Japanese people are not only very friendly, but also forgiving when a foreigner is trying to use their language abilities and making mistakes. I have made this experience numerous times now. For instance when I was trying to answer questions at a message board I signed up a while ago. Still, conversation is not one of my favorite activities, just because I still feel that I have to grow in the language, to be taken serious as a now almost 34 year old, and until I can express all my feelings and thoughts naturally without much thinking.
That being said, my favorite thing to do right now is to surf the web, to find all those hidden treasures only waiting to be dug up. There is wisdom, there is fun, there are also serious topics, there is creativity to a degree I have never thought would exist, and so much more. This is not an excuse now, but this is one of the main reasons, why this blog hasn’t seen any updates for such a long time. The other is that I still prepare myself for the 日本語能力試験２級 and it’s coming along well. Three days ago I finished week 5 of 8 in my 漢字、語彙 and 文法, and week 5 of 6 in the 読書 book. When week 6 is over, which is next Sunday, I will have all the more time to enjoy the language!
But what about my discoveries, which this article is mainly about. How do I actually discover new things? And what have I discovered so far that might be worth sharing? First things first. I started following an advice to not only learn words, but also learn more about the words, and how they are different in another language. I wasn’t aware that even though it is obvious, how many differences there actually exist with such simple words as 頭 [あたま] hed, or 着る [きる] to wear in Japanese and in English. 「翻訳は裏切り」と言われます。 [「ほにゃくはうらぎり」といわれます。] It is said that translation is betrayal. This sentence stems from a blog I discovered recently and it is true. Because you can of course translate 頭 as head, and 着る as to wear, because those are the corresponding words in English, but in Japanese 着る doesn’t mean to wear alone. It is one word of a group of words to say to wear something. 帽子やヘルメットをかぶる [ぼうしやヘルメットをかぶる] wearing a hat, a helmet, etc. パンツを履く [パンツをはく] wear pants, and so on. In English you would only say I wear a hat, a helmet, pants, and shoes. When you are looking at the Japanese words, you can see that the word かぶる indicates that it is worn on the head. Another example is 水 [みず] water, but there are again many differences in the concept of water, between Japanese and English. Water is not simply water, for instance 水 can also be お湯 [おゆ] hot water, which can be used to cook 緑茶 [りょくちゃ] which is green tea, or for cooking some food. 水 on the other hand is cool water you would normally drink, liquid or fluid.
The lesson to be learned from this discovery is, that the different concepts are not only lost in translation, but they can also be a major struggle for a learner of the langauge. In Genki I for instance you would learn the different words for to wear, but you are most likely ending up with connecting the words to a single word in English, to wear. It is the same with grammar. If you are learning that 7 or 8 grammar concepts in Japanese can come down to the same translation, you will run into the very same problem. While it is clearly explained in Japanese that one thing means this and is used in that scenario, in English all you get is lengthy explanations at best telling you what it means, when it is used and what it means. Again, in English. So you would end up either memorizing and trying to learn when it is appropriate to use one versus the other, or you look at the Japanese explanation and see what it truly means, and how it is used. This in part happens of course, when you are looking at the example sentences, but when you are using them you still struggle because you think was it X, Y or Z? So try to look at both Japanese, and learn about the Japanese concept, but also look at English and use it. Look at the differences that are even there in the English explanations, and don’t tie one concept to a translation.
The article on this blog called 翻訳できない言葉 [ほにゃくできないことば] words cannot be translated, can explain it a thousand times better than I ever could. So why don’t you pay a visit and look around for a bit to discover something new?
Here is how I find those small treasures. As you should know from following my blog, I have been mainly learning new vocabulary in the last couple of months. All are stored in Anki, and while I review, I pick and choose random words to a text file, and after a session I hook up to the net, and do some Google searches. Sometimes I just go by text-links, but most of the time I would use the picture search, and then start to read whatever it is that I find interesting at the time. I am using the Japanese version of Google for this of course. And here are but a few examples for what I have found that I am interested in by doing it like this.
The links above are nothing compared to my total collection. Maybe I will dedicate an article to just those links, with some pictures to give you an idea what you have to expect. For now you have seen how easy it is to go on discovery with 3 easy steps. Choose a word or a sentence, open up your favorite websearch-engine, and see what you can find. You will be surprised how many things exist you didn’t know about before. So explore and enjoy the language! The Japanese world, even though far away for some of use, is still only a mouse-click away. And I will continue to explore new things right away now, my to read list has grown long recently and I have to catch up with it. If you will excuse me, Dear Reader.