Kotobites November Writing Challenge: Week 2: 6th – 12th Nov

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Welcome to Week 2 of the Kotobites November Japanese Writing Challenge. In case you missed it, please take a look my intro post on what this is and why I’m doing it – you can do as little or as much as you can!

Here are the writing prompts for Week 2 (up to 12th November):

6th Nov (Monday) 6日(月曜日)

ペットを飼っていますか。

ペットをかっていますか

Do you have any pets?

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7th Nov (Tues) 7日(火曜日)

思い出の場所はありますか。

おもいでのばしょはありますか。

Is there a place which has (special) memories for you?

 

8th Nov (Wed) 8日(水曜日)

運動するのは好きですか。

うんどうするのはすきですか。

Do you like to exercise?

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9th Nov (Thur) 9日(木曜日)

ー番大切な子供の頃の記憶は?

いちばんたいせつなこどものころのきおくは?

What is your most treasured childhood memory?

 

10th Nov (Fri) 10日(金曜日)

ファーストフードはよく食べますか。

ファーストフードはよくたべますか。

Do you often eat fast food?

 

11th Nov (Sat) 11日 (土曜日)

お勧めの映画はありますか。

おすすめのえいがはありますか。

What film would you recommend to others?

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12th Nov (Sun) 12日 (日曜日)

好きな色は何ですか。

すきないろはなんですか。

What is your favourite colour?

 

Hints for beginners

  • Looking to get your writing checked? I recommend Lang-8 (if already a member; unfortunately they are no longer taking new registrations), HiNative or ask a friend/language partner.
  • Following the sentence structure of the question is the easiest way of constructing the answer. Feel free to expand on the questions as much as possible or adapting the question – whatever suits your stage of learning.

If you missed week 1, find the writing prompts here. If you have already started on this challenge, feel free to check in and let me know how you are getting on 🙂

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Kotobites November Writing Challenge: Week 1: 1st – 5th Nov

writingchallenge_1_original

Welcome to the Kotobites November Japanese Writing Challenge. In case you missed it, please take a look my intro post on what this is and why I’m doing it – you can do as little or as much as you can!

Here are the writing prompts for Week 1 (up to 5th November):

1st Nov (Wed) 1日(水曜日)

お化けを見たことがありますか。

ghost-1297982_1280

おばけをみたことがありますか。

Have you ever seen a ghost?

2nd Nov (Thur) 2日(木曜日)

得意な料理は何ですか。

とくいなりょうりはなんですか。

What food are you good at making?

3rd Nov (Fri) 3日(金曜日)

職業・専門はなんですか。

なんでその職業・専門を選びましたか。

しょくぎょう・せんもんはなんですか。

なんでそのしょくぎょう・せんもんをえらびましたか。

What is your occupation/major? Why did you choose that occupation/major?

4th Nov (Sat) 4日(土曜日)

「都会」と「田舎」、どっちに住みたいですか。

「とかい」と「いなか」、どっちにすみたいですか。

Where would you rather live, in the city or in the countryside?

stress red pencil

5th Nov (Sun) 5日(日曜日)

ストレス解消法は何ですか。

ストレスかいしょうほうはなんですか。

How do you relieve stress?

 

Hints for beginners

  • Looking to get your writing checked? I recommend Lang-8 (if you already have an account – unfortunately, they are no longer taking new registrations), HiNative or ask a friend/language partner.
  • Following the sentence structure of the question is the easiest way of constructing the answer. Feel free to expand on the questions as much as possible or adapting the question – whatever suits your stage of learning.

1st Nov:

〜ことがあります is a useful phrase for expressing something you have done before (as in ‘Have you ever been scuba diving?’).

2nd Nov:

得意 is similar in meaning to 上手(じょうず) meaning ‘to be good at (doing something)’.

You may prefer to use a different sentence structure such as ‘Xを作るのが得意です’.

3rd Nov:

Choose occupation or major depending on if you are working or studying.

When giving reasons for your answer you can use conjunctions such as 〜からです (verb before から is in plain form)

4th Nov:

You might want to use to show contrast between the city and the countryside by using a construction such as ‘XよりYのほうがZです’.

5th Nov:

In order to answer the question, you could change the sentence structure using the て form, such as 〜て、ストレスを解消します (I relieve stress by doing…).

Please let me know how you get on or if you have any suggestions for the 30 day challenge, otherwise I hope you enjoy 🙂

Get Writing in Japanese with the Kotobites November Writing Challenge

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As you may know, November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It is aimed at anyone who has ever wanted to write a novel who set about writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59pm on 30th November. I think that whether you reach your target or not, the sense of community that surrounds the event each year is a great way to get motivated in November and beyond – read more about it here.

I was reminded about NaNoWriMo recently and this got me thinking about writing in Japanese. I don’t think I am up to the task of writing a full-length novel in Japanese, let alone English yet, but I wanted to think of ways to write about a bigger variety of things in Japanese. I currently write in my language journal several times a week (I try to write every day, but there are days when I don’t get round to it). I do want to write something every day, but I often find I end up writing about the same sorts of things such as going to work or what I ate for dinner, which gets boring quickly.

So I want to use November to get myself (and anyone else who is interested) writing every day with the November Writing Challenges!

On this blog I intend to provide writing prompts for each day of November. Depending on your level, some days will be trickier than others, but I hope you can give at least a couple a try. At the end of the month, I’m hoping I’ve managed to write something a bit more interesting, and continue to write creatively going forward.

If you’d like to get involved let me know in the comments – we can do this!

Podcast Recommendation: Bilingual NY Learn Japanese

The Bilingual NY Learn Japanese podcast (not to be confused with the Bilingual News Podcast!) is a regular podcast covering the latest news articles in Japanese. Inspired by the Bilingual News Podcast, the articles covered are given in Japanese, followed up with an explanation in English.

I believe the format has changed somewhat recently, but I am basing this review on the most recent format as described below which I think works well.

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The articles covered are usually from NHK News Web Easy, so if you make use of this website already, then this podcast is a nice companion resource. Each episode focuses on one article in depth. The article is first read out in full in Japanese, then English definitions are given before a line by line English translation by Ben, the presenter.

This is then followed up by a more difficult version of the same story, normally an article taken from one of the main newspapers. I think this is a great idea for showing the difference in style between the kinds of articles you find on NHK Easy as opposed to actual Japanese newspapers, as there is often a difference in formality which affects the vocabulary and grammar you come across.

At about 10-15 minutes each, the episode length is not as long as the other Bilingual News Podcast. However, given the structure of each podcast episode, I think this works quite well to study from in short bursts.

At the end of the podcast, there is a segment on English to Japanese translation practice. I didn’t really like this part as the sentences and vocabulary unrelated to the article itself. It was also pronounced by the presenter who is a non-native speaker, which some people may not like. This is a minor negative as it is only a couple of minutes long and of course, easily skippable.

Overall I do like this podcast for when I have less time to listen to the Bilingual News Podcast. There is a certain level of assumed knowledge in terms of vocabulary and grammar, so I would recommend this for upper beginner to intermediate learners. If the Bilingual News Podcast is a bit beyond your current level, I recommend giving this podcast a try instead.

You can find the episodes on Soundcloud, iTunes or on a podcasting app of your choice.

Looking for another Japanese podcast in simpler Japanese? I have also covered the wonderful News in Easy Japanese podcast which you may also be interested in 🙂

Have you tried out this podcast? Do you like it? Let me know in the comments!

Author Spotlight: 夢野久作 Yumeno Kyusaku

Author Spotlight Yumeno

The second author in my Author Spotlight series is another writer from the early 20th century, Kyusaku Yumeno.

Kyusaku Yumeno was the pen name of Taido Sugiyama. Born in Fukuoka in 1889, he was a student at Keio University and also spent time working on a farm and training to become a Buddhist priest before finding a job as a newspaper reporter. It was whilst holding his reporting job that he wrote many of his stories.

Yumeno’s first work to gain popularity was a novella called あやかしの鼓 (あやかしのつづみ /Apparitional Hand Drum), but his most famous piece was ドグラ・マグラ (Dogura Magura). Published in 1935, Dogura Magura tells the story of protagonist Ichiro Kure on his quest for the truth behind how he ended up in a mental ward in Kyushu University Hospital.

Aside from these, he wrote a great number of short stories which are readily available on Aozora Bunko. I’ve read a few of his short stories and think that a number of these make great reading practice for Japanese learners. In terms of grammar and vocabulary the grammar is fairly straightforward, although at times there can be more formal language (eg. おります and いらっしゃいます; using -ぬ verb suffix to indicate a negative form) that might throw beginners. Overall I think upper beginners/lower intermediate learners and up will be able to read these without too much difficulty.

Here are a handful of stories I recommend to get you started:

二つの鞄 /ふたつのかばん

A very short story about two bags who do not get on with each other. Being as short as it is I can’t really say anything else but it is a story that reminds me of an Aesop’s tale. Learners at JLPT N3 will find this an easy read.

虻のおれい/ あぶのおれい

Another short story about a little girl called Chieko saves a horsefly. The horsefly returns the favour when Chieko finds herself in a difficult situation. A story that emphasizes the importance of helping others, which I think is also around JLPT N3 level.

犬と人形/いぬとにんぎょう

A brother and sister think they have lost their beloved dog and doll in a fire, however, their dreams suggest that they might just be able to get them back.

Japanese Particles: An Overview

JP Particle overview

Japanese grammar has a few quirks, and I would say that after sentence structure, the use of particles is the trickiest thing for Japanese beginners to get their head around.

Particles are little words similar to prepositions in English that follow verbs, nouns and adjectives to indicate various things within a sentence. I like to think of them as little signposts that show the relationship between different parts within the sentence.

Let’s have a look at an example sentence.

私はあした東京に行きます。

わたしはあしたひこうきでとうきょうにいきます。

In the example above, は indicates the topic and に indicates the destination.

There are a lot of particles in Japanese, but I have put together a mini summary of the most important particles and how they are used:

は Topic marker

  • Not necessarily the subject of the sentence

アントニアは映画が好きです。

アントニアはえいががすきです。

In the sentence Antonia is the topic and movies are the subject

  • Often omitted unless the topic changes
  • Can be used to show contrast as below:

赤ワインは好きですが、白ワインは好きではありません。

あかワインはすきですが、しろワインはすきではありません。

が Subject marker

  • Usually followed by a verb or adjective phrase

スイーツがあまり好きではありません。

スイーツがあまりすきではありません。

  • Always marks the subject of a subordinate clause

先生が私にくれた本は今でも読みます。

せんせいがわたしにくれたほんはいまでもよみます。

  • When used after the end of a clause it acts as a conjunction that can mean ‘and’ or ‘but

レストランに行きましたが、まだ開いていませんでした。

レストランにいきましたが、まだあいていませんでした、

  • Used with intransitive verbs and potential forms of a verb

あそこから海が見えますよ。

あそこからうみがみえますよ。

を Object marker

  • Always followed by a verb/ verb phrase and follows the strict object of a sentence

トムさんは毎日漫画を読みます。

トムさんはまいにちまんがをよみます。

  • Transitive verbs are preceded by を

キムさんはドアを開けます。

キムさんはドアをあけます。

に Time/ place marker

  • Always indicates the location or place with a verb indicating movement

ロンドンに行ったことがあります。

ロンドンにいったことがあります。

  • Also used to denote a time when an action takes place

私は7時に朝ごはんを食べます。

わたしは7じにあさごはんをたべます。

  • Indicates the recipient of an action

リンさんにケーキをあげました。

で Indicates means of an action

  • Indicates the location in which an action takes place

公園でお弁当を食べました。

こうえんでおべんとうをたべました。

  • Can also be used to show the means of doing an action

電車で大学に来ました。

でんしゃでだいがくにきました。

の Possessive marker

  • Can be used in place of が in relative clauses

彼は自分のしたことを後悔しています。

かれはじぶんのしたことをこうかいしています。

  • As a sentence-final suffix, it can add an explanatory nuance

新しい店でワンピースを買ったの。

あたらしいみせでワンピースをかったの。

と Meaning ‘with’

  • Is also used to quote direct or indirect speech

来年アメリカに行こうと思っています。

らいねんアメリカにいこうとおもっています。

If you are looking to get a book that has a great job of explaining the vast majority of the particles you are likely to come across, then I would consider the book All About Particles by Naoko Chino.

This book gives an overview of what each particle can mean in different contexts alongside example sentences. I like that the book shows where particles can be used interchangeably as well as how this can affect the nuance of the sentence, especially with the infamous ha and ga particles. This makes it a great reference book for beginner-intermediate learners.

Getting a good grasp on how particles work from an early stage will help immensely later on when tackling more complex grammar, so do not be afraid to spend a lot of time on studying particles.

Quick Quiz:

1 京都にはお寺__多いです。 きょうとにはおてら__おおいです。

2 家__遊びに来てください。 いえ__あそびにきてください。

3 ペン__名前を書いてください。 ぺん__なまえをかいてください。

4 今日は私__誕生日です。 きょうはわたし__たんじょうびです。

5 マアリーさんは大学__仕事をしています。 メアリーさんはだいがく__しごとしています。

6 先週私は友達__パリに行きました。 せんしゅうわたしはともだち__パリにいきました。

7 きのう天気__よかったです。 きのうてんき__よかったです。

8 窓__開けてもいいですか。 まど__あけてもいいですか。

Practising how to use Particles

  • The JLPT grammar section has some questions on particles where you have to select the appropriate particle missing from the sentence. This is a great way to practice as there are a few quizzes available online.

Examples: JP Drills, JOSHU Particle Quizzes from the University of Texas

  • Pay attention to the sentences you use in your normal studies. I do write a lot about the importance of context – when it comes to particles, certain verbs for example will be used with specific particles, eg. 〜が見えます instead of 〜を見えます.

How do you study particles? Know any useful resources? Let me know in the comments!

Quick quiz answers:

  1. が 2) に 3) で 4) の 5) で 6) と 7) が 8) を

Tadoku Tuesday: What I’m reading in October 2017

I have quite a lot of novels and manga to read, but remembering where I am with each one is tricky. I’m going to write a post every month about what I’m reading, as I always have several books on the go at the same time and read little bits as and when I can – hopefully, this will encourage me to actually get to the end of the books I’m reading! You might find something to try reading yourself.

There are 3 things (2 novels, 1 manga) that I am currently reading:

「フリーター、 家を買う。」 by 有川浩

This novel is about a young man called Seiji who has been flitting from job to job since he graduated from uni and left his first job after 3 months. When his mother is diagnosed with depression, he decides to try and turn his life around with the aim of buying a house that his mother can live in away from the stressors contributing to his mother’s condition. I’m not even halfway through this so far but I’m really enjoying it. There are quite a lot of words that I could look up (I am taking the tadoku approach) but for the most part, I can make sense of the text, helped by the fact that there is a fair amount of dialogue. I enjoy reading coming of age stories and this sort of falls into this category. It also covers a lot of interesting topics such as depression, Japanese company culture and ‘freeters’ (people who make a living from a series of part-time jobs).

If I had to guess the language level of this, I would put this as JLPT N2 level in terms of grammar and maybe a bit higher in terms of kanji used. I am aware there is a drama adaptation starring one of the members of Arashi, but I haven’t got around to watching it yet.

「1リットルの涙」 by 木藤亜也

This is the true story of Aya Kito, who was diagnosed with a degenerative disease at the age of 15. She kept a diary and used this to document her personal experiences as long as she could and later died at age 25. Her diary was then published as a book, which also was adapted into a film as well as a drama starring Erika Sawajiri.

This is not the easiest read because of the subject matter, but it is a very compelling story. Aya goes through a variety of emotions as she realises the growing impact of her condition. I am about a third of the way through the book so far, but what I am struck by is how she shows a great deal of emotional strength despite what is happening to her at such a young age (where I am currently she is still only 15/16 years old).

In terms of language level, I guess this book is probably JLPT N3 level. There is a film as well as a drama version starring Erika Sawajiri.

「夢色パティシエール」 by 松本夏実

With the other 2 books above on the go, I needed something a bit more lighthearted to read. 14-year-old Ichigo Amano gains a place at the prestigious St Marie Academy on the merit of her extraordinary palette but has no experience in baking. Will she manage to catch up with her classmates and realise her dream of becoming a patisserie chef?

I will most likely do a separate post on this manga as I have found it a pretty easy read so far and has furigana over the kanji, which I think makes it readable for JLPT N4 learners. There is an anime version that can be found on Youtube which will give you an idea of what to expect, but I would say it is pretty typical of shoujo manga.

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