Thursday, 14 February 2008


So last semester I picked up Beginner level Japanese at my university when I realised they offered free language classes. I am a japanese culture junkie, as well as a language enthusiast. But I just couldn't gather enough energy in the week to continue the class, what with all the other writing classes and the work they were demanding of me, plus I had a part time job that required a lot of energy and patience; teaching spoilt rich A.D.H.D. kids to play tennis.

I was really down about dropping the class but then dropping it meant I could start back attending Japanese Cultural Society meetings which were stupidly held the same time as the class. But, just as I was about to go in last week to watch Battle Royale with the anime addicts, and was getting excited about our trip to Hare and Tortoise, a popular japanese food chain in London, the shifts were determined for this job I applied to. I had foolishly confirmed that I could work Tuesday evenings, the same evening all this Japan-ness was taking place. Don't blame me, I need the money and therefore took all the shifts I could think of. So I sighed and stuck to my Japanese Word a Day application on Facebook.

The Word of the day at the time was 'suki', along with the phrase 'suki desu', meaning 'I like it.' And that same day was when I found out that one of my favourite artists won record of the year at this year's Grammy's. Ya, that artist that Natalie Cole said should not have won because of how it will affect her recovery from drug addiction? GOOD GUESS! Amy Winehouse! Well, I love her, and I think Natalie is right but what can you do at this point?

Anyway! So in response to that, I changed my facebook status to 'Watashi wa Amy Winehouse ga daisuki desu!'- this means I love Amy Winehouse. And ever since, my facebook wall posts have been more and more like this:

"kara! haha you are so japanese."
""You know I'm no good" ga dai suki desu."
"tomodachi, konnichiwa! nihongo ga hanashimasu ka?!"

I was like, well hurrah! people think I speak Japanese, while I casually teach myself in the confines of my room, one word at a time. So, I thought, I might as well actually pretend that I speak it, which has sprung forth an extremely late, but new 2008 resolution; to teach myself to have proper conversations with a japanese speaker.

My friend Alex, who moved to Japan nearly two years ago and teaches English there sent me this website that he swore by in preparation for moving there. He was the one who sent that last facebook wall post up there, which I totally didn't know what it meant at first, tried to play it off like I did by searching a Japanese phrase website and I bloody well answered him back in japanese too! So today, I was forced to learn how to say 'My japanese is bad'- 'watashi no nihongo wa heta desu', as well as my word-a-day (kikitai, if you must know, meaning 'want to hear or listen to').

This website is run by a guy Khatzumoto(he is not Japanese) who taught himself to speak japanese in 18 months.
"I learned Japanese in 18 months by having fun. In June 2004, at the ripe old age of 21, all post-pubescent and supposedly past my mental/linguistic prime, I started learning Japanese. By September 2005, I had learned enough to read technical material, conduct business correspondence and job interviews in Japanese. By the next month, I landed a job as a software engineer at a large Japanese company in Tokyo (yay!)."

It is actually possible to do this. I have already been doing it with the help of the ever popular Facebook. But sometimes their phrases can get repetitive. So, time to search for more help. Khatzumoto has tons of useful tips. Check it out if you always wanted to learn a cool foreign language, or always wanted to express how cute that japanese guy in your class is with bleached fringe in his eyes(Alex tells you how to say that below), or if you just plan to do business with guys bowing in immaculate suits! It's a really refreshing website also because he's fun to follow, being young and totally UNLIKE a dull Japanese professor who isn't up to date with the times.

AND NOW, Here are my friend Alex's top five most useful phrases he's come across since living in Japan, which I begged him for on his wall after telling him how much I sucked:

Useful phrase # 1 - Sumimasen - Sorry!
Useful phrase # 2 - (place or thing) wa doko desu ka? - Used to ask directions.
Useful phrase # 3 - Nihongo ga sukoshi wakarimasu. - I understand little Japanese.
Useful phrase # 4 - (name)-san wa kawaii ne! - Used for telling someone they're cute.
Useful phrase # 5 - (object) ga arimasu ka? - Used for asking a store clerk or salesman if they sell a particular item.

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