Daily Writing Practice with the NVA Challenge

I’ve posted before about keeping a journal in your target language as a way of practicing your writing skills. However, I’ve always struggled to think of things to write about in my journal. This struggle was the inspiration behind the Writing Challenge I did last November.

Fortunately, there is another language learning challenge that helps solve this problem: the NVA challenge!

NVA stands for Noun-Verb-Adjective: each day, the challenge provides you with one noun, one verb and one adjective to write a text with. The words are normally of a similar theme or complement each other in some way, which makes it easy to think of at least one sentence. In addition, the words used are words you would commonly use.

I’ve been doing the challenge myself for a few weeks and have found it very useful for building a daily writing habit.

I find that once I’ve actually written one sentence, it is much easier to then write a couple more sentences. Even on days when I am busy, I have been able to find the time to write down at least one sentence.

It’s become part of my daily routine to write just before I go to bed, which I find quite relaxing!

Excuse the messy writing – I currently insist on writing the texts by hand (in pencil!), as sadly I am forgetting how to write quite a lot of kanji…

I certainly recommend this writing challenge, as I think it is very accessible no matter what your language level is. The only thing I would say is that you might not find a word in your target language which corresponds directly to English, but that shouldn’t be your main focus. With Japanese, I don’t force myself to use the exact translation of the words given in the challenge if it doesn’t feel right to do so. Instead, I normally try to use a word which has a similar meaning. This also has the benefit of focusing your time on actually writing rather than looking up lots of lots of words in the dictionary.

You can always get your sentences corrected on language exchange apps/ websites such as Hello Talk, HiNative or Lang-8: Hello Talk and HiNative are best suited for sentences or short paragraphs and Lang-8 better for longer texts (sadly Lang-8 is not accepting new memberships).

Find the NVA Challenge on Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram and Habitica. If you use Habitica there is a guild dedicated to the NVA challenge, where others in the community check each other’s sentences too.

Today’s post was a short one but I just had to give a signal boost to this great challenge, with the hope that it might help some other language learners out!

How do you like to practice your writing skills? Let me know in the comments 🙂

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Tadoku Tuesdays (4) What I’m Reading (in Japanese) in Sept 2018

As I did in the last Tadoku Tuesday post, I am going to write about two books I have read recently or am reading, as well as any new additions to my book collection. Both of the novels I focus on here happen to be by two famous contemporary Japanese authors, Banana Yoshimoto and Kotaro Isaka.

 

The Novel I’m Reading: 「アムリタ」 Amrita by Banana Yoshimoto

It’s a little bit difficult to give an overview of the plot for this novel, but I have tried my best!

Sakumi is dealing with two major events in her life; memory loss caused by an accident as well as the death of her younger sister Mayu. Prior to the accident Sakumi had been making ends meet with a part time job, but then realises that she wants to pursue a career in writing. Her little half-brother Yoshio then develops telepathic abilities. As her memories begin to resurface little by little, she begins to come to terms with the circumstances of her sister’s death and gains the courage to work towards what she truly desires in life.

I’ve previously written about another of Yoshimoto’s novels before, which had not been translated into English. This time I thought I would try reading one of her more famous novels, which on the whole has been well received.

I wouldn’t say that the plot is particularly enthralling, although there are some interesting characters which help keep the narrative engaging. There are lots of dream like passages, which give the novel a mystic feel and are vividly depicted. Despite this, Sakumi as a narrator feels very grounded and relatable, even though situation she finds herself in is not.

This is a fairly long novel that has been split into two parts. I have finished the first half of the book and enjoying it so far, but knowing that there is another 200+ pages to read I do wonder what developments are going to occur which will keep me interested.

If I had to estimate the book’s difficulty in terms of language I would probably put it at JLPT N2 level. Banana Yoshimoto’s writing style is on the whole quite straightforward, although at times there can be long rambling sentences that might take a bit of careful reading.

 

The Novel I Recently Finished: 「神様の制度」 Kamisama no Seido by Kotaro Isaka

This novel is actually a compilation of several short stories, which all involve the same narrator. Our narrator is only known as Chiba and works as a agent of death (a Grim Reaper of sorts). As an agent of death, his task is to spend time with the person he is assigned to, and decide within seven days if that person should die.

This is the first novel I have read by Kotaro Isaka, and I really enjoyed it. Like Amrita, this novel also looks at the themes of life and death. Having said that, the tone of this novel is completely different. Isaka has written stories spanning many genres, and elements of this come into play in the novel. He somehow manages to infuse the variety of short stories with suspense and comedic moments in a very satisfying way. As a death god, there are a lot of ‘fish out of water’ moments where he is trying to understand human feelings and motivations, which provided a lot of humour that I was not expecting. There is a wide variety of characters presented in the stories and through the narrator’s eyes, we get to learn a lot about the people he is assigned to. I found it very easy to get engrossed in each of the stories.

In terms of language level I’d probably recommend this for JLPT N3 level learners. I think this would make an ideal choice for someone looking to read their first novel in Japanese. I find Isaka’s writing style easy to follow; he tends to write in shorter sentences that still manage to convey a lot of information. Being a series of short stories, it is much easier to digest than attempting to read a longer novel in one go.

There is a sequel called 神様の浮力 “The Buoyancy of Death” which was released a few years ago. I would like to read this in the future, although the novel seems to have more mixed reviews from fans of the original.

I will certainly be reading more of his works in the future, although with such a large catalogue to choose from I will struggle to decide what to read next!

 

Books added to my To Be Read pile:

I am trying my hardest not to amass too many books (because then it gets even harder to decide what to read next!) and have only added one book to my collection recently:

「舟を編む」 Fune wo Amu / The Great Passage by Shion Miura

Mitsuya Majime is an introverted man with a passion for reading. He takes the opportunity to transfer from the sales division to the dictionary department, where he is under the guidance of the highly regarded editor Kohei Araki. Araki’s team is undertaking the task of completing a dictionary called “The Great Passage”. The book follows the team’s pursuit of making the very best Japanese dictionary.

This has been on my wishlist for a long time, so I was super happy to finally buy this book! Given the subject matter, this could be a bit of a tough read in Japanese. Fortunately, I also purchased the ebook version of its English translation (“The Great Passage”) which I can use to help me with any tricky parts. I haven’t yet decided whether to try and read both versions in parallel or not.

There’s also an anime adaptation and a live action film, so I think starting with one of these two to give me a grounding in the plot and characters will make reading the novel a little bit easier.

So that’s it for today’s post – you can take a look at アムリタ and 神様の制度 on the Amazon JP website and read the first couple of pages if you are interested in checking them out.

What are you reading at the moment (in Japanese or otherwise)? Do you have any recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments!

Tadoku Tuesdays (3): What I’m Reading (in Japanese) in May 2018

tadokutuesdayMay2018

This post is going to be a bit different from previous posts (you can find my previous posts in this series here and here). Normally I write about 2-3 books that I have been reading recently. I really want to narrow down the number of books that I am trying to read at any one time so that I can focus on the books I want to finish. My aim is to read one book at a time, with a manga for the days when I want to read something a bit different.

So going forward, each post will cover is one novel and one manga that I am currently reading, and I will probably also touch upon a couple of books I’ve picked up and will be excited to read in the future.

 

The Novel I’m Reading: 「神様の定食屋」 Kamisama no Teishokuya by Satsuki Nakamura

The main character is 25-year old Tetsushi, who leaves his comfortable office job to help his little sister Shiho run the family restaurant after their parents suddenly die in a car accident. Not having helped out at the restaurant or had any experience with food, he struggles to adapt to this new way of life. One day, he makes a wish at a shrine for help which has an unexpected consequence. After leaving the shrine, he ends up sharing a body with the soul of a recently deceased woman called Tokie.

Tetsushi shares his body with the souls of different people, through which he not only learns about food but also about the importance of life itself. Despite the supernatural theme, there is something very realistic about the main character’s reaction to the situation he finds himself in. As he hadn’t been very involved with the restaurant previously, he quickly develops a greater understanding of his sister, his parents, and how important their little restaurant is to its patrons. There is a lot of time taken to describe some of the dishes served at the restaurant; the dishes themselves play in nicely with the theme of how food can bring people together.

This is a book that I bought on a bit of a whim from Bookwalker a couple of months ago and started to read fairly recently. I like how the themes of food and family are woven together, and the souls that Tetsushi meets are nicely fleshed out characters with interesting stories of their own. I am excited to see how this book ends!

If I had to estimate the book’s difficulty I would probably put it at JLPT N2 level, as the vocabulary used can be quite tricky and more literary in tone than most stuff I read.

 

The Manga I’m Reading: 「のだめカンタービレ」 Nodame Cantabile by Tomoko Ninomiya

Megumi Noda (nicknamed Nodame) is a talented although eccentric pianist. She crosses paths and instantly falls in love with Shinichi Chiaki, the top student at the music college she attends. Shinichi finds it hard to appreciate Nodame’s sloppy approach to music playing at first, due to his perfectionist tendencies. They both have their own musical challenges to face, but ultimately have a positive influence upon each other as time passes.

I saw the drama adaptation of this manga some time ago; in fact, it was probably one of the first Jdramas I watched (it is available to watch on Crunchyroll if you are interested). I absolutely loved the drama version and now that I am reading the manga, I can tell that the adaptation has been pretty faithful to the source material.

The main characters Nodame and Chiaki are great together and it is interesting to see how their relationship develops. I am not particularly musically minded, but I still love the musical setting of the manga and how music is used to bring people together.

In terms of language level, I’d probably put this at JLPT N3 – musical terms aside, the vocabulary isn’t too tricky, but the lack of furigana increases the difficulty a little bit. I believe that there are bilingual versions of the first few volumes available.

You can read a sample of the manga here.

 

Books in my To Be Read pile:

There are two physical books that I have purchased recently:

  • 「ホームレス中学生」 Hoomuresu Chuugakusei by Hiroshi Tamura

I’ve wanted to read this book for a very long time, so I was really excited to find this book on eBay a few weeks ago. I know that this novel is based on a true story, where the author (now a famous comedian) recalls his experience of finding himself homeless as a young teenager. The book was very popular when it was first released in 2007, and there were a drama and film adaptations made soon after.

  • 「ステップファザー・ステップ」 Steppu Fazaa Steppu by Miyuki Miyabe

I’ve only recently ordered this book and it hasn’t arrived yet, so I can’t really comment in much depth on this one. I’ve never read anything by Miyuki Miyabe before (and she has such a huge body of work!) so I will be excited to read it when I finish my other books.

As convenient as it is to buy ebooks, it is nice to sit down with an actual book when I get the time, so I am very much looking forward to reading them!

 

So that’s it for today’s post! What are you reading at the moment (in Japanese or otherwise)? Do you have any recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments!

Appy Mondays: Beelinguapp Review

Welcome to my series of app reviews relating to Japanese language study. Today’s app review is of the Japanese version of the foreign language audiobook app Beelinguapp.

 

appymondays

 

Beelinguapp is a reading app aimed at helping language learners to improve their reading skills. The apps allows you to read a number of stories available at Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced level. Besides Japanese, Beelinguapp is available for French, Russian, Portuguese, Spanish, German, Chinese, Hindi, Turkish, English, Arabic, Italian and Korean.

 

How Beelingua works

The app is host to a range of stories available for you to study. The selection is mostly fairy tales and well-known children’s stories, although there are also some non-fiction articles on topics including culture and science. Not all articles are available for free, as indicated by the currency signs in the top right corner.

 

 

Click on an individual story to download and add it to your collection. Opening up the story from your collection then brings up the text in two languages of your choice (I was using Japanese-English, but you can choose any two languages from the ones I listed earlier).

The story comes with full audio which can be adjusted for speed to your liking. In the Karaoke Reading mode, the sentence being spoken is highlighted as you go along, making it very easy to follow. You can click on the sentence to hear that specific sentence on its own.

 

 

There are also a number of ways to customise your reading experience:

  • Option to toggle English translation on or off if you wish. You can also set the app so that the target language is in one window, and the English is in the other (known as Side by Side Reading).
  • Ability to adjust text size
  • Change reading screen to Night Mode

Screenshot_20180320-203937

 

By long pressing a word or phrase, you can choose to add it to your Glossary for viewing later. There isn’t a dictionary in the free version, but you can add your own notes alongside each word (so you could, in theory, look up the words separately and add the furigana readings and English translation yourself).

A handy feature is that you do not need to have the app fully open if you just want to listen to the stories; you can happily use your phone for other things whilst listening to the audio. At the end of each story, there are reading comprehension quizzes in the target language to test your understanding.

Like most apps nowadays, Beelinguapp is a freemium app. The Premium version has no adverts, new texts added weekly and the ability to translate individual words. For these extra benefits, Premium membership costs £13.49 for the year, or £3.09 per month (the first month is often discounted).

 

My thoughts on Beelinguaapp

There are a lot of things to like about Beelinguapp, namely:

  • There is a nice choice of stories/ articles on offer – even for the free version of the app, there is a fair amount of variety.
  • The design of the app is excellent – it is very sleek, colourful and user-friendly
  • Audio quality for Japanese is extremely good
  • Ability to test your understanding at the end of each story with quizzes

You can tell that the app was made with language learners in mind; the app itself is a joy to use.

On the other hand, the main problems for Beelinguapp for me are the difficulty of the texts and the lack of furigana.

I’m not sure how the difficulty levels were decided on as the ‘Beginner’ texts were pretty tricky (at least for Japanese) in terms of vocabulary and grammar. To some extent, this is down to the content of children’s stories not always being everyday language. Having the audio and English translation helps, but with the English translation not being literal, it would be very tricky for beginners to parse sentences.

I think that in order to improve the reading experience for Japanese learners of all levels, the ability to turn furigana on alongside kanji would be necessary. Without furigana, I feel that the learning curve for the content available is just too steep for beginner learners in particular. Japanese learners who are already at an intermediate level might find this app sufficient for practicing their reading, especially if following the tadoku method.

When it comes to Japanese study in particular, Beelinguapp suffers from the same issue as the Drops app I reviewed previously. The same app is available in different languages, but due to the different writing system and word order, this one-size-fits-all model of language learning app doesn’t work for Japanese as well. I suspect Beelinguapp would work better for languages that are more closely related than English and Japanese.

The dictionary being behind a paywall is a frustrating choice, as for me, the benefit of using reading apps like Tangoristo and Mondo is that you can use the app to study without having to have a dictionary with you to look up the words you do not know. Ultimately, if you are looking for an app to practice your Japanese reading, I would recommend these two apps over Beelinguapp (some of Mondo’s articles come with audio too).

As an audiobook app, I think it does work quite well for those who like to practice dictation or shadowing thanks to the clear audio. I do not know of any other audiobook apps that are aimed at language learners, so I do feel that it goes some way to filling a gap in the market.

Overall, the free option is sufficient in variety and features to be a useful app for listening practice – just be prepared to have a dictionary at hand!

If you are interested in checking the app out, it is available in the Apple store and Google Play store.

Have you tried this app out? Are you aware of a better alternative? Let me know in the comments!

Places to legally watch Japanese dramas online for free

jdramasfreeonlineblog

If you are a fan of Japanese dramas, then you will know that finding places to watch them legally is much more difficult (compared to Korean or Chinese dramas anyway). Netflix is working on expanding its range of Japanese dramas, which is good news for international fans. However if your budget cannot stretch to a Netflix subscription, there are other options out there. Here are three places to get your Japanese drama fix for free (or very cheap)!

Crunchyroll

Crunchyroll has been established for some time as the go-to place to watch the latest anime, and to a lesser extent manga. Crunchyroll has evolved over the years to provide a wide range of Japanese shows in an on-demand format. This includes a pretty good range of Japanese dramas; whether you enjoy suspense dramas or romcoms, you will find something you enjoy here.

crunchyrolljapanesedramas

Crunchyroll (like the others on this list) operates on a ‘freemium’ model, meaning you can watch most of the content in standard definition for free with adverts interspersed in each episode (usually at least 4 ad breaks in a 45-minute drama episode). To get rid of the ads and stream in HD, you need to pay a subscription cost of £4.99/$6.95 per month.

Pros:

  • Can install the Crunchyroll app on a variety of platforms: iOS, Android, pretty much all video game platforms
  • Broad range of dramas to watch

Cons:

  • Annoying adverts (on the Android App, you tend to get 2-3 ads at the same time which are not skippable at all)
  • No options for Japanese subtitles

Being mostly interested in Japanese dramas, I’ve listed the Jdramas you can watch for free (further content is available if you have a subscription).

 

List of Japanese Dramas available on Crunchyroll:

99 Days with the Superstar

Akagi

Always the Two of Us

Angel Heart

Anohana: The Flower We Saw that Day

Antiquarian Bookshop Biblia’s Case Files

A Taste of Honey

Biyou Shounen Celebrity

Crazy for Me

Death Note (live action drama)

Desperate Motherhood

Detective vs Detectives

Dinner

Doctor’s Affairs

Dr Coto’s Clinic

Forget Me Not

Frenemy ~Rumble of the Rat~

Future Diary: Another World

Galileo

Ghostwriter

Gokaku Ganbo

GTO/ Great Teacher Onizuka

GTO: Taiwan Special

Happy Boys

Hard to Say I Love You

Hero (2014)

High School Entrance Exam

I’m Mita, Your Housekeeper

Iryu: Team Medical Dragon

Last Cinderella

Liar Game

Life in Additional Time

Mischievous Kiss – Love in Tokyo

Mischievous Kiss 2 – Love in Tokyo

Mr. Nietzche in the Convenience Store

Mooncake

Nobunaga Concerto

Nodame Cantabile

No Dropping Out ~Back to School at 35~

Onna Nobunaga

Ordinary Miracles

Power Office Girls 2013

Rebound

RH Plus

Shiratori Reiko

Switch Girl

The 101st Proposal

The Perfect Insider

Time Taxi

Ultraman 80

Ultraman Gaia

Ultraman Ginga

Ultraman Leo

Ultraman Max

Ultraman Mebius

Ultraman Nexus

Ultraman Orb

Ultraman X

Wakakozake

Wild Mom

You Taught Me All the Precious Things

 

Viki

Viki is a website that is a subsidiary of Japanese online retail giant Rakuten. The website has a large collection of Korean, Mainland Chinese, and Taiwanese dramas in addition to Japanese dramas. The collection of Japanese dramas is relatively small but there is some variety in terms of genres.

Screenshot 2018-04-03 at 16.55.29

What I like about the website (and app) is that it is very easy to use. It is easy to filter by Japanese dramas and if you create an account, you can save a list of dramas you want to watch later. You can read drama reviews by other members, and it is possible to turn on live comments showing reactions from other users whilst you watch the drama too which helps foster a sense of community.

For language learners, you usually have the option to switch subtitles in the options between English, Japanese, and many other languages. Viki members help with the translations, which helps make the dramas accessible to many people around the world.

Viki is free to view, but ad-free and higher quality videos require a Viki pass, which has a subscription cost of $4.99 per month.

Pros:

  • Sense of community
  • Japanese subtitles available for a lot of dramas
  • App is very slick and easy to use

Cons:

  • Limited selection of dramas
  • Annoying adverts (slightly better than Crunchyroll in that they are usually skippable)

 

List of Japanese dramas available on Viki:

A Doctors’ Affairs

A Heartfelt Trip to Fukushima [TV show]

All About My Siblings

Blue Fire

Clinic on the Sea

Dear Sister

Delicious Niigata in Japan [TV show]

Dokurogeki

Festival: Pride for Hometown [TV show]

FLASHBACK

Galileo

Girls Night Out [TV show]

GTO in Taiwan

Hakuoki SSL: Sweet School Life

HEAT

Hello! Project Station [TV show]

Hirugao: Love Affairs in the Afternoon

I am Reiko Shiratori!

I am Reiko Shiratori the Movie

Juho 2405

Juho 2405 the Movie

Kakusei

Kimi wa Petto (2017 remake)

Koinaka

Lady Girls

Last Cinderella

Leiji Matsumoto’s OZMA

Let’s Explore Fukushima

Love Stories from Fukuoka

Murakami Grand Festival 2016

My Little Lover

Mysterious Summer

Nogizaka 46 Meets Asia [TV show]

Painless: The Eyes for Signs

Phoenix [Movie]

Railway Story [TV show]

Rainbow Rose

Ramen Loving Girl

Real Horror

Second to Last Love (Season 1 and 2)

Sendai Iroha Zoukangou [TV show]

Switch Girl Season 1

Tabiaruki from Iwate [TV show]

Tales of Tohoku [TV show]

Teddy Go!

The Hours of My Life

The Sanjo Great Kite Battle [TV show]

Torihada

Upcoming! [TV show]

Vampire Heaven

Visiting Sacred Places of the Tohoku Region

 

Drama Fever

This is sort of an honourable mention as due to licensing, none of the Japanese dramas I tried were available to stream in the UK 😦

Like Viki, Drama Fever is mostly focused on Korean and Chinese dramas but does have a small selection of Japanese dramas as well.

Screenshot 2018-04-03 at 16.47.12

Whilst there is some overlap with Viki/ Netflix, there are a few unique dramas. All dramas have English subtitles, in addition to quite a few other languages.

Watching the dramas is free, but a full subscription allowing additional features such as HD quality, offline viewing and casting to other devices costs $2.99 a month.

It is a shame that I couldn’t get to watch some of the unique content Drama Fever has. I am hoping by including it on this list, people in other countries will be able to make use of this website.

Pros:

  • Website/ app is nice to use
  • Subscription relatively cheap

Cons:

  • Not available in many countries
  • Small selection of dramas

 

List of Japanese dramas available on Drama Fever:

Spring Has Come [Haru ga kita]

Mischevious Kiss Seasons 1 and 2

Last Cinderella

Switch Girls Seasons 1 and 2

The Reason I Can’t Find My Love

Ryomaden

Love Affairs in the Afternoon

The Hours of My Life

Yae’s Sakura

Partners by Blood

Dear Sister

A Clinic on the Sea

Tenchu

The Perfect Insider

 

So that’s my current list of free Netflix alternatives for Japanese dramas. If you are aware of any others then please let me know and I can add them to the list.

The post I wrote on Netflix has some tips on how you can use TV shows in general to study Japanese.

Are you a Jdrama fan or not? What are your favourite dramas or TV shows to watch in Japanese? Let me know in the comments!

Manga Recommendation: ダーリンは外国人 / My Darling is a Foreigner

Today’s manga recommendation post for Japanese learners actually contains pictures from one of the physical volumes of the manga (thanks to eBay!). I normally buy my manga digitally but do own some physical volumes, which I might cover in another post someday.

Quick facts

Author: Saori Oguri

Genre: Slice of life

No. of volumes: 6

Recommended for: JLPT N3

Furigana: Yes (mostly)

Anime/ drama/ film adaptations?: Yes, a live action film.

Note: There is also a volume of the manga in English

20171114_112811

 

Plot overview and my thoughts on the manga

This manga is about the author (who is a manga artist) and her husband, Tony. Tony is an American who came to Japan in the 1980s and is a bit of a language geek. The manga centers on their daily life and relationship, usually from Saori’s perspective. In some ways, Saori and Tony are very different to each other, and not just because of the language difference. Later volumes of the manga focus on how the couple adapts to having a baby and moving to Germany.

I was initially a bit apprehensive about reading this manga, as I thought that perhaps the manga would fall into the common trope of ‘a foreigner struggling to adapt to or understand Japanese culture’. However this is not the case – there is no dumbing down to explain things to Tony as he is fluent in the language (the target audience is Japanese after all). The general tone of the manga is lighthearted and whilst it does mention their cultural differences, it is never done in a way which implies a certain way of thinking is more superior than the other.

20171114_113031

As you will see from the photos, the art style is not typical of most popular manga. I think that this only adds to the charm of the manga. Both Saori and Tony as central characters are interesting to read about, as they have their own quirks and it is their interactions which make normal situations quite humorous. The manga reminds me of the Korean webtoon “Penguin loves Mev” which is also about the daily life of a Korean/British international couple.

20171114_112954

 

Language level

In terms of language level, I would put this at JLPT N3. There’s quite a lot of slang as it is mostly dialogue – having said that, the language used is usually everyday level. Whilst there is furigana, the manga has a mix of printed Japanese and handwritten Japanese (the handwritten Japanese parts usually reflect Saori’s thoughts as opposed to what she says out loud). The handwritten parts do not come with furigana and therefore may be trickier to understand.

There is also a live-action film starring Mao Inoue as Saori. I’m not really a fan of the film, having watched it sometime before I actually read the manga it was based on – I didn’t feel like the film was able to convey the couple’s personalities enough. You should be able to find the film on YouTube if you do wish to check it out.

As always, you can read a sample of the manga on the EbookJapan website.

Happy Reading!

If you do try reading any of the recommendations, please let me know how you get on the comments.

Hayakuchi Kotoba: Japanese Tongue Twisters

Tonguetwisters

I was watching videos on Youtube and came across a video on Japanese tongue twisters. I am terrible at tongue twisters in English (my native language) – I can just about say ‘She sells seashells by the seashore’ without messing up!

Because of this, I had shied away from tongue twisters in Japanese, but watching a video on tongue twisters made me realise that learning tongue twisters are not only fun but also useful Japanese speaking practice.

Benefits of learning tongue twisters

Tongue twisters are often seen as something for children, and therefore not worth learning as an adult. This is partly because tongue twisters were invented as a way for children to enjoy practicing tricky sounds. Similarly, TV presenters often use tongue twisters as a warm up to improve pronunciation.

There are definite benefits from practicing tongue twisters:

  • It gets you used to the sounds of Japanese which may not exist in your native language
  • You train your muscle memory on the subtle differences between similar sounds. By having to make these similar sounds so closely together within the same phrase, your mouth muscles get used to the slight changes in mouth movements required to say them effectively.
  • You learn to hear the difference between similar sounds used within the same word or phrase, eg. かく vs きゃく.
  • They are fun! Learning something silly in Japanese is bound to be more interesting and therefore easier to remember than ‘田中さんは日本人です’. Plus, even if you mess up you can be forgiven as tongue twisters are difficult for native speakers too!
  • You get bragging rights – it is pretty satisfying to finally get them right after a lot of practice (especially if you are terrible at tongue twisters like me)

 

Japanese Tongue Twisters

The Japanese term for tongue twisters is 早口言葉.

There are a whole bunch of Japanese tongue twisters out there – this Japanese website has a whole bunch for you to practice!

早口言葉

はやくちことば

Hayakuchi kotoba

Literally ‘fast mouth words’

I definitely recommend practicing these with a Japanese friend or language partner as it is great fun to share with other language learners. Alternatively, you could use HiNative or HelloTalk to record yourself and get feedback on how you did.

If like me, you do not have as much time to practice speaking, I think this is a great way of practicing the sounds of Japanese by yourself in just a few minutes every day. YouTube is a great source of audio to find people to mimic and to compare your own pronunciation against.

An example is this video by JapanesePod101, which covers some of the most well-known Japanese tongue twisters.

It is worth saying that tongue twisters do not always make perfect sense, so are not the best to use to study in depth. Here are 5 of my favorite 早口言葉 that are not featured in the JapanesePod101 video that are also popular (with very rough English translations):

 

東京特許許可局

とうきょうとっきょきょかきょく

Tokyo Patent Office

 

裏庭には二羽、庭には二羽鶏がいる

うらにわにはにわ、にわにはにわにわとりがいる

There are two chickens in the rear garden, and two chickens in the other garden

 

この猫ここの猫の子猫この子猫ね

このねこここのねこのこねここのこねこね

This kitten is the cat of the cat here, this kitten

 

隣の客はよく柿食う客だ

となりのきゃくはよくかきをくうきゃくだ

The neighbour’s guest is a guest who often eats persimmons

 

蛙ぴょこぴょこ3ぴょこぴょこ、合わせてぴょこぴょこ6ぴょこぴょこ

かえるぴょこぴょこみぴょこぴょこ、あわせてぴょこぴょこむぴょこぴょこ

The frogs jump three times, all together they jump six times

 

What is your favourite tongue twister (in Japanese or any other language)? Let me know in the comments!