Learning Japanese (part one–Corn is con)

For people who are good at spotting things through pictures, or have a good sense of intuition, they can tell that Japan and things Japanese play a significant part in this blog.  To call learning Japanese a hobby is probably not correct.  Japan has played an important part in my life.  It has been my home, has provided me with an income, and has stoked my imagination and affected what I watch, what I read, and countless other parts of my life.  Together with all this is my ambition to learn Japanese fluently.

I started studying Japanese in 1993–which, coincidentally, is the year I started living in Japan.  Basically I was thrown into the deep end of the pool, and had to start swimming.  I don’t regret this because it was an effective way to make me study.
I learned Hiragana first, and the following book was helpful in this regard.  It is simply laid out, and its pictographic representations are brilliant.

I waited until I took actual Japanese classes to learn katakana–and I paid for this mistake one night at a pizza place and couldn’t decipher the menu–so yes, the tales are true, corn does indeed come on pizza in Japan (and other parts of Asia as well)

Hiragana is not an alphabet, but a syllabic alphabet.  It represents vowels and consonant vowel clusters like ka, ki, ku ke ko and one simple consonant n.  Unfortunately learning hiragana doesn’t allow you to read anything other than a child’s reader, and you can’t read any words that are borrowed from a foreign language (that is the job of katakana) you can still find it useful, and recognize it wherever you go.

I learned katakana when my Japanese course started.  Actually I learned it the day before the course started (yes, the book is that good) It is probably more useful than hiragana because more complete words that litter the Japanese neon landscape are presented in katakana.  These include shop, bus, toilet, convenience store, and of course corn.  Japanese people tend to think that katakana is easier than hiragana and often wonder why foreigners things otherwise.  The basic truth is that while they are simpler, they are more confusing and because of their plainness tend to resemble each other. 

I mentioned before that they are mainly used to represent foreign loanwords.  While this is true, it doesn’t necessarily make them easy to understand.  Combini is convenience store, toire is toilet, and of course con is corn.

While I joke about it, I do love the Japanese language, and have attained a level of proficiency that can both get me in and out of trouble.  I would love to be incredibly fluent and I continue to study and practice to this day.
These cards are a cool, and inexpensive way to organize your vocabulary,

2 thoughts on “Learning Japanese (part one–Corn is con)

  1. When you said “Japan has played an important part in my life. It has been my home…”
    At the same time I read “Canada” instead of Japan.
    Even that I stayed for only one month, I really think that Canada it's my second home, sweet home. And I will return, certainly I will.

    now, let's talk about other thing: I think you're crazy for games with cards that you learn other languages, right?
    Even that in the “memory game” about phrasal verbs I've never remembered where the cards were, I'll never forget all the times that we played it on the classroom, it's a good way to learn a foreign language, and funny.

    And keep learning!


  2. I am glad you enjoyed your Canadian experience. I hope the effect that it had on your life will be positive, and lifelong.

    As for games with cards–it is true, I should be called flashcard king. Maybe I should start a new blog called King of Flashcards.


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