Learn Japanese Quick!

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The problem with ‘hai’ is that it often is not meant as yes, but more like yeah, as in:

Can I use your restroom?
Yeah, sure.


Can I use your restroom?
Yeah, see that’s very difficult. That ‘hai’ just meant NO, even though they didn’t use the Japanese word for no, because to do so is considered rude.

Be very careful with literal translations.


I took first-year Japanese, and some of these pronunciations seem odd. In particular:

[quote=“boingboing, post:1, topic:75145”]Good Morning = ō-hī-yō gō-zī-mă-sue

Thank You = dōugh-mō ăh-ree-gă-tō gō-zī-măs[/quote]These both use ございます, gozaimasu, so why are there two different spellings here…?


I suspect the headline should really be “Learn Japanese Quickly”.


I took 5 semesters of Japanese in college - a lot of these pronunciations aren’t quite there.

Also, the idea that there’s no such thing as stressed syllables is wrong too - though the stresses are more like high tone vs low tone. hashi (chopstick) is different from hashi (bridge). It’s a harmless mistake usually though, since, like English, context is likely to override the tone.


Depending on the learning style, learning the unique sounds in Nihongo may feel more useful than an extra layer of translated phonemes.

Took 9 trimesters myself.

My take on it is that you often hear native speakers as a part of their natural speech barely voicing (if at all) the trailing vowel of a syllable, particularly in informal speech. Atsu > ats, for example (it’s hot!). My teachers explained that you can’t do it willy nilly, but you’ll hear native speakers do it, and by repeating it you’ll speak more naturally.

More importantly, someone posted this in the comments of my photos from my trip to Japan last week:

“tecoki” means handjob! How did I not know this before??


I’ve been to Japan about 80 times, and these pronunciations are what I hear native Japanese speakers use, and are based on my limited vocabulary. I explained that they’d be quirky, but you’ll be understood–that’s the most important point.

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Please, take the ten minutes to learn how romaji works and skip these misleading “cone knee chee wah”-style glosses. This is like learning Spanish with “gracias” glossed as “grassy ass”: not only will your pronunciation be led astray, but you’ll be learning a spelling that will ultimately confuse you.

For example, “Yes” is pronounced “hi,” even though the romaji spelling is “hai.” If you didn’t know better you might say “hi-ee,” or “ha-i” or whatever.

It’s a little hard to parse this given the spelling situation, but “hai” is pronounced “ha ee”: it’s two syllables. Unlike English “hi,” the “ah” and the “ee” sounds don’t merge together into an “eye” diphthong. Japanese has no stress accent (it has a pitch accent) so every syllable is given equal weight.


You’re making things worse. Please stop.


80 times? Either you’re 60+ years old or a pilot?

Neither over 60 nor a pilot. But jetlagged, yes!

Japanese is a hard, hard language for Europeans to learn. Sure, the pronunciation is dead simple since once you get Romaji everything is pronounced as it is written. But the nuances of culture, in/out-group, cohai/sempai relationships, formality, and of course the kanji is so different than what we are used to.

I loved learning the language when I lived there in my early 20s since it taught me to contort my brain in ways that I didn’t know possible. But, now that I’m older, I don’t think I’d be able to do the same thing again (actually quite sad since I’ve forgotten about 95% of the language by now).


What leads people to think that their own reinvention of phonetic spelling is better than every other version that’s been used throughout history? It may work for you, but without some form of standardisation it’s worse than useless for everyone else!
Worst offenders from this list are:
ō-hī-yō gō-zī-mă-sue
At-soo-ee dĕs
ō-tay-ŭh-rye dō-kō dĕs-kă?

… that turned out to be quite the list.

Seriously, if you looking for shortcuts, this isn’t one. It’s more of a detour.


Don’t touch my mustache already.


How can I take this seriously when they left out the most important phrase to know in any language?

Watashi no hobâkurafuto wa unagi de ippai desu.


And the thing is that Japanese is not a phonetically-complex language. It has just five vowels: a, i, u, e, o, which are pronounced the same as in Spanish or Italian. The consonants are more or less the same as in English. Why would anyone torture themselves with “ō-tay-ŭh-rye dō-kō dĕs-kă” when the romaji “otearai doko desu ka” is less confusing?

Beyond that, romaji is used all over the place in Japan and you don’t want to be standing on a train platform wondering if “Ikebukuro” is the same as “Ee kay boo koo row.” I just can’t imagine a use case for this kind of mangling.


Edited to add:


I recently spent a fun few hours talking to my wife who is a professional English to Japanese translator on that very phrase. To make it more fun we found a French language page where a woman was asking about how to write this in Hebrew. An Israeli girl friend of hers referred the phrase and the poster was wondering if it was “a sex thing”… This got us on Skype with friends in Jerusalem and big laughs were shared by all.


Sean Pavone,

From your personal romaji here I suspect your pronunciation is atrocious. As others have pointed out romaji is just a bridge to actual Japanese, training wheels in a way. Much better to take an hour and lean how to get that first step right.