Senpai! Senpai!

I was about to explain what a “senpai” was to someone, and then I realised that perhaps I didn’t properly know myself! Just found this enlightening Tofugu article on the subject, which I think is worth sharing.

Understanding The Senpai/Kohai System | Tofugu.


ただいまああああ!(I’m back!)

Hello lovely people of the internet!

Well, after taking an extended break from writing (in which I tried to get my life back together and only sort of succeeded) I can tell you, I’m back.

As usual, I cannot promise any new ideas, insightful commentary, or even quality writing.

However, there will probably be many things like this.  This is a song by Mariya Takeuchi (an artist I’m totally interested in but cannot find any songs of hers to download, paid or otherwise).  For reasons best known to the author of the video, it has been accompanied by a picture of a koala.

See you soon!

A Twitter Post in Japanese Every Day

I’ve been a bit distracted recently.

Hmm, maybe that isn’t the right way to say it.

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...I’ve been focusing on things other than Japanese recently.  Like learning to play the timpani/triangle/cymbals in the Taunton Concert Band (and not tripping over myself switching between them).  And doing a bit of paid music transcription work.  And, most excitingly, my new Canon dSLR camera (a photo blog is in the works, probably – watch this space).

So what I think I really need is a new challenge.  I like challenge.  So I will challenge myself to post a Twitter update in Japanese every day.

This could be difficult.  I estimate my total Japanese vocabulary at about 300 words, if I’m lucky.  And some of those words are boring things like “classroom” and “company employee”.  For someone who prides herself on her ability to express herself (even if it means occasionally making up words), this could be torture.

My main fear?  Making mistakes.  My equally main fear?  Being boring as hell.

Anyway, I’ll give it a go.  Maybe this will be like that Seinfeld episode where Kramer decides to make his apartment into “levels” and Jerry bets him he can’t do it.  And then Kramer changes his mind and Jerry says “then I win” and Kramer says “no, the bet’s off because I changed my mind”.  Maybe I’ll change my mind.  In which case, the bet’s off.

italki: Language Practice for the Homebound

Image representing italki as depicted in Crunc...I wrote a while back about the Japanese textbook Minna no Nihongo and how I was getting along with it.  Update: I’m still getting a lot out of it.  I’ve ordered the second book from America (so it should be here within the next 3 months or so) and, *ahem* “found” the companion audio tracks lying around unguarded on the internet.  *ahem* (They’re very useful, if not exactly morally upright.)

But I didn’t say much about italki, the website through which I found my Japanese teacher.  I was introduced to the site after I read this post by Benny the Irish polyglot months and months ago, but I didn’t act on it until recently.  He gives a very thorough review of the site, so I recommend you read it if you would like to find out more.

I myself find italki extremely easy to use.  And it’s great for me especially given my current circumstances: stuck in the backwaters of Somerset (it’s not actually that bad!) with no car and no driving license (okay, that actually is quite bad).  It was fine when I was focusing on teaching myself. But even though I had been interested in taking Japanese lessons formally, I felt like I had no options.  I know of one Japanese school in an inaccessible part of Bristol (one of the two nearest cities to here) – it would have been far too expensive just to get there each week, and I prefer private lessons anyway.

So, italki removed the barrier to finding a Japanese teacher.  I tend to get a lot of funny looks when I explain that yes, I have a private Japanese teacher and yes, she lives in Japan.  But it’s such a great situation for me.  I don’t have to pay any extra time or money for transportation and I get to take private lessons from a native speaker (whose English, as it happens, is brilliant).

Anyway, that’s my opinion.  I would like to arrange speaking practice sessions with people, but as of yet I lack the confidence for that.  Baby steps, you know.

Pocky and Mikado are the Same Thing

I tried Pocky for the first time a few months ago. I pretty much had to – those flavour-coated biscuit fingers certainly do get a lot of hype. I’ve even seen Japanese people on TV eating them. So I bought some at HyperJapan (milk chocolate and salt, sort of like a chocolate-covered pretzel).

Mikado (United Kingdom)

Then I found a geeky card shop in Taunton that sells it.  That time I got strawberry.  I gave some to a friend to try.  He said – “This is like Mikado but better.”

Well, then I was at a sleepover (never too old for them, you know) and we got some Mikado from Sainsbury’s.  Guess what?  It’s the same thing, made by the same company (Glico).

That sort of explains that weird advert with the Japanese chick on the photocopier. Sort of.

Anyway, I can’t tell a difference, and it’s cheaper at Sainsbury’s, just with fewer flavours.

Treatise over.

みんなの日本語 [Minna No Nihongo] – Including Me

Hi folks. I’ve realised that I don’t write about books very often on this blog. There’s a reason for that – I don’t read many, as my Japanese reading ability is nearly non-existent. I read a few things in English but that doesn’t seem very relevant.

Well, today there is a book that I’m reading, and it is in Japanese. It is a Japanese textbook called “Minna no Nihongo.”


This is a bit weird for me. Having embraced the “All Japanese, All The TimeDIY methodology of learning real Japanese sentences, I had been avoiding textbooks. And teachers.

But then I found I really wanted to talk to people. And the only place to find them was the internet. (I mean, it was the only place to find people who spoke Japanese. If I’d wanted to learn a Somerset accent I’d have my pick of people to choose from in real life.)

But, without ever having had a lesson or anything, I found that I had no courage with which to approach a potential language partner. I made an italki profile but then couldn’t bring myself to inflict my dangerously bad Japanese onto anyone. (Note: Lack of confidence is a major issue for me in everything that I do.)

So I hired a teacher instead (she’s paid to endure my bad Japanese!). And then I got a textbook.

I was afraid that using a textbook would feel too slow, and it does. However, I feel like using it on a one-to-one basis with a Japanese teacher (who, by the way, is a native Japanese speaker) is really plugging up some gaps in my knowledge and making me more confident to speak. So maybe some of the vocabulary is a bit basic – there are basic things that I didn’t know. (Like “shoe” – how’d I learn “planet” and not “shoe”?) And the verbs are all super polite – well that’s not really a problem. I’ll need to be super polite when speaking, at first, because I don’t know anyone. (And I’m still watching enough anime to learn how not to be polite.)

Minna no nihongo is completely in Japanese. That’s why I got it, as opposed to anything else. And that part of it is really awesome. I can read aloud from an entirely Japanese textbook. That is something I completely taught myself. I go a bit slow and I’m frustrated with how bad I am at it, but I can do it. And the more I do it, the better I’ll get. So I can feel like I’m making progress, and that makes it fun. (When it’s no longer fun, I’ll stop doing it.)