All posts filed under: Japanese

懐かしい

I love the word 懐かしい (natsukashii). It’s one of those words that most people learn through anime, that’s usually translated as “how nostalgic” or “I miss when I used to experience such-and-such.” I don’t think I really got the essence of the word until I started going to Japanese conversation club, back when I was taking Japanese in college. One woman was talking about going to onsen when she was younger, and the other responded with 懐かしいね. I don’t think there’s an equivalent Korean word that has the same kind of connotation and is used in the same kind of way. The dictionary tells me 그립다 is the closest equivalent: It’s interesting that the words aren’t exact equivalents of each other. I’ve only ever seen 그립다 used in songs or poetry, or used in literary or scholarly speech, usually when talking about something really sentimental. 懐かしい can be used in those cases too, but also more casually–like when you describe a childood anime, or when you hear an old song, or eat a dish you grew up with. A couple weeks ago, I went out with my Korean language class …

すみません vs. すいません

So, I’m not crazy. I was re-watching きみはペット (incidentally, one of my favorite Japanese dramas) and I confirmed a long-standing suspicion. A lot of Japanese people pronounce すみません as すいません. For years I’ve thought my brain was somehow not computing the み sound correctly until I actually saw it spelled with い in a manga I was reading. The general consensus from all the language forums I’ve combed through seems to be that すいません is a colloquial and more casual way of pronouncing すみません. The latter is always used when you’re being exceptionally apologetic (as opposed to simply trying to catch someone’s attention) and/or speaking formally to superior. Probably because I don’t know the language that intimately, I’ve always assumed Japanese to be a really rigid language compared to Korean. There aren’t any complex pronunciation rules like in Korean, hiragana/katakana spelling is pretty much 100% phonetic, and verb conjugations are shockingly regular…. I guess that’s why this ‘mispronunciation’ surprised me so much. I am getting to the point in Japanese where I’m finally starting to pick up on colloquialisms and slang, which is kind of …

積ん読

I stumbled across the Japanese word tsundoku some time ago on Buzzfeed.  It was one among several Japanese words included in a list (listicle?) of “untranslatable” words from foreign languages. First things first: This is a cool word.  I feel particularly attached to it because it describes an act that I commit with alarming frequency.  For various reasons,  have an issue with calling this and any word “untranslatable” – but that aside, it’s still interesting to consider its etymology.  (Found in Translation by Anjana Iyer)   First off, 積ん読 [つんどく] is a compound of two words 積む + 読.  Breaking that down, we have: 積む [つむ]: to pile up  読 [どく – note the on’yomi reading]:  to read Now the interesting thing is that the whole word is actually a pun on the word 積んどく[つんどく] which is a contraction of 積んでおく [つんでおく].  The latter verb ending – VERB STEM +ておく – indicates doing something and leaving it that way for a while.  (Think 아/어 두다 in Korean).  So, 積んでおく = to leave piled up for a long time The “books” part of the word comes in when you substitute the contraction of …

Mandarake – (Used) Manga Paradise in Japan

Okay, so imagine you’re in Japan. For lovers of Japanese fiction/non-fiction, there’s Kinokuniya.  For lovers of manga, light novels, and anime merch, there’s Animate.  And then, my friends, there is a store for those of us who like all of the above but are on a budget.  That’s Mandarake. Mandarake (まんだらけ) is a multi-story anime/manga media store found in a number of locations throughout Japan.  The store is chock-full of anime CDs, DVDs, even VHS tapes (it’s true!), collectible figurines, cosplay gear, toys and cell phone charms, fan-made doujinshi and, best of all, a jaw-dropping quantity of used manga. I went to two different Mandarake’s when I visited Japan: one in Akihabara (Tokyo) and one in Namba (Osaka).  The photo above isn’t mine, but that’s the Namba branch of the store.  And no, your eyes do not deceive you:  Those are shelves of used manga literally chilling outside the building. I very often delude myself into thinking I know Japanese better than I actually do, especially when it comes to reading.  I’m horrible at reading Japanese.  You’d be amazed how undeterred I am by that fact when I am in …

World Connections

Yes, yes, I know – and you do too if you been following me on Twitter or Instagram – I got back from Japan a whole week ago so where be all the Japan posts?!?  All in good time, friends.  I’m not even done writing about Korea from a whole year ago.  Spoiler alert:  I only slightly fail at writing travelogues. Anyway, a few days ago, I was at a job interview for a position that is heavily focused on writing and communication (EDIT:  I GOT THE JOB).  One question I got was “Why writing?” – aside from the fact that I must be a fairly good writer, being an ex-PhD student and all (not universally true, by the way), why was I choosing to make writing the focal point of my career path now? I hadn’t thought about that question at all, really.  The duh answer is that I’ve always loved writing and language.  And writing about language.  Naturally, I brought up this blog.  This blog is the perfect marriage of my two greatest passions and being able to …

サカナクション 「ミユージック」

My Japanese conversation partner Haruna introduced me to Sakanaction a while back.  Usually it takes me a while to warm up to new music but after listening to the song above, it was pretty much love at first listen.  The last time I got this excited about a Japanese band was back when I first discovered flumpool. Anyway, as with most Japanese bands, their name confused me (at the time Haruna was spelling it phonetically like ‘sakanakushon’).  Sakana – as in 魚, one of my favorite kanjis?!  Turns out I was kind of right. The name Sakanaction is a portmanteau of “sakana” (魚, “fish”) and “action”. In the band’s own words, their name reflects a wish to act quickly and lightly, like fish in the water, without fearing changes in the music scene (source). I’m not sure how true to their name they’ve stayed since I’ve only listened to one album, but their music does have kind of floaty, otherworldly feeling to it.  Like the sensation you get when you stare into one of those giant aquarium water tanks.  Yeah. Their sound is …

Adolescence Rediscovered

The older I get, the more juvenile my interests become.  At least by society’s standards. During high school, it was 일주일 내내 열공.  Zero time to do anything except homework and exam prep.  College (undergrad) was probably the peak of my  Korean-learning phase – as in, I was watching a lot of Korean dramas, listening/following K-pop, and reading a lot as well.  Now I’m in graduate school.  I’m in my twenties.  Busier than ever.  And yet, I find myself buying plushies online (no joke), squandering my money away on silly trinkets, and playing video games that I missed out on in my youth.  Yep. Aside from role-playing games – which I didn’t think I’d ever get into until recently – I’ve become a fan of visual novels.  As someone who is a traditionalist when it comes to reading (I prefer books), I’ve always pretentiously side-eyed visual novels and I still don’t not consider them a real form of literature, but I will acknowledge that they are super fun, especially when they’re interactive.  I’ve come to adore Ace Attorney, for example.  I don’t remember what I …

進撃の単語

It’s been a really really long time since I’ve been this obsessed with an anime series.  Last month I started watching Shingeki no Kyojin on a whim and… well, my life hasn’t been the same since.  Heh. その日 人類は思い出した、 ヤツらに支配されていた恐怖を。 鳥籠の中に囚われていた屈辱を。 On that day, humanity remembered the terror of being ruled by them, the humiliation of being held captive in cage. Thus started the first episode of arguably the most epic anime of 2013. SNK is so hyped these days that even I somehow came to know about it, even though I have been totally out of loop with anime/manga since high school.  I watched it with no prior knowledge of the plot and, let me tell you, that first episode sucked me in so fast that I spent 6 straight hours watching all the episodes that had aired in one day.  I resisted reading the manga for a couple weeks before caving and spending 2 sleepless days catching up on all the chapters.  I now spend a considerable amount of my free time sobbing over fan …

Inspirational Japanese

Just popping by to share one of my favorite tumblrs out there, Inspirational Japanese. (click) If you’re ever down, there’s really nothing better than scrolling through a few of their posts. It really leaves you feeling um… inspired… about life… ;D