Let’s face it – weather is one of the most boring, hackneyed conversation topics in existence. But when looked at the point of view of foreign language study, weather forecasts become a surprisingly useful resource.
To start with, forecasts on professional radio stations (check NHK news podcast out as an example) will have announcers that enunciate cleanly and clearly, and hearing the pitch accent of each syllable is especially easy in this type of broadcast. When compared to other areas like economics or government, there is a relatively limited vocabulary. For these reasons, weather forecasts are a good stepping stone to more advanced Japanese listening. Place names will be a challenge at first, but apart from living in Japan, news is one of the best ways to experience a wide variety of place and region names. If you have the extra time to pause while listening, you can look up various geographical areas on a map in front of you. Or, if just listening is too difficult you can try a weather report on TV, or check out an online weather forecast site such as Yahoo weather.
But apart from a convenient listening exercise, will daily doses of weather information really help your Japanese in other areas?
I’d answer that with a big yes, one reason being that words you pick up can be applied to other fields, like the term 見込み (hope/outlook) which you also hear in economics news on occasion. The grammar used in weather forecasts is also, on average, a little more straightforward than business-related broadcasts, so you can practice comprehension of various grammar patterns, which will in turn help your own speech and writing.
Climate is an important part of any country’s culture, so learning about Japan’s weather is an important activity in itself. It may even help you plan a vacation to Japan, since you’ll have a better idea of what types of weather to expect. If you are considering living in Japan someday, knowledge of common weather patterns is even more important.
If you think about why the weather is one of the most universal conversation topics, it’s because it impacts nearly everyone’s day-to-day life, whether they want it to or not. Because of this, it’s a good way to start a conversation with a stranger. For example, when I was traveling in Japan this August during a near record-breaking heat wave, I said to a taxi driver “すごく暑いですね。いつもこんなに暑いんですか？” (It’s really hot. Is it always this hot?). Not exactly the most intellectual conversation, but a good way to get some basic conversation practice.
Here’s a few words to get your weather lexicon jump started.
- 雨（ame): rain
- 大雨 (ooame): heavy rain
- 曇り(kumori): cloudy
- 土砂災害（dosha saigai): landslide disaster, when the land becomes unstable due to excessive rain
- 猛暑（mousho): extreme heat (猛暑日 – a day of extreme heat)
- 暑さ (atsusa): heat
- 浸水 (shinsui): flooding
- 反乱（hanran): flooding or overflowing (often used in the expression “川の反乱” to express overflowing of a river)
- 台風（taifuu): typhoon/hurricane
- 熱帯低気圧 (nettai teikiatsu): tropical depression (minor storm)
- 風 (kaze): wind (don’t confuse with 風邪 which means being sick with a cold)
- 瞬間風速（shunkan fuusoku): instantaneous wind speed
- 落雷 (rakurai): lightning
- 雷（kaminari): thunder or lightning
- にかけて (ni kakete): up to or through a certain time period (ex: 朝にかけて, “through morning”)
- 雨量（uryou): amount of rainfall
- しけ (shike): stormy weather at sea (おおしけ for extreme stormy weather)
- 上陸 (jouriku): come onto land (like a storm coming onto land from the sea)
- 〜号 (~gou): counter for storms (ex: 11号, means the 11th storm)
- 暴風（boufuu): windstorm, violent winds
- ミリ(miri): milliliters (used to measure rain amount)
- メートル (meetoru): meters [distance] or meters per second [speed]
- 避難（hinan): refuge, shelter
- 天気（tenki): weather
- 気候 (kikou): climate
- 竜巻（tatsumaki): tornado
- ~でしょう (~deshou): indicates that something is predicted or likely to happen. Intonation is falling which distinguishes it from someone trying to say “~ see?” which has a rising intonation.
- 転倒（tentou): stumbled/slipped (i.e. during bad weather)
- 気温（kion): air temperature
- 最大 (saidai): maximum (最大気温: maximum temperature)
- 空気圧 (kuukiatsu): air pressure
- 晴れ（hare): sunny weather
- 快晴（kaisei): clear and sunny weather
- 局地的 (kyokuchiteki): local (ex: rain localized to a certain area)
- 気象庁 (kishouchou): meteorological agency
- 気象予報 (kishou yohou): weather forcast
- 予想 (yosou): expectation, forecast
- 見込み (mikomi): hope, expectation (not necessarily positive)
- 高波 (takanami): high waves (like when a storm comes)
- 津波 (tsunami): tsunami, tidal wave (大津波 for a big one)
- 不安定 (fuantei): unstable
- 雪 (yuki): snow
- 警戒 (keikai): caution, precaution (i.e. against a storm coming)
- 接近 (sekkin): approach (like a storm approaching a city)
- 猛烈 (mouretsu): extreme (like extreme rain)
Image taken from: http://d.hatena.ne.jp/akaibara/20110821