I have bitten off more than I can chew…

I just ordered this:


In case you can’t read the cover, it says シャーロック・ホームズの冒険, which translates as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Yeah.  I’ve decided to tackle The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in Japanese.  I must be nuts.  If you’ve ever read Sherlock Holmes, you will know the downside of this insane plan of mine – the writing style is at a high level, easy enough in English, but in Japanese…?

The upside, for me at least, is that, as a Holmes fan of longstanding, I have read all of these stories in English more than once, and I have them in English for comparison purposes for when I get totally out of my depth.

Also, the price was right.  This is a 455 page book (seriously?  455 pages?!  good grief!) and the price for a new copy, including shipping from Japan, was a just a little over $12.00.   You can’t beat that.  Now, it might be a month before I get it, but, on the other hand, the company that I used (Anime+ in case you care) usually gets stuff too me quite a bit faster than their expected arrival time.

It is a 文庫本, which means that it is small, about 4 inches by 6 or so, which wold explain the huge number of pages.  (For comparison, the English book is only 164 pages long.)

I had noticed that many books which, in America, would be only one volume, are 2 or more volumes in Japan, and  I had often wondered why this is case. Now I get it.  For example, the Hobbit (which comes in at only about 300 pages in English) is sold in 2 volumes.  (That’s why I got Sherlock Holmes instead.)  Why 2?  Because, due to the smaller page size, the Hobbit in Japanese comes out to a whopping 644 pages, and they didn’t want to make one volume that long.  Not it at least makes some sense.  文庫分 are specifically designed to be portable, which involves not making them too thick.

Well, I wanted reading practice, and I’m sure going to get it.

After I finish Sherlock Holmes (let’s be optimistic, right?) I’ll pick up another paperback.  After all, if I don’t mind getting a used copy (and I don’t) I can pick up both volumes for only about $15.00 including shipping.  That’s not bad.  Besides, it’ll probably take me all year before I’m ready for another book!







Watch It!

From a news story that I read today:

Although excessive screen time is often frowned upon, language experts say that watching shows in a foreign language — if done with near obsession — can help someone learn that language.

If done with near obsession…well, lots of people do try to learn Japanese from watching anime.  There are books and even whole courses devoted to the concept.  I have a friend in Japan that I Skype with who usually has audio recorded from The Lucy Show that he wants me to help him understand.

Near obsession, though…

But they didn’t just watch “Friends”; they watched it over and over again. Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis told the Times that he had watched every episode of the 10-season show at least five times.

But what does a dean of languages have to say about the idea?

“Our Japanese classes are full of Chinese students and American students who grew up watching Japanese anime, and without having any formal training in Japanese, their comprehension is quite reasonable,” he said. “It’s a transnational phenomenon, and it makes sense.”

Their comprehension is quite reasonable.  I don’t know why that sentence amuses me, but it does.

That same dean of languages says that there are three tricks involved:

  1. The show must be highly engaging.

That is, you have to enjoy watching it.  That makes sense.

  1. It’s best if the show has subtitles so you can see new words written out in your own language.

Um…hang on, now.  Does this assume a word-for-word translation?  Or does it assume some kind of complementary relationship between the two languages?  I have often watched shows in Japanese with English subtitles, and sometimes (too often!) you can’t pick out that new word in Japanese and get exactly which English word it is.

  1. The storyline should be repetitive.

That makes sense, too.  Repetition makes it easier to follow and similar situations and therefore similar words will crop up.

If you get far enough into the story, though, you get to this statement:

She and other experts add that although watching shows goes a long way, it’s best to pair it with formal language training to learn grammar and structure.

Which makes sense to me, too.  I was going to say that I had trouble with the idea that most people could learn a language just from TV shows.  But, of course, no one would say that just watching TV is enough, would they?

Then I read this:

“When I married my husband, who’s from Uruguay, I didn’t speak a word of Spanish,” she said. “After three months of watching ‘Andrea Celeste,’ I was fluent.”

Now, that sounds a little too easy to me.  Who is this lady?

Vardit Ringvald, a professor of languages and linguistics…

Ah, is it possible that this gave her an advantage the typical person doesn’t have?

Soon, she and her husband were speaking Spanish to keep secrets from her mother.

Well, that’s not cool!

“But we can’t do that anymore, because my mother started to watch telenovelas, and now she’s fluent, too,” Ringvald said.

I have to admit that I am tempted to get a little sarcastic here wonder aloud why I’ve spent so much time studying hard, learning grammar, doing homework, when, according to some people, just a few months of watching TV shows could make me fluent.

I have trouble believing that it’s that easy.

Now, I do watch things in Japanese.  In fact, the show I’m watching now is called 野武士のグルメ, and, while I’m not watching it with “near obsession” I do watch each episode three times.  The first time, I watch it with English subtitles.  Then I watch it again with Japanese subtitles.  Then I watch it a third time without subtitles.

Okay, that might sound like near obsession to some people…

But it hasn’t made me fluent. It’s a good idea, and it has helped improve my listening skills, but, for me at least, it isn’t the main thing that I do.  It is just an accessory.

So, what do you think?  Watch a TV show for three months and you’re fluent! Well, not in Japanese.  Not for me, anyway.

Yes, watch TV shows and movies in Japanese.  It will help.  Just don’t expect it to be the road to instant and effortless fluency.


Looking Up Kanji

I am currently trying to read reading a short story sent to me by my Cafetalk tutor.  She sent it to me in the form of a series of PNG files.  This file choice has a consequence:  I can’t just cut and paste mysterious Kanji into a dictionary, so I am  having to identify them the hard way.

This usually involves identifying Kanji by radical, which I do using Jisho.

This can be a little tricky, since you have a couple of hundred radicals to look through, but, as is the case with most things, the more you do it, the better you get at doing it.

As an example, in the first sentence of the story, I ran across this:  撃退

Step one is to call up the radical list:


For the first Kanji, I clicked on 車 which still gave me lots of choices:


So I added the radical 手、which left me with 撃 as the only option.  Entering that character in the dictionary on Jisho gave me several choices, but one of them was 撃退, saving me the trouble of having to look up the second character by radicals.

Sometimes, entering the first radical and simply looking through all of the options that pop up is actually easier than trying to identify other radicals and enter them.

Jisho also has a section which allows you to draw a Kanji with the mouth (or your finger on a tablet or phone), and it will try to identify what you’ve drawn.  I have limited success with this method, presumably because I’m terribly at drawing the Kanji!

I have read 6 lines of the story so far, and I have had to look up nearly a dozen Kanji.  After I look them up, I add my own roumaji furigana, but I don’t write the English translation on the page.  I want to force myself to remember the translation but, if I do forget it, my homemade furigana will let me look it up easily.

Well, this story isn’t going to read itself.  Back to work.


Um…Little Help Please?

Since I want to work on reading, my Cafetalk tutor gave me a short story to read.  She warned me that it would be difficult, and the very first sentence proved her right.  In fact, I still don’t understand it.

Here’s the sentence:


So, let’s do our thing and break it down.  It still won’t make sense afterward, but let’s do it, anyway.

ストーカー – stalker

撃退 – repulse; repelling (e.g. the enemy); driving back (I had to look it up)

用に – in order to (e.g. meet goal); so that; take care (so as)

と – to be honest, I am not sure why this word is here, so, let’s just keep going, shall we?

三谷 – mitani…I’m kind of guessing that this is a name, though I don’t know if it would be male or female

が – our old friend the subject particle

So, let’s try and assemble the first part of this one…

In order to repulse the stalker Mitani…

Now, to be honest, I get that something is being done in order to repulse a stalker, but I’m not quite sure about the Mitani.  Is Mitani the stalker?  Is Mitani repulsing the stalker?  Is Mitani the woman mentioned in the next part of the sentence?  I don’t know.

So, let’s keep going.

連れてきた – brought along with

女 – woman

を – direct object particle

見て – to see.  The て form of 見る is being used here because this is a compound sentence

So, this would be something like sees the woman who was brought along with

With who?  With Mitani?  Assuming that Mitani is a name?  Or is Mitani the woman who is brought along?

葵 – aoi, according to the dictionary:

  1. mallow (any plant of family Malvaceae)​
  2. Asarum caulescens (species of wild ginger)
  3. hollyhock​

However, given the rest of the sentence, I’m guessing this might be the name of a person…

は – the topic particle

息 – breath

を – direct object particle

呑んだ – and, I had to look this one up, too, and it is just a variant of 飲む, meaning to drink

So, Aoi drank her breath.  I chose the feminine there based on something in the next sentence.

A friend clarified for me that 息を呑んだ meant that she held her breath.  That is, she drank it in, but she never exhaled.

So, going with all my assumptions thus far, I end up with something like

Aoi held her breath, repulsing her stalker Mitani and seeing the woman that he brought with him or, maybe, Aoi held her breath, seeing that, to repulse her stalking, Mitani brought a woman with him/her? or…, ah, I don’t know.

Which, to be honest, I don’t like any of these as a translation.  I have a strong feeling that I’m missing something vital about this sentence, though I don’t know what.

Now, for the sake of any help it might be, here is the next part:


Now, this isn’t so bad.  Aoi (I guess) is speaking to herself, and she says something like, “This child is my double?  She really looks just like me.”  I’m guessing it may not literally be child, but something like the way Americans sometimes use “girl” for “woman”.  This is why I went with “holding her breath” in the previous sentence.  (I was very glad that, after that first sentence, the next one wasn’t bad, although I did have to look up 替玉.

I took this sentence to a Japanese friend, and he agreed with my breakdown of it, but he wasn’t entirely sure what it meant, either.  When I asked him about the presence of the と, he said, “Ah.  I was afraid you would ask that.  It’s really difficult to explain…”

So, I know there are plenty of people out there who speak Japanese better than I do.  What does that first sentence mean?

Oh, by the way, after wrestling with it, I finally ran it through google translate, and I got this:

Aoi got a breath when I saw a woman brought Mitani for the stalker repulsion

That wasn’t as helpful as it might have been.


Progress Report

Way back when I was learning the kanji, I started this blog as a way to keep myself motivated.  I took it for granted that no one would actually read it.  And yet, people not only read it but comment on it.  Reading and responding to comments is fun for me.

A while back, I tried to tackle the manga よつばと in Japanese, and, to be honest, I only got about three pages in before decided that I had bitten off more than I could chew.  I had forgotten all about Yotsubato until I got a comment a few days ago asking for assistance in understanding something on the first page.  I looked up the page and discovered, somewhat to my surprise, that the first page was absolutely no problem at all.

That made me curious, so today I read the first 10 pages.  I had to look a few words up, and one panel just about defeated me, but, other than that it was not only understandable, it wasn’t really that difficult!  Woo-hoo!  A clear sign of progress.  Also, it made me want to keep reading!

In addition, I had a discussion through the comment box with a commenter about the point of studying Japanese and of taking the JLPT.  She said:

I’ve come across many students who only wish to pass tests (Japanese students learning English) and classmates (studying Japanese) who only study to be able to put the JLPT on a resume!

I know exactly what she means, having met many language students who take a language class to fulfill a requirement on a curriculum sheet but who don’t actually learn the language well enough to communicate with anyone.

Taking a test can be a good way of gauging your progress, but, if you are studying in order to pass the test, you are letting yourself down.  You need to be studying to learn the language and to be able to use it in a practical setting.  At least, that’s what I think.  Your attitude determines if you will use the language or not.

I am reminded of a Japanese teacher who told me of a student who read books and studied for the JLPT N2 and passed it but who couldn’t carry on even the simplest of conversations in Japanese.

This person has every right to put “Passed the N2” on a job application or resume, but what happens if they actually need to use the language?  What’s the point of having the credential when it doesn’t actually mean what it is supposed to mean?

Suppose that you had to choose one:  being able to use the language or having a passing grade on the test?  Which one would you rather have?

Well, I’d like both, thank you very much.

Yes, I get that, but if you could only have one, which one would it be?  I hope it would be the ability to actually use the language.  So, study for the one you want the most, right?  If you can use the language, you’ll be able to pass the test eventually, but, obviously, it is possible to pass the test without having the ability to actually communicate in the language!  Don’t fall into that trap!



I love to read.  People who have no idea who I am know me as “that guy that’s reading all the time.”  Fiction, nonfiction, all kinds of things.  What I want but haven’t really had, though, is something good to read in Japanese.

NHK News Web Easy is, well, easy, and the stories are too short, but the regular NHK news site is too hard.  Hakumusume are at a pretty good level, but the language used in fairy tales isn’t really the language actual people use when talking, so, while it’s good, it’s not ideal.

My Cafetalk tutor sent me this link.  It it a short story which opens with this line:


Just in case anyone can’t read that one, let’s break it down, shall we?

俺 – me

を – direct object particle

殺して – kill (te form indicating an imperative)

くれない – casual negative form of くれる (to give)  and thus to not give but, in this case, in the sense of to not give a favor which ends up being a rather polite won’t you give me the favor of…

か – question particle

So, we get something like Won’t you do me the favor of killing me? which we could render more colloquially as something like Will you kill me, please?

Okay, so this could be an interesting story.  I can already tell that it will be difficult to read, but I’m okay with that.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.  If you read it before I do, don’t tell me the ending!