Category Archives: grammar

Japanese expression highlight: “ああ言えばこう言う” (aa ieba kou iu)

In this article I would like to talk about an interesting Japanese phrase: “aa ieba kou iu” (ああ言えばこう言う). This, like many of the phrases of expressions I write about on this blog, is a phrase that I have heard used in conversations with native speakers as well as used myself. This expression is interesting because… Read More »

Google suggest: a surprising supplement to foreign language learning

I think for a majority of students learning a foreign language in modern times, using Google as a search tool to find word meanings is a pretty common activity. Even for translating––although it often isn’t my “first line of defense” when trying to understand a word or phrase––often I’ll end up doing a search just to… Read More »

Konbucha: a popular tea with health benefits…or not?

Konbucha tea seems to be increasingly popular these days. For example, at one Whole Foods Market grocery store in Portland there is a konbucha bar with a lineup of teas on tap, and there are many types of konbucha drinks for sale in the refrigerated drink section. Coincidentally, when recently reading a magazine I came across an article which… Read More »

Japanese literature review: “Utopia” (ユートピア) by Kanae Minato (湊かなえ)

On a recent trip to Japan (which I am in the process of reporting on here), I browsed through many bookstores. Because my reading speed in Japanese still hasn’t quite caught up to my English reading speed, rather than actually read a few pages of a book I generally focus on searching for covers and… Read More »

Japanese book review: 「脳が若返る!大人の古典・名文暗唱ドリル」(“Revive your brain! Recitation drills of classic literature”) by 篠原菊紀 (Kikunori Shinohara)

Generally, I try to focus on fiction works in both my reading and translation of Japanese. It’s not that I don’t enjoy non-fiction, it’s just that I have limited time and fiction is usually more relaxing and interesting for me. However, I recently had an opportunity to read through the book 「脳が若返る!大人の古典・名文暗唱ドリル」 compiled by 篠原菊紀 (Kikunori… Read More »

The correct way to describe a negative state using そう (sou): “なさそう” vs. “なそう” (nasasou vs. nasou)

Sometimes in languages there are grammatical rules which are tricky or obscure such that even native speakers have difficulty with them. One example in English could be comma usage (although depending on who you ask, there is some subjectivity involved there). In this article, I’d like to go over an aspect of Japanese grammar that… Read More »

Japanese Literature Review: 「猫を抱いて象と泳ぐ」 (Swim With an Elephant, Embracing a Cat) by 小川洋子 (Yoko Ogawa): A nostalgic ode to chess

Yoko Ogawa (小川洋子) is an award-winning Japanese author who has written over 30 works, with at least eight of them translated into English so far. She is perhaps most known for her novel “The Housekeeper and the Professor” (博士の愛した数式) which was also made into a movie. I read Ogawa’s book “Little Bird” (ことり) last year… Read More »

The expression「お茶はどう?」 (“ocha wa dou?”) and the vagueness of the Japanese language

When compared to English, Japanese can sometimes seem like a language filled with vagueness. Not only are subjects often omitted, but sometimes particles are too, and to make things even more confusing there is less verb tenses (there is no future tense). To be sure, Japanese has it own ways to help clarify the meaning… Read More »