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Japanese Journey 七 — Adjectives, Asking Questions

As mentioned in Japanese Journey 六, there are two types of adjectives in Japanese language: い-adjective and な-adjective. The example in adjective conjugation, 高い, is an い-adjective.

All い-adjectives end with い. Some of the “famous” い-adjectives that you may hear from Japanese drama series are 可愛い (cute)、優しい (gentle)、美味しい (delicious) and 素晴らしい (fabulous).

To describe a noun, you just need to add the noun after the い-adjective, for examples, 可愛い子供、優しい人、美味しい寿司。

Although some な-adjectives end with い, you add な in between the adjective and the noun to describe the noun. Are な-adjectives confusing? No. From the examples below, although the pronunciation ends with い, they are kanji that does not end with い alone like  い-adjectives. It takes a lot of learning to differentiate な-adjectives from い-adjectives, but it is not confusing.

Examples of な-adjective and its usage:

(a) 綺麗 (きれい) — 綺麗な女の子

(b) 有名 (ゆうめい) — 有名な人

Asking questions

Asking questions in Japanese is easy. Once you have learnt sufficient grammar and vocabulary to form sentences, you just need to add か (ka) at the end of the sentence to make it a question sentence. Let’s look at two examples:

(a) 高いですか?— Is it expensive?

(b) あなたは行きますか?— Are you going?

Lesson learnt

1. Start a diary to write in the language that you are learning. The more you use the language in your daily life, the more your brain can retain what you have learnt.

Next lesson here

Japanese Journey 六 — Conjugation

English language learners are familiar with conjugation. For example, eat, eats, ate and eating are used differently depending on the person and the tense.

Japanese language has three types of conjugation: noun conjugation, adjective predicate and verb predicate conjugation. There are some notes on my book which I have written down. Thus, I have looked up some extra information on conjugation and added more information into the book.

Below is the summary of what I have learnt. The conjugation is highlighted in bold.

Noun conjugation

先生 (せんせい) = teacher

1. 私は先生です。— I am a teacher.

2. 私は先生じゃないです。— I am not a teacher.

3. 私は先生でした。— I was a teacher.

4. 私は先生じゃなかったです。— I was not a teacher.

Adjective conjugation

There are two types of adjectives in Japanese language: イ-adjective and ナ-adjective.

高い (たかい) = expensive

1. 高いです。— It is expensive

2. 高くないです。— It is not expensive.

3. 高かったです。— It was expensive.

4. 高くなかったです。— It was not expensive.

Verb conjugation

行き (いき) = go

1. あなたは行きます。— You go.

2. あなたは行きません。— You do not go.

3. あなたは行きました。— You went.

4. あなたは行きませんでした。— You did not go.

Lessons learnt

1. Find more information on a topic and write down the information. It helps to reinforce the learning.

2. If possible, read in the language that you are learning.

3. New Japanese words: Teacher — 先生

Expensive — 高い

Go — 行き

Next lesson here

Japanese Journey 五 — Timetable

I have made a timetable for learning Japanese. But, I am way behind schedule. I prefer to study at my own pace because I am not taking a test at the end of the journey. I wish to be flexible with my time so that I can take care of my tutoring and blogging at the same time. I want to learn Japanese leisurely by watching TV programmes and speaking simple phrases with my spouse (though his only reply is “What were you saying?”)…

Leisure or serious? Of course I am serious with learning Japanese. No matter what reasons I give myself, I cannot slack anymore! Thus, I am going to put the new timetable here so that I can always remind myself of my progress.


Japanese learning time table

From the timetable, you can see that there is a break between 25 January and 10 February (Chinese New Year). Yes, everybody needs a break. When you are making a timetable for yourself, all special dates should be taken into consideration, such as holidays, and exam dates.

After each week, I will share what I have learnt. Though there is no exam, I need to write a post, so that will make me stick to the timetable.

Lessons learnt

1. Make a timetable for learning and stick to it.

2. Exam is a good way to “motivate” a person to study. For self-study, set a time to test your knowledge on the subject on regular basis. This will serve as an “exam” so that you will not slowly slack off.

3. A new Japanese word: Time — 時間

Next lesson here

Japanese Journey 四 — The Particles

Somebody asked me why I share my Japanese learning experience, and not Chinese language or English language learning experience. The answer is simple: you can use the same method to learn any languages. Of course, my learning method may not be suitable for you, but you can refer and make the necessary adjustment.

Another reason is that I learnt Chinese language and English language at school, step-by-step, year-by-year, so the credit goes to all the teachers that have taught me well. Thank you.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Last week, I revised the particles. When we first learn a language, we learn how to introduce ourselves.


I am Wendy.

At beginner level, I have been using “は” (pronounced “wa”) in most of the sentences for the subject. Little did I know, “は” is not the subject marker, but the topic marker. I am glad that I have done the revision. Now that I know “が” is the subject marker, which was seldom used by me, I will pay more attention to it.

The particles have been a problem to me because it is only one syllable. When I am listening to anime, it is too short to notice. Likewise, when you are learning other languages, pay attention to helping words. For example, many students who learn Chinese language do not know when to use 的、得 and 地 (pronounced “de”). It only takes around an hour to learn and understand the three helping words, but it benefits you for the rest of the learning journey.

Lessons learnt

1. To master a language, it needs lifelong effort.

2. Helping words may seem insignificant but it is worthwhile to master the helping words at early stage of learning a language.

3. Learn every aspect of the language, listen, read, write and speak (LRWS). [I have arranged the sequence for easy memorization, Love Resorts World Sentosa :-)]

Next lesson here…

Japanese Journey 三 — Why I Choose a Book?

You can find a lot of online resources for learning Japanese, but I choose a book for learning Japanese. It is a personal preference, reading a book works for me and here are the reasons:

1. The book refers you to extra information if there are some topics that it does not cover.

You may argue that there are more extra resources that you can find online. Yes, and that is the troublesome part. I have tried online resources, but when I click too many extra resources, I find myself lost and end up not learning anything.

2. There are too many choices online and I cannot find one that suit my needs

Am I a picky learner? I am not sure. Since it is easier to find a book than a website, so I might as well stick to the book.

3. You can write and make note on the book

This is a strong reason. The notes that I have written months ago will still be there when I open up the book after a few years.

4. The book is more systematic

Chapter by chapter, topic by topic, you will not go wrong with a book.

5. Though you can bookmark a website like you bookmark your book, the website may have moved after a while.

I like to put bookmark at the page of a book where I have stopped. I do the same for websites that I find interesting. When I have bookmarked more than 50 websites, I find them “hard to manage”. In the end, it is meaningless to bookmark any website because I seldom visit the bookmarked websites.

Even if I do visit the bookmarked websites, sometimes it is frustrating to find that some websites have been moved or become inactive.

6. Reading on computer hurts my eyes

For health reason, I choose a book.

Nonetheless, I do use the online dictionary and some other references when I need some extra information. For example, when I am learning katakana, I print the list of katakana from a website and learn how to write. When I am on the move, a mobile application with Japanese phrases is a good companion.

Which method is more suitable for you?

Lessons learnt

1. A new Japanese word: Why? — どうして?

2. Choose a suitable method and stick to it.

3. Use different resources as tools to enhance learning.

Next lesson here…

Japanese Journey 二 — Japanese Writing System

The teacher asked the students to write hiragana on my first Japanese class. He said this is the basic of learning Japanese. He is right. Without learning the writing system in the first place, I would have difficulty to continue my Japanese learning journey on my own. The reason is I would have difficulty to look up in a dictionary for new vocabulary. For Chinese language, 汉语拼音 (HanYu PinYin) helps a person to look up a new word in a dictionary and learn, though it is not the writing system.

There are three types of writing systems in Japanese language — hiragana, katakana and kanji. Both hiragana and katakana are the lists of Japanese syllables. If you want to be fluent in Japanese (or any other languages), please learn the writing system at the beginning. With today’s technology, you can use the online dictionary or apps to find the meaning of a new vocabulary. In this way, you can always learn and continuously improve.

Hiragana is more commonly used than katakana. Katakana is only used for loanwords (mostly from English words) and sound mimics. Kanji is the Japanized Chinese characters. In the past week, I used one hour to revise hiragana, five hours for katakana and zero hour for kanji. Zero hour for kanji? Yes, lucky for me, Chinese language is my mother tongue, thus writing kanji is the same as writing any Chinese characters. The only problem for me is to know how to read (pronounce) the kanji because the same character in kanji and Chinese language is pronounced differently.

If you have noticed, I use kanji in my post title (It is not Chinese character!) as a way of revision. The same character, 二, is read ni (に) in Japanese language and er in Chinese language. If both languages are foreign to you, I would suggest you not to learn both languages at the same time because you would be confused.

As for hiragana, I have always been practicing writing hiragana repetitively, even when I am not learning Japanese. Below is the figure showing my hiragana writing, with two circled syllables that I have forgotten how to write without referring to any references. Thus, a quick revision is sufficient for hiragana.


The circled syllables are the two syllables that I have forgotten.

I gave less attention to learning katakana by heart. Nonetheless, I would like to master Japanese this time, at least up to the level when I took Japanese Language Proficiency Test a few years ago. So, I spent more time on katakana, learning how to write and doing some exercises from the reference book. With some guessing work, I managed to get 17 out of 20 correct 🙂

Lessons learnt

1. When you learn a new language, start from the writing system.

2. Keep doing revision.

3. Use the language in your daily life to reinforce what you have learnt.

Next lesson here…

Japanese Journey 一

I have mentioned that I am going to learn Japanese and share the learning experience. It is a good motivation when you declare something online because you know somebody out there will be waiting to read your learning experience. So, over the past weekend, I took out the Japanese learning book that I have stopped reading for a while and tried to figure out why I have put two bookmarks in the book. (We will get back to the bookmarks later.)

I like watching Japanese anime. The ultimate goal of learning Japanese is to watch Japanese anime without subtitles. I have started learning Japanese a few years ago, when I started working. I joined a Japanese learning class and took the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. Because of the test and the paid class, I studied hard and dreamt that if I took all the tests up to Level 1, I would visit Japan and speak like a native.

*Pop* The dream (夢、ゆめ) broke into pieces when life changed. I had more responsibilities at work and my personal life changed too, so I stopped attending class and stopped learning Japanese. Then, I reached another life stage with more time available, so I started learning Japanese with a book. I was not too motivated that time, because Japan has been hit by tsunami and I won’t be visiting Japan any sooner. Slowly the book was put aside.

Back to the bookmarks, as I have learnt Japanese before, though most of the grammar and conjugation are forgotten, I still remember some basic vocabulary such as numbers and common phrases. Thus, the first bookmark is at the numbers where I want to do some revision and the second bookmark is at the greetings.

And now that my Japanese Journey has started, again, the book has four bookmarks, with addition two bookmarks at particles and Japanese writing system respectively. Hopefully by the end of the journey, the book will be free of bookmarks.


Japanese written in Japanese

Lessons learnt

1. Find the motivation to learn a foreign language, preferably a strong motivation.

2. Set time for learning the language, else you will use “No time” as a reason to stop learning.

3. Use bookmark as your guide. Even if you have stopped learning, when you pick up the book again, your mind will bring you back to where the bookmark is.

Next lesson here…