Saturday, August 31, 2013

After the Yasumi

My Japanese class had a three week summer break and we came back this week.  The first thing our teacher had us do was “read” a couple of passages out loud in hiragana and katakana that were written top to bottom, right to left. It was very difficult! Up until now, we have had left to right, top to bottom. I use the word read rather loosely. Even though I recognize the hiragana and katakana symbols, I don’t feel like I’m really reading yet.  Katakana is the set of symbols used for foreign borrowed words.  When I see katakana, I sound out the syllables, then roll them around in my head until I figure out the English words they sound like.  (If I can’t figure it out, I say it must be a French word). There are no spaces between words, like in English. With hiragana, I sound out the syllables, then try to figure out where the words start and end. Some common words jump out.  If that doesn’t happen, I look for particle words (wa, ga, no, ni, o, e, mo, etc.) that indicate a word separation.  Verb endings (masu, mashita, etc.) are somewhat helpful, except that they usually come at the end of the sentence. English sentences are subject-verb-object, while Japanese sentences are subject-object-verb and the subject is often omitted because it is understood.

On top of that, you won’t usually see hiragana and katakana, without kanji, except in children’s books and our textbook. Sometimes I try to guess at things.  There is a sign at the front of the bus that says

Shi i to be ru to (katakana)
Some unknown to me kanji symbols
Kudasai (hiragana)

I’m guessing this says Please wear your seat belt (shi i to be ru to).

I really need to study more!

One of the Japanese teachers finished her bead on perforated paper necklace and was wearing it.  Very nice!


2 comments:

  1. I know exactly how you feel. Katakana sure is real foreign! But just think of the contortions that brain cells must go through to turn shi I to be ru into seatbelt! Well done you for persisting so pleasantly.

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  2. Written Japanese is a language in itself!!! I find the lack of space between words really hard. Like Margaret says, one's brain gets a good work out, and it is very rewarding to figure out what the katakana is meant to mean in English.
    Nice necklace!

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