Thursday, February 28, 2013

Things that run

One occurrence I find particularly interesting is how there are words in each language that have a variety of different meanings. I've noticed this especially with Japanese - words like 出す and 行く can be used in a ton of different ways.

I guess it's kind of 当たり前 (a no-brainer), but it occurred to me the other day that it works both ways, though I've never really given that much thought to the English side of things. The word "run" in English, for example, can be used to mean a lot of different things, and corresponds with a number of Japanese words. Like:

走る(はしる) (run as in "the car was running smoothly" or "I ran in a race")
立候補する (りっこうほする) (as in "to run for office")
動く (うごく) (as in how a machine runs; "is your refrigerator running?")
(鼻水が)出る(はなみずがでる) (as in "my nose is running")

And I'm sure those are just a few...

Friday, February 22, 2013

lol'ing in Japanese

If you frequent Japanese message boards or comment sections, or perhaps follow some Japanese Twitter accounts or have some J Facebook friends, you've probably seen roman "w"s scattered in with the kana from time to time. And you if you do frequent those sites, then probably know what they mean. If you don't and/or you're not, however, here's a quick explanation for you.

Like English and I suspect may other languages, Japanese has its own evolving "internet language." I suppose this crosses into text messaging realm as well, but I'm not sure if there's some term that encompasses both. In any case, "w" is kind of the Japanese version of "lol."

You see, the word for laughing or laughter is 「笑う」. Sometimes you'll see 「笑」 thrown into posts or comments to denote laughing. This can be further shorted to "w" for "warai."

Here's an example from the wild that I lifted from a Japanese friend's Facebook. The context is that he posted a picture of himself with his hair dyed blond, and a friend commented:

だれ?w よろしくねーん☆

(Who's that? lol Nice to meet youuuuu)

One interesting additional note is that more "w"s can be added to indicated a longer or more intense laugh. Kind of like changing it to a "lmfao," with room for more degrees in between, I suppose.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


It's turning out to be a very light month on posting - sorry about that. Things have been busy with work and some ESL teaching I've been doing, and I guess I have been somewhat mopey and demotivated recently. My birthday is tomorrow and I've metamorphed into one of those people who hate being reminded that they're a year older. I guess I have just been kind of down about how things are going in my life right now and how little it feels like I've accomplished. Still, I do have things and people to be grateful for.

Stay tuned - I do have a short Japanese-related post a-brewin' in my head; just have to let it fully percolate and put it to paper. I mean pixel.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


If you've ever heard the Japanese pronunciation of "Bach" and you're anything like me, you've probably scratched your head (at least figuratively) and thought "hmm, that's odd." Yes, I'm talking about the Bach the composer.

In Japanese, it is spelled/pronounced 「バッハ」. Yup, like "Baja." I always think of the Mexican chain Baja Fresh.

Well a little earlier I did a web search and found a few answers like this one: basically that the Japanese pronunciation is closer to the original German than the way English-speakers pronounce it. While this is certainly possible, I decided I didn't want to take it on faith from Japanese people that their way of pronouncing "Bach" is more correct than ours. 勝負!(showdown!)

After a few searches in English, I came up with this link, which has a little audio clip near the bottom with the proper German pronunciation of "Bach." Basically, English and Japanese are both off.

Not that I can speak any German, but I've heard enough of it in movies and such that I can somewhat pick up on pronunciations. The "ch" sound seems to be a more guttural union of "h" and "k" than we use in English. Almost a soft "k," if that makes sense. If you've studied any basic German, one of the most basic words is "ich" (I), and it has the same kind of sound.

It's not a sound we use. Japanese doesn't have it either, and so while we English-speakers decided to just go all in with a hard "k" sound, the Japanese dropped the "k" and went full "h."

Honestly I was going into this one hoping that English had it right, but it looks like a draw.

Hold up! Haf, one of our resident Germans, offers these comments:

The "ch" in "ich" and in "Bach" is pronounced completely different, it doesn't sound the same at all. I can't really describe it, but at least for a German person the voice samples show the difference quite well. Bach:

I don't see where a "K" is supposed to hidden in the German pronunciation. It is however my impression that English speakers often substitute a "K" in place of the "ch". ;) 
Now Japanese people have a whole lot of other problems with the German language, oddly enough also with the distinction between the pronunciation of "auch" and "auf". But they usually can manage with a few minutes of pronunciation training. :)
I also believe that Englsih speakers map the German "ch" sounds to a "K" because it's the closest thing they got. :) That's usually how people start listening to and speaking a foreign language and it's where all the funny accents come from. 
Describing the pronunciation it really hard for me though, for one because English is not my mother tongue and second because I would even have problems describing it in German. ;) If I absolutely had to describe it, I would reluctantly say that it might relate a bit to how it's pronounced in Japanese and at the same time that the "ch" sounds a bit like the "wh" in "cool whip" (or was it whipped cream?) when Stewie from Family Guy says it with his odd "hwip" pronunciation, albeit more roughly expressed. 
I can't really say if the term "guttural" describes the pronunciation. I would say that the "ch" is aspirated, with a lowered jaw, a stiff and raised tongue and relatively closed lips, pressing the air out slowly. Is that guttural? :)

So then it appears that the Japanese does edge out the English pronunciation! And if I ever take up German, I'll have to work on my "ch"'s.