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ごめんなさい!

19 Jan

It has been a long time since we lasted updated Nihongo Hub, and for that we say ごめんなさい!(gomennasai) Sorry! Last year was such a busy year for us that we didn’t have many opportunties to post updates, reviews and resources to help with learning Japanese. Fortunately, we did manage to find a tonne of great native Japanese language and language learning resources that we will  start posting shortly!

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Learning Japanese – An Infographic

16 Mar

Here’s a great little infographic from Lingualift that we discovered. We thought we would post it here as well it’s likely to be interesting for anyone studying Japanese.

Click Image to Enlarge
Learning Japanese infographic: Steps to success & fluency
Source: Learn languages online at LinguaLift

Quick Kanji 2 – 竜 & 龍

2 Mar

Consider the following two kanji 竜 and 龍. Both are read as リュウ (ryuu) and both pertain to the giant, fearsome mythical creature known in English as simply the dragon. In modern Japanese both kanji can be found fairly easily, though 竜 is more popular (more on that in a bit).

So you might be thinking why are there two kanji for dragon…well, 竜 is considered to be the simplified and more popular form of 龍, which is said to be the more archaic of the two (known in Japanese as 旧漢字. There are quite a few kanji like this – 国 & 國, 黒 & 黑 and 舟 & 船). The modern, simplified version is the most accepted version, though 龍 is also allowed to be used in names. Strictly speaking in Japanese they actually have the same meaning, though further investigation does uncover some differences in their etymology and the nuance that they both convey.

For the sake of everyone’s sanity let’s start off by stating the obvious – dragons are NOT real – but you could say that there are actually two types of dragon. First we have the dragon that existed in medieval Europe and soared through the skies indiscriminately roasting innocent townsfolk, knights in shining armour and anything else that moved. Think the Welsh flag and Harry Potter.

The second type of dragon we have comes from the East, that is, China. More serpent-like than its European cousin and supposedly more placid, Chinese dragons are more likely to live around water and frolic in waterfalls in their spare time. Their heads are more crocodilian with a couple of deer-like antlers on top with short stocky legs.

The general consensus seems to be that 竜 is associated with dragons from the West whereas 龍 tends to refer to oriental dragons. A quick search of either kanji in Google Images also gives you a similar result (although not exactly academic…). However there really isn’t a need to make this kind of subtle distinction in your use of the two kanji. It’s actually best to use 竜 given that it is the most widely accepted form, unless the situation governs that you should use 龍 instead. As an example, consider the following words; 青龍 (せいりゅう – blue Chinese dragon), 烏龍茶 (ウーロンちゃ – oolong tea) and 恐竜 (きょうりゅう – dinosaur).

So while we don’t recommend losing sleep over whether you should be using 竜 or 龍 (if you see either in the wild, RUN!) it is important to recognise the history and unique stories that kanji have to tell. Understanding this background knowledge is not only interesting but can really help you to appreciate the language you are learning.

 

 

Quick Kanji 1 – 猫, 鴉, 蚊 & 鳩

1 Mar

Welcome to our very first Quick Kanji post. We’ve designed these entries to give you some quick, quirky facts about kanji that we think you might find interesting.

Have a look at the following animal-related. Do you know what they have in common?

猫 (ねこ) cat

鴉 (からす) crow

蚊 (か) mosquito

鳩 (はと) pidgeon

Upon first glance there aren’t really any great similarities. In fact the only visual similarity is the 鳥 (ねこ- bird) radical in 鴉 and 鳩, which for those of you who know your kanji is somewhat unsurprising given both represent a type of bird. However the similarity does in fact have something to do with a radical used in each of the kanji.

One of the radicals actually represents the sound that that animal is said to make in Japanese – essentially it represents the animal’s voice. Let’s have a look in more detail.

鳩 (pidgeon) contains the radical 九 (ku). Pidgeons are said to make a kuu-kuu sound in Japan.

鴉 (crow) includes the radical 牙 (ga). Japanese crows don’t craw, they gaaa instead.

蚊 (mosquito) is made up of 文 (bun) and 虫 (mushi). Mosquitos in Japan go bun-bun not buzz.

猫 (cat) is a little different. 苗 (nae) doesn’t refer to the Japanese sound but rather the original Chinese sound myou.

And there you have it! Who would’ve thought that kanji would contain something as specific as the sound of an animal?

Gaaaaaaa!

JLPT December 2012 Results Overview

14 Feb

Yesterday the Japan Foundation released its statistics for the JLPT held in December 2012. For those of you who are interested, the official data can be found here, but we are going to give you a quick run down of the results right here.

The first thing we noticed in the data was the much lower certification rate across all levels when compared to the July 2012 and December 2011 exams. This gives us the impression that this time the exam was much harder than previous exams, because strictly speaking, the percentage of certified applicants should be similar each time the exam is held. The greatest difference is in N1 – only 24.1% of all applicants (Japan and overseas) passed, compared to 37.4% in July 2012 and 31.6% in December 2011. That’s a pretty significant drop from last time, nearly 15% in fact.

The number of N2 applicants who passed also dropped from 44.0% in July 2012 to 37.5% in December 2012. This is likely because there is a higher ratio of test takers in Japan and Asian countries for the July exam. However the December 2012 figure was higher than in 2011, though only by 2% or so. For N3, N4 and N5 the situation is basically the same – all levels had a drop in certified applicants from the previous two exams. The total number of applicants who passed the exam was 33.7% (a third of all test takers) while in July 42.9% passed and 38.0% in December the year before.

Since the July JLPT isn’t held in some countries we compared the number of examinees who sat the December 2011 and 2012 exams. Last year 313,322 examinees sat the exam while in December 2011 numbers were about 10% higher at 346,023 examinees. We’d be interested to hear the reason why the number was down in 2012 compared to 2011 but unfortunately the Japan Foundation doesn’t shed much light on this.

In-depth data and charts aren’t available at the moment either, so there isn’t much we can do but wait until these are published. The average score and distribution of scores on the bell-curve chart are always great to look at because it gives you a good idea of how well you did compared to the other examinees. Even if you didn’t pass your exam you might have scored well above the average, which will definitely give you a nice confidence boost!

Let us know your thoughts on the exam statistics and why you think there was such a big drop in the pass rate this time. If you sat the exam in December did you think it was a lot harder than you expected? Or if you sat the exam previously was it easier that time than in December? We’d love to hear what you think!

5 Really Useful Japanese Onomatopoeia

3 Feb

Like the English language, Japanese has quite a number of words used to express sounds, words which are known as onomatopoeia. Some common English onomatopoeia are words like ‘bang’, ‘crash’ or ‘boom’. However the Japanese have perfected these words into an art form that they are no longer used to only represent sounds, but also emotions, people’s behaviour and the state of objects.

In Japanese these words are known as 擬声語 (giseigo) and can be broken down into a couple of groups. The two we are interested in are 擬音語 (giongo), which represent sounds such as a dog’s bark or a door slamming, and 擬態語 (gitaigo), which are used for behaviour and emotions. Words similar to gitaigo don’t really exist in English; instead we tend to use an adverb to give a person’s behaviour the characteristics of something else. Think sluggishly and sheepishly. On the other hand, the sound of a gitaigo word represents the way someone does something or how they feel. ニコニコ笑う (niko niko warau)  means to smile while くすくす笑う (kusu kusu warau) means to chuckle to oneself. To different actions but both use the verb 笑う (warau) meaning ‘to laugh/smile’.

What’s more, these words are actually quite common in everyday spoken and written Japanese so it pays to know a few of the more common ones. If you use these words your Japanese will sound much more lively and natural, and they really help to emphasise what you’re talking about. They are also kind of fun to say because in English we don’t really have anything that sounds like these words at all. In this post we are going to focus on some 擬態語 (gitaigo). Here’s five to get you started.

1. ゆっくり – ‘Yukkuri’ is one of the most common gitaigo you will hear, and it means to do something slowly, calmly or restfully. It can be used with any number of verbs, for example ゆっくり歩く (yukkuri aruku) to walk slowly, ゆっくり食べる (yukkuri taberu) to eat slowly or ゆっくり考える (yukkuri kangaeru) to think slowly about something/to think something over. It can even be used with the verb する to mean ‘not really doing much of anything, just taking your time to do as you please’.

2. びっくり – ‘Bikkuri’ is another word you will hear ALL OF THE TIME. It’s used when you’re surprised or shocked about something and is paired with する.  You bump into your friend unexpectedly while getting some groceries, びっくりしました! Your teacher tells you that you aced that exam you were sure you had failed, びっくりしました! You get the picture. It’s a really versatile word and very very Japanese.

3. たっぷり – ‘Tappuri’ is often used with food and means ample or plenty. A sign advertising a new donburi outside a restaurant might read 牛肉たっぷり! (gyuuniku tappuri) meaning ‘there is heaps and heaps of beef in this!’ or you might see お野菜をたっぷり入りました on the menu of a Chinese restaurant, which essentially means ‘We’ve put a lot of veggies in this’.

4. ぐっすり – ‘Gussuri’ is used with the verb 寝る (neru) to sleep and together they mean to sleep soundly, or to be in a deep sleep. A useful one to remember when you’re telling your friends how you slept after your night out at karaoke.

5. こっそり – ‘Kossori’ means to do something sneakily or stealthily and generally has a negative connotation to it. For example こっそり入る (kossori hairu) means to come in/enter sneakily. We could be talking about a burglar entering a house or a teenager sneaking back inside after going out. Another example is こっそり見る (kossori miru) meaning to sneak a glance. You could use it to say you looked at your friend’s answers in an exam or took a peek inside a closed door.

So there you have it! Five new words that will really help to lift your Japanese and make it a touch more expressive. We’ll bring you some more of these words soon since there are A LOT more of them out there.

Dec 2012 JLPT Results Out Soon!

31 Jan

Well today is the day that the results from the Japanese Language Proficiency Test held in back in December last year are released! While those of you who were lucky enough to sit the exam in Japan can already access your results, Japanese students in the rest of the world are eagerly (or should that be anxiously?) waiting to see whether they passed.

If you sat the exam in December we would love to hear from you! Which level did you sit? Are you confident or nervous? If you pass what will you do to celebrate? Share with us some of your study secrets or resources that you couldn’t have done without while preparing for the exam.

Good luck everyone, there isn’t long to go now!