I'm learning Japanese over the next three years of college, so I suppose I'll record my lessons here so maybe they will be useful to someone else, or for reference for myself later on.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Takeshi: Mearii-san, Amerikajin desu ka?

Mary: Hai, soo desu.

Takeshi: Gakusee desu ka?

Mary: Hai. Tozai daigaku no gakusee desu.

Takeshi: Ichinensee desu ka?

Mary: Iie, Ninensee desu.

Takeshi: Soo desu. Senmon wa nan desu ka?

Mary: Senmon wa nihongo desu.

Takeshi: Oshigoto wa nan desu ka?

Mary: Kaishain desu.



Takeshi: Mary, are you an American?

Mary: Yes, I am.

Takeshi: Are you a student?

Mary: Yes. I'm a student at Tozai University.

Takeshi: Are you in your first year?

Mary: No, my second year.

Takeshi: I see. What is your major?

Mary: It's the Japanese language.

Takeshi: What is your occupation?

Mary: I work in an office.

This dialogue is kind of like Takeshi is badgering Mary with questions. I don't think people really talk like this, but little dialogues are the best way to practice Japanese and get some sort of flow of the spoken language. So... Yea.


Gakusee desu ka?
Are you a student?

(Watashi wa) Temple daigaku no gakusee desu.
I am a student at Temple University.
(The watashi wa is not required.)

Takeshi-san wa Tozai daigaku no gakusee desu.
Takeshi is a student at Tozai University.

A Note on Sentence Structure

Let's dissect a sentence to understand some grammar rules better.

Watashi no senmon wa rekishi desu. (My major is history.)

Remember the A wa B desu sentence form? It is still in use. Section A of the sentence is the subject, while section B is the direct object.

watashi no senmon / wa / rekishi / desu.
A / wa / B / desu.
subject (my major) / wa (connector) / direct object (history)/ verb (desu)

Hope that makes more sense.

What is your major?

Just a reminder, senmon ..means.. major

Some majors...

nihongo - Japanese
eego - English
bunraku - literature
rekishi - history
bijinesu - business
ajiakenkyuu - Asian studies
seeji - politics
kagaku - science
konpyuutaa - computer
keezai - economics

Senmon wa nan desu ka?
What is your major?

Watashi no senmon wa nihongo desu.
My major is Japanese.
(You can actually drop the 'watashi no', if it is understood you are speaking about yourself.)

Takeshi-san no senmon wa bijinesu desu.
Takesi's major is business.

Showing Possessing, particle no

Showing posession of something is pretty easy in Japanese.

Here's a basic pattern:

Owner - no - object

i.e. watashi no hon ...means... my book

Takeshi-san no hon - Takeshi's book

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


hon - book
jisho - dictionary
jitensha - bike
kaban - bag
kutsu - shoes
teepu - tape (to listen to)
toreenaa - shirt
jiinzu - jeans
shinbun - newspaper
tokee - watch/clock
kasa - umbrella
tomodachi - friend
saifu - wallet

What year are you?

Naninsee desu ka?
What year are you in school?

# + nensee - # year

Ichinensee desu.
I am a first year.

Yonensee desu.
I am a fourth year.

Takeshi-san wa sanensee.
Takeshi is a third year.

Ninensee desu ka?
Are you a second year?


Here are some occupations:

gakusee - student
daigakusee - college student
daigakuinsee - grad student
kookoosee - high school student
ryuugakusee - international student
shigoto - job
kaishain - office worker
hisho - secretary
isha - doctor
kangofu - nurse
kyooshi - teacher (talking about yourself)
sensee - teacher (talking about someone else)
bengoshi - lawyer
keikan - police officer
shoobooshi - fire fighter
shufu - housewife

Oshigoto wa nan desu ka. - What is your occupation?

Gakusee desu. - I am a student.

Kaishain desu. - I am an office worker/I work in an office.

Takeshi-san wa sensee desu. - Takeshi is a teacher.

How old are you?

Nansai desu ka?
How old are you?

Years old:
1 issai*
2 nisai
3 sansai
4 yonsai
5 gosai
6 rokusai
7 nanasai
8 hassai*
9 kyuusai
10 juusai
11 juuissai
12 juunisai
13 juusansai
14 juuyonsai
15 juugosai
16 juurokusai
17 juunanasai
18 juuhassai
19 juukyuusai

20 nijuusai
30 sanjuusai

And so on. Basically, except for the numbers marked with *, just add -sai to the end of a number to make it years old.

Juukyuusai desu.
I am 19 years old/I am 19.

Still More Time

As for asking time in a specific place...

Tokyo wa nanji desu ka?
What time is it in Tokyo?

Tokyo wa gozen juuichiji desu.
It is 1 AM in Tokyo.

More Time

1 minute - ippun
2 minutes - nifun
3 minutes - sanpun
4 minutes - *yonpun
5 minutes - gofun
6 minutes - *roppun
7 minutes - *nanafun
8 minutes - *happun/hachifun
9 minutes - kyuufun
10 minutes - juppun
11 minutes - juuippun
12 minutes - juunifun

and the pattern continues: juusanpun, juuyonpun, juugofun, juuroppun, juuhachifun/juuhappun, juukyuufun

20 minutes - junifun
30 minutes - jusanpun

And so on....

Ima nanji desu ka?
What time is it?

Juuichiji nijuuippun desu.
It is 11:21.

The numbers shown in use of the minutes is the only forms of those numbers that can be used.

Telling Time

ichiji - one o'clock
niji - two o'clock
sanji - three o'clock
*yoji - four o'clock
goji - five o'clock
rokuji - six o'clock
*shichiji - seven o'clock
hachiji - eight o'clock
kuji - nine o'clock
juuji - ten o'clock
juuichiji - eleven o'clock
juuniji - twelve o'clock

gozen - AM
gogo - PM

han - half

*Note: yoji and shichiji CANNOT be said as shiji or nanaji. They must use the given forms of four and seven (even though four o'clock is irregular, anyway).

Ima nanji desu ka.
What time is it now?
(This actually translates to something more like "Now the time is what?", if anyone cares to know, heh.)

To answer: AM/PM TIME desu.

Gogo ichiji desu.
It is 1 o'clock PM.

Gozen juuichiji desu.
It is 11 o'clock AM.

Insert 'han' after the 'o'clock' to make it half-past:

Gogo niji han desu.
It is 2:30 PM.


It is half-past 2 o'clock PM.

To answer "Now it is ...": Ima AM/PM TIME desu

Ima gogo ichiji desu.
Now it is 1 o'clock PM.


It is now 1 o'clock PM.

I'll go into more detail about translating specific times like 4:23 and asking about time in a specific place next time.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Practice Dialogue 1

You can use this short dialogue to practice what you learned in the previous few lessons.

Aiko: Konnichiwa. Onamaewa?

Tanaka: Tanaka desu.

Aiko: Aiko desu. Amerikajin desu ka?

Tanaka: Iie, nihongo desu. Amerikajin desu ka?

Aiko: Hai, soo desu.


Aiko: Hello. What is your name?

Tanaka: It is Tanaka.

Aiko: I am Aiko. Are you American?

Tanaka: No, I am Japanese. Are you American?

Aiko: Yes, I am./ Yes, that's right.

Answering Simple Questions

If someone asks you a question in Japanese, such as:
Gakusee desu ka? (Are you a college student?)

You can answer one of these ways:
Hai. - Yes.
Iie. - No.

Yes and No answers can be combined with A wa B desu phrases to make a more complete answer.

Hai, soo desu. - Yes, that's right.
*Hai, gakusee desu. - Yes, I am a college student.
*Iie, kookoosee desu. - No, I am a high school student.

*Note: gakusee and kookoosee can be replaced with other words to form answers.

Simple Sentences

With the A wa B desu form, we can also make simple questions.
Putting the particle 'ka' at the end of a sentence makes it a question.

A wa B desu ka
A is B? - or - Is A B?

A wa B desu
Tanaka-san wa Nihongo desu.
Tanaka-san is Japanese.

A wa B desu ka?
Tanaka-san wa Nihongo desu ka?
Tanaka-san is Japanese?

Is Tanaka-san Japanese?

So A wa B desu ka simply asks if A is B.

Maerii-san wa gakusee desu ka?
Is Mary a college student?

Also, if you are talking to a person and ask them a question, you do not need to use 'their name wa...' before the rest of the phrase.

So if you are talking to Tanaka don't say:
Tanaka-san wa gakusee desu ka?
Instead, say:
Gakusee desu ka?

The word 'you' is understood in this phrase, much like in English when you ask someone to 'Stop!' They know you're speaking to them.

Simple Sentences ( A wa B desu)

Alot of complex sentences begin with a simple pattern in Japanese.

A wa B desu.
This translates to A is B.

A and B simply stand for words. A is the subject, and B is the direct object. All you need to do to form sentences is replace A and B with words. You can use some of the vocabulary from the last post to make sentences. Here are some examples:

Tanaka-san wa Nihonjin desu.
Tanaka-san is Japanese.

Maerii-san wa gakusee desu.
Mary is a college student.

If you are speaking about yourself (unless it isn't clear you are speaking about yourself in the conversation or you want to be clearer), you don't need to include "Watashi wa". So the phrase:

Watashi wa Amerikajin desu.
I am American.

..can be said...

Amerikajin desu.
I am American.

Vocabulary 1

America - Amerika
Japan - Nihon
China - Chuugoku
Korea - Kankoku
England - Ingirisu

adding -jin to the end of these words will make them nationalities.
ex. Amerikajin means American person.

adding - go to the end makes them languages.
ex. Nihongo means the Japanese language.

watashi - I

daigaku - college/university
kookoo - highschool
gakusee - college student
kookoosee - highschool student

senmon - major
kagaku - science
seeji - politics
ajiakenkyuu - Asian studies
bijinesu - business
keezai - economics

okaasan - mother
otoosan - father
oniisan - older brother
oneesan - older sister
otooto - younger brother
imooto - younger sister


1 ichi
2 ni
3 san
4 yon/shi
5 go
6 roku
7 nana/shichi
8 hachi
9 kyuu/kuu
10 juu
11 juuichi
12 juuni
13 juusan
14 juuyon/juushi
15 juugo
16 juuroku
17 juunana
18 juuhachi
19 juukyuu
20 nijuu
30 sanjuu
40 yonjuu
70 nanajuu
90 kyuujuu
100 hyaku


Numbers from twenty up can be made in this pattern:

# first digit - juu - # last digit

Example: 23

Though 4, 7, and 9 can be said two ways, they aren't always interchangeable.

These numbers must be said these ways:
40 - yonjuu
70 - nanajuu
90 - kyuujuu
(17 may need to be nanajuu, but I need to double check first)

More Phrases

Ittekimasu - I am leaving (and will be back)
Itterashai - (sort of translates oddly, "Please go and come back", I believe)
Tadaima - I'm home
Okaerinasai - Welcome back
Itadekimasu - Thank you for the meal (before eating)
Gochisoosama - Thank you for the meal (after eating)

Ittekimasu is used when you're leaving somewhere like your home when you know you'll be back, like if you go to school, work, a friend's house, whatever.
Itterashai seems to be sort of the English equivalent of "Okay, see you later".

Meeting People

Onamae wa? - What is your name?
_____ desu. - My name is ____./I am ____.

Aiko: Onamaewa?
Tanaka: Tanaka desu.

Hajimemashite - How do you do.
Doozo yoroshiku - Nice to meet you.
Genki desu ka? How are you?
Genki desu. - I am well.

Adding -san to the end of a name will make it Mr./Ms./Mrs. It's a polite way of talking or calling on someone. Never refer to yourself as yourname-san, as it's not polite.

My Japanese teacher told us that genki doesn't exactly mean good or well, but more like healthy or perky. He said there really isn't an exact English equivalent.

Important Phrases

Konnichiwa - Hello
Ohayo - Good morning (informal)
Ohayo gozaimasu - Good morning (polite)
Konbanwa - Good night
Oyasumi nasai - Good evening

*Sayoonara - Good bye
*Jaa mata - Goodbye

Hai - Yes
Iie - No

Sumimasen - Excuse me
Arigato - Thank you (informal)
Arigato gozaimasu - Thank you (polite)

Sayoonara is sometimes used in a cituation where you won't see a person for some time. Jaa mata is used if you know you'lll probably see that person the next day or in a few hours, or something liek that.

In Japanese, the line between formal and informal situations isn't completely clear to me yet. It seems that you may be informal with someone once you are on a first name basis with them.

Sumimasen can also serve as "Excuse me, but...", or in calling over a waiter.

Iie can also serve as a phrase similar to "Not at all" or "Don't worry about it". If someone steps on your foot and that's okay, you can just say "Iie".


There are three writing systems in Japanese. Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. Hiragana are phonetic, sound-based characters, made up of a vowel sound(a,i,u,e,o), a consonant and vowel sound (ki, chi, su), or the letter N. Katakana is also sound-based, but it is used to spell out foreign words in japanese (i.e., bijinesu, biru, jiinza). Kanji is not phonetic and is probably the most difficult of the three to learn, as each symbol stands for a word or set of words. I believe there are between one- and two thousand of them.

The first writng system I learned in class was hiragana. I don't have any Japanese fonts on my computer, so I am going to suggest a few good websites to learn hiragana. Hiragana is easy to catch on to if you associate the characters with something familiar to you.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005



A - sounds like the 'a' in 'father'
I - sounds like the 'ee' in 'reed'
E - sounds like the 'e' in 'ten'
O - sounds like the 'o' in 'cone'
U - sounds like the 'oo' in 'moon'

Double Vowels

The sound of the vowel does not change when there are two. The sound is just held for an extra beat. This is very important, as the length of a vowel can change a words meaning. For example:

Ojisan - uncle
Ojiisan - grandfather


Most consonants are similar to English. The exceptions:

F- sounds like a mix of 'h' and 'f'. Sounds like you're breathing out when you say it.
G - like the 'g' in 'get', not like the 'g' in 'gem'
N - considered its own syllable sometimes. Sounds a bit nasal, like the 'n' in 'singer'
R - Sounds a little rolled, not as much as in Spanish or Italian. Sounds between an "l" and "d"
CH - like in 'cheat' not 'chemistry' or 'chateau'
TS - like 'nuts', for example, the word 'tsunami' is familiar to most English speakers

Double Consonants

In a word with two consonants, both are pronounced. For example:

nippun - sounds like the 'pp' in 'flip past', not like the 'pp' in 'happy'

First Post

To start, my name is Shannon and I am starting a Japanese language class at Temple University in Philadelphia. I hope to be able to post some useful things here for anyone learning Japanese, and for msyelf as a future study guide during the year. I'll try to be as accurate as possible with everything I post, but keep in mind if you use this to learn, that I am, myself, a student and I may make mistakes. Also, I'll be (hopefully) going to Japan in a year, so I'll add what I learn in my social interactions as well.

First lesson, the title of this blog, Nihongo, means the Japanese language. ta da!