Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Learning Japanese - I really think so

I am trying to learn Japanese (there's a reason - I'll explain some other time). I know the "Romaji" (romanised spelling) of some common Japanese words ("konnichiwa", "domo arigato mister roboto", that kind of thing). But a ma-hoosive impediment to getting any further is not understanding any of the several written forms of Japanese. So I'm teaching myself the Hiragana - the phonetic "alphabet" for anything other than common names (which have a different alphabet of their own).

Note that these symbols are not related to the Chinese derived "Kanji", which my reading tells me have, usually, at least two readings - a Chinese derived pronunciation (or pronunciations) called "On'yomi" and a reading derived from the original pronunciation of that word in Japanese called "Kun'yomi". The different readings are given in Hiragana in dictionaries, so knowing Hiragana is a huge advantage to learning what the Kanji mean, or at least how they are said.

Hiragana are also used for the "grammar" of Japanese, so I'm told. So learning these, and some basic vocab, is my first task.

Thankfully there are a small number of Hiragana and each maps to a Japanese phoneme. This is the first bit of good news I've had since deciding to learn some Japanese!

Here are today's words and the relevant Hiragana:

ありがとうございます (arigato gozaimasu: "thank you" from this online dictionary)

あ a
り ri
が ga
と to
う u
ご go
ざ za
い i
ま ma
す su

こんにちは (konnichiwa - written konnichiha: "hello". Literally means "today is".

こ ko
ん n
に ni
ち chi
は ha

ごくろさまでした (gokurosama deshita: "Thank you for your help" (lit: it must have been a toil))

ご go (note the "Daku-ten" accent (looks like a ") that turns "ko" into "go")
く ku
ろ ru
さ sa
ま ma
で de (another daku-ten - changes "te" to "de")
し shi
た ta

ごくろさま (gokurosama = it is a toil)
でした (deshita = past participle)

じゃまた (ja mata: see you later (from these useful lessons))

じゃ ja (the Hiragana for ji (じ) - which is in turn a shi (し) and a ", and a little version of the Hiragana for ya (や))
ま ma
た ta

せんせい (sensei: teacher or other highly placed professional - literally "one who lived before". From Wiktionary

せ se
ん n
せ se
い i

I still don't know how to punctuate or capitalise. Do such things exist? Any help appreciated!

'Til next time, ありがとうございます and じゃまた

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