Thursday, November 13, 2008

がんばります! (I am trying)

I have been studying Japanese on and off for the three months that I’ve been here. I was using a college textbook that I inherited from one of my predecessors, but now I am taking a correspondence class offered through JET. So far, I am able to read the two different Japanese alphabets, Hiragana and Katakana, and I recognize some Kanji. Hiragana is the alphabet used for Japanese words, ie. いぬ (dog) is pronounced eenu. Although I can read Hiragana, I don’t typically understand the words being read. Katakana is the alphabet that approximates foreign language’s words. Most of the words are English words, but there are also other language’s words that are katakana-sized. An example is アメリカ (America), pronounced A-ma-ree-ka. The “A” is like “o” in on, “me” is like “may” minus the “y”, “ree” is a mix between “ree” in reef and the name Lee, and “ka” sounds like “cot” minus the “t”. Japanese also uses Kanji, which is Chinese characters or symbols. There are thousands of characters and each of them have different Japanese and Chinese pronunciations. Many of them have numerous meanings as well. I have heard that high school graduates typically know around 1,800 characters. 一戸 is the Kanji for Ichinohe. As for the language, I am able to say basic greetings, tell time, count, order food at some restaurants, and drop a few vocabulary words here and there. I am not studying as much as I should be.

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