The upward spiral of language learning

The other day I had a revelation about the difference between studying a foreign language by choice (using classes, textbooks, etc.), and being forced to learn it in an immersive environment (like at home or on the job)––in the former you always have the option to quit, whereas in the latter you don’t, or it’s… Read More »

Hitori Saito (斎藤一人): entrepreneur, best-selling author, motivational speaker

In this post I’d like to discuss Hitori Saito(斎藤一人), a man who is somewhat famous in Japan these days. Hitori Saito is the entrepreneur behind Ginza Marukan (銀座まるかん), a successful cosmetics and health food business. He also has a large number of books (many available on Amazon Japan, what you could call 啓蒙書 or “enlightenment… Read More »

Japanese quiz 1: Basic particle usage

This is the first of a new series of quizzes that will test your Japanese skills in various areas including grammar and vocabulary. While they will not specifically be targeting the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test), I think practicing these sorts of fundamentals will help those studying for the JLPT and similar tests of Japanese… Read More »

Japanese word 我慢 (gaman): putting up with it

The Japanese word “gaman”, often written in kanji as 我慢 (or sometimes in hiragana as がまん)、is one of those words that seems conceptually simple, but doesn’t always have an easy English equivalent. “Gaman” is fundamentally about suppressing or putting up with some emotion or desire. Similarly, it can also have a nuance of enduring of… Read More »

Pronunciation: one of the hardest parts about learning Japanese (and a review of a great resource to help with that –– OJAD)

The other day I came across a recently-started blog about learning Japanese that talked about how easy Japanese pronunciation was. This really frustrated me, but my search for a way to leave a friendly comment to the author ended in failure, so someday you may come across that post (and others like it). After over… Read More »

Adverbial “~ku”(〜く)form of Japanese i-adjectives (and challenges of translating them)

Compared to English, I feel that Japanese is a grammatically pure language, meaning that there are less complex grammar rules, and those rules can be used more freely without becoming ungrammatical or awkward. For example, Japanese has much fewer verb tenses than English, and factors such as the subject are not taken into account when… Read More »

A mistaken case of mixing spoken and written language (ですし,”desu shi”)

Listening or reading to many types of Japanese––novels, newspapers, blogs, TV shows, movies, anime, magazines––is a great way to increase your vocabulary. It also helps you train that elusive skill for what just sounds “natural”. However, in Japanese (and perhaps many other languages) there is an important distinction between spoken language (話し言葉) and written language… Read More »

Japanese sentence-ending particle ぞ (zo) and being eaten by a green monster

Japanese particles––small words with big grammatical and affective meanings––are one of the things that make the language unique. They can cause problems for those who are not too strong with grammar, but once you spend some time studying them I think you’ll find out their usages and meanings are pretty logical (though the particles with… Read More »

Japanese novel review: “火星に住むつもりかい?” by 伊坂幸太郎 (Koutaru Isaka)

On my last trip to Japan, I couldn’t help but pick up a copy of Koutaru Isaka’s novel ”火星に住むつもりかい?”, published by Kobunsha as hardcover in 2015, and then as a paperback in 2018. There were several factors that contributed to me choosing this novel. First, I really loved the cover image––an (apparently) CG-generated closeup of… Read More »