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15 Minute Japanese

A quick overview of the Japanese language, a smattering of Japanese grammar, and twenty or so very useful words and phrases.
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15 MINUTE JAPANESE


15
minute BACKGROUND

Japanese
is said to have begun some 2000 years ago. (English is
about 1000 years old) Japanese’s long history makes it a very
deep and interesting language to study. Japanese has 3 writing
systems. HIRAGANA, KATAKANA, and thousands of Chinese characters
called KANJI. [Don’t panic yet – it’s really fun, really] This
page will ignore all of this and focus instead on ROMAJI, or the
writing of Japanese words using the Alphabet. THIS IS NOT AN
ENDORSEMENT OF ROMAJI! Learn hiragana quickly. Don’t let romaji
become a crutch!

Now
back to the background… Basically the writing system
is based on the vowel sounds, which aren’t that hard to learn.

a – (as in Ah!)
i – (as in fEEt or the letter"E")
u – (as in fOOd)
e – (as in hAte)
o – (as in Oh nO!)

SO the
Japanese word "AOI" (the color blue) would be
pronounced "AH OH E"

For
now, just pronounce the consonants as you would in English and the vowels as
above. (to learn more on pronunciation (beyond your first 15 minutes!) go to
the
HIRAGANA PAGE)


15
minute GRAMMAR

Here
it comes…

The
sentence order is very different from English. In English we use
Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) but in Japanese it is usually Subject-Object-Verb
(SOV) – observe:

  S V O
ENGLISH I eat bread.
  S O V
JAPANESE watashi wa pan o tabemasu.

Also
notice there are extra "words" in the Japanese (WA and
O). These are particles or markers and they tell us the fuction
of the word just before it. So "WA" is connected with
WATASHI and it tells us that WATASHI is the "main topic of
the sentence." Likewise, "O" is connected with PAN
and it tells us that PAN is the "object of the sentence."
Don’t worry yet…

For
more on this
go
here


15
minute ESSENTIAL WORDS AND PHRASES

Here
is the main event, what you have been so patiently waiting for…
<drum roll>

Learn
these words well. It may take you more than 15 minutes (sorry)
but at least pick out the words that strike you as interesting or
useful. ganbatte (do your best!)

  1. ohayo
    (gozaimasu)
    Good morning! [NOTE: the gozaimasu is normally
    added for politeness, but just ohayo is ok!]
  2. konnichi
    wa
    Good afternoon! or Hello! [the daytime greeting]
  3. konban wa
    Good evening! [the
    evening greeting]
  4. sayounara
    Goodbye! [actually Japanese usually say "Bye!"]
  5. (o) genki
    desu ka?
    How are you? [NOTE the o is added for politeness]
  6. genki
    desu.
    I’m fine. [The common answer to #5]
  7. hai yes
  8. iie no
  9. ~wa nan
    desu ka?
    What’s ~ [Just replace ~ with anything]
  10. hajimemashite
    Nice to meet you. [Used on the first meeting]
  11. ganbatte Do
    your best
    [used very
    often to encourage others "good luck"]
  12. ganbarimasu
    I will do my best [here is a reply to when someone says #11]
  13. mata ne See
    you
    [Another commone bye bye]
  14. ~ga suki Do
    you like ~?
    or I like ~[ [This can be both a question and a statement
    – just raise the tone of your voice at the end of the
    word; also to make it a "proper" question add desu
    ka
    (see #20)]
  15. nihon(go)
    Japan(ese) [the country and the language]
  16. eigo English
    [NOTE the go at the
    end of #15 and #16 means "language"]
  17. ~san Mr.
    or Mrs. or Miss or ???
    [NOTE: san

    is like Mr. or Mrs., but it is always (almost) used even
    among friends]

  18. sugoi cool!
    or great! [Used like "cool" in English]
  19. daijoubu OK
    [This can be both a question
    and a statement – just raise the tone of your voice at
    the end of the word; also to make it a "proper"
    question add desu ka]
  20. ka makes statements
    into questions
    [Note how #5 and #6’s only difference
    is the ka] For more
    click
    here
  21. arigatou Thank
    you

After reading this
you may be scratching your head and asking many strange questions.
This is good, as now you have an idea of what to ask and perhaps
how to find it out! I hope you will enjoy your Japanese language
studies. It really is fun. Take a look around and explore…

NOTE: You may want to read our ‘New to Japanese’ article here.


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