Category Archives: Language

Cooking Taught Me a New Word

Here’s my dinner.

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It’s beef with bean sprouts, onions, a spicy sauce, and garlic stems. Or so I called them. Turns out that the correct term for garlic stems is garlic scapes. I had no idea. Even my iPhone thinks it isn’t a word. It’s underlined.

So, you never know when you’ll learn a new word. What have you learned recently? Any interesting words?

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Bilingual Breakthroughs

My daughter is about to turn 3 years old next Sunday. She speaks both English and Japanese, but very basic at the moment. At this time of her language development, the changes are rapid. But the languages are uneven.

She can say many words in both languages, and while she understands English, she speaks mainly in Japanese. She can use past tense verbs in Japanese only. Only present tense in English.

Last night, there was a big breakthrough. I was putting her pajamas on, and she tried buttoning it up herself, but couldn’t. She said, “Dekinai.” That means can’t. I asked, “You can’t?” She answered, “I can’t.” That took me off guard. Not only did she understand and use can’t, but she also understood the difference between I and you.

She hasn’t used I in conversation until now. It’s always watashi or boku. Boku is for boys, though. She understand that now.

Language development is fascinating. She should be conversational later this year. I look forward to it.

And now, this is a train:

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She gave this to me and said, “Happy birthday!”

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Being an INTJ Immersed in Another Language

I’ve mentioned before I’m an INTJ personality type, and I’ve been living in Japan since 2005. My daily life at work is spent speaking English. My life at home is mostly English, and I concentrate on using English with my daughter always.

Well, I’ve been spending some time with the in-laws, and out of nearly 20 people, only one speaks English. I was immersed in Japanese. As there were so many people, as an INTJ, I was getting drained of energy. Imagine doing the same thing in a language I’m not fluent in? I had to concentrate on understanding and trying to answer. If you’ve ever spent time speaking a language other than your first language, it can be mentally draining. Basically, I feel sleepy.

Anyone else have to go through that experience? I think I need to really work on my Japanese.

Book Review – Japanese Made Funny

Japanese Made FunnyAs many of you may know, I live in Japan, and I’m often looking for books to help me study Japanese.  Studying Japanese is a tough thing, as the grammar and writing systems are completely different than English.  It’s quite easy to make mistakes.  I then came across “Japanese Made Funny: Gaijin Bloops in Nihongo” written by Tom Dillon.  I love humour, and though this would be a good book to pick up.

I read more than half of the book before I got home from the bookstore, it was that hard to put away.  It’s more than 200 pages long, but half of it is in English and half in Japanese.  It’s a bilingual book, and is therefore a bit short.  However, I spent my time riding the train trying to keep myself from laughing.  I didn’t need all the people staring at me, the strange laughing foreigner.  But I just couldn’t stop reading it.  It was hilarious.  I still read it again from time to time, and I’m always sharing some of the stories with friends and coworkers.

This book shares many short stories about people’s mistakes while learning Japanese.  It’s quite easy to mistake one word for another, but quite often, the wrong word results in some confusing, yet hilarious conversations.  There are a lot of stories with innocent mistakes that will make the average person laugh, but there are also some extremely embarrassing incidents involving words for bodily functions and body parts.  It’s not a book for young people, since there is a nude illustration, but it’s related to a story.

There’s no need for a plot or characters in this book, as it doesn’t share a single story, but many very brief anecdotes.  The author of this book appears to be bilingual, since it seems that he wrote the Japanese portion.  I’ve been told by a couple Japanese people that the Japanese language used in the book is a bit awkward and unnatural.  But for an English speaker, that doesn’t matter at all.

“Japanese Made Funny” is the perfect book for the Japanese language learner who needs something to lighten up their mood.  It’s also great for anyone who loves a good laugh.  What I also like about this book is that it has helped me remember some words.  I know I’ve made my own mistakes, but nothing as embarrassing as some of these stories.  Highly recommended.

I give this a full 5 out of 5.