Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Let's enjoy Japanese: Doing it right

There's a noteworthy article in the Japan Times Online right now about how learning to recognize and use the incorrect but widely-used elements of a language can be an important step on the way to fluency. The writer gives several examples, including the widespread use of the small tsu to abbreviate words. For example, おはよごうざいます (ohayō gozaimasu) is often shortened to っざいます (zzaimasu). Actually, I often hear it slurred to おす (osu). Speaking of which, here is a very interesting essay on the usage of "osu".

I've come across some individuals in the English-teaching biz who don't advocate for the teaching of incorrect words and grammar. While I agree with this on a basic level, I think once students of any language reach a certain point, they need to be aware of lingual aberrations and how they're used. Like it or not, languages are like living creatures - they change and evolve, and they can get messy sometimes. The example used right at the start of the article, "ain't," is a great example. As a teacher, I certainly wouldn't encourage a regular use of the word, but I would be remiss if I ignored its existence and even refused to ever teach it, despite a high chance of my students encountering it.

Sorry, I don't really have specific Japanese to teach this time around - just the exhortation to go learn some "bad" Japanese if you can. Of course that comes with a caveat - don't use it unless you're confident about how and when it should be used. Like, uh...don't go around jokingly calling people hentai. Apparently they don't take too kindly to that.


  1. Yeah, a lot of Japanese students of English use 'wanna' and 'gonna'. To be honest, the ones who do, seem to be the most fluent.

  2. Indeed. Being able to purposely abuse a language is kind of a good thing in terms of fluency, isn't it?