April 10, 2011
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Electronic dictionaries are a great tool whether they be the free one on your iPod or a standalone 電子辞書. A couple months ago I finally took the plunge and bought a new electronic dictionary. Compared to the one I bought more than seven years ago, I can say the quality of Japanese electronic dictionaries has gone up exponentially. And while free and readily available translation options will suit most foreign residents’ needs, there are many who can benefit from investing in a full-service electronic dictionary. Read more of this post
August 6, 2010
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I live in a 郡 (gun, county) that has a name so strange that my home computer can’t recognize it when I type it in. At work, the computer is set to know that ほうすぐん (Housu-gun, the county created out of the towns of the 奥能登, the inner-Noto) is written as 鳳珠郡. At home, I have to manually input the kanji by typing 鳳 (ootori), one of the many kanji for phoenix and 珠 , the su of Suzu 珠洲 and an alternate kanji for tama, ball, sphere.
Typing it is bad enough, but have you ever seen someone try to read 鳳珠郡? Anyone who doesn’t live here, Japanese or otherwise, will just give you a blank look as you fill out your address.
Fortunately, while searching for the correct reading of some small towns’ kanji during the Summer Festival Season project for this blog, I discovered a brilliant website that provides the readings in kanji, hiragana, and romaji, as well as the postal codes, for basically every city, town, and village in Japan.
It’s called Memorva and is located at http://memorva.jp/zipcode/index.php.
Read more of this post
November 25, 2009
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To friends & family of JET ALTs, the complaint is an old one, and familiar. The Japanese language, with its “nuanced formal expressions and three different writing systems, is a uniquely complex language. How could a foreigner possibly learn it? Even Japanese people make mistakes.”
Author Emily Parker recently noted in The New York Times Book Review that “the Japanese language is being transformed by blogs, e-mail and keitai shosetsu, or cellphone novels. Americans may fret over the ways digital communications encourage sloppy grammar and spelling, but in Japan these changes are much more wrenching. A vertically written language seems to be becoming increasingly horizontal. Novels are being written and read on little screens. People have gotten so used to typing on computers that they can no longer write characters by hand. And English words continue to infiltrate the language.”
Since after World War II, the Japanese Ministry of Education has simplified characters and limited the number of kanji used in the media. The recent proliferation of cell phone novels has made popular flat and simple language and expressions. The popularity of graphic novels may also contribute to this trend.
Technology is assisting people to use and recognize more kanji. Instead of having to write every stroke from memory, users can type words phonetically into a computer and a list of characters to choose from pops up on the screen.
So, family & friends of ALTs, take heart. Should these trends continue, they may encourage a more accessible Japanese for foreigners, in turn accelerating internationalization. Our ALTs may find it a bit more comfortable to communicate in Japanese and live in the country.
But is this a good thing? I’m not so sure…
~A Friends & Family Post
November 20, 2009
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Studying kanji is painful. It is an endless journey full of frustration and torment brought on by repeated failures of one’s memory. So anything to make kanji’s elusive meanings and readings easier to remember is always welcome in my home. Over my three years of studying kanji I have tried everything from internet games to manga, but the one tool that I’ve found most effective has been the simple flashcard. However, for most people – including myself - the idea of making 2000-plus flashcards to learn the Jouyou kanji is overwhelming and not worth one’s time and effort. The best solution to this problem is to simply buy the flashcards.
A company called White Rabbit Press makes and sells excellent study materials for students of Japanese. I have purchased several items from them, but none more valued than their kanji flashcard sets. There are three sets that are sectioned off based on JLPT test levels. The kanji that appear in levels 3 and 4 come in the first set; level 2 kanji come in the second set; and level 1 kanji come in the third set. The cards are sturdy and difficult to stain, as well as numbered to help keep them in order. The card’s value is undoubtedly in their comprehensiveness, as each card contains the following:
a large picture of the kanji
2 to 6 example words using the kanji along with their corresponding readings and meanings
the kanji’s stroke order
1 to 2 pictures of similar looking kanji
the kanji’s Japanese and Chinese reading(s)
the kanji’s meaning(s)
a line to track your progress through the set
Given their clarity, quality, and thoroughness these cards are better than anything most people could ever produce.
There is one catch in that they are not cheap. Set one is $25, set two is $48, and set three is $64. But for serious kanji students, I cannot recommend them highly enough.
For those interested, here’s the link.
Also, here is a link showing what the cards look like.