カントリー・ロード, Japanese Version

This song is a Japanese version of the famous Take me Home, Country Roads by John Denver. It appears in the Ghibli Studio film Whisper of the Heart, directed by Yoshifumi Kondo. The protagonist Shizuku, a 14-year-old girl, has to translate the original version into Japanese for her school. The song then becomes an essential element in the story.

Whisper of the Heart is my favourite Ghibli film. It may not have the magic and fascinating elements contained in Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke, but it is one of the most inspiring movies I have seen. I wish I had seen it when I was the same age as Shizuku, it may have encouraged me to follow my own way. It is a film about working hard to achieve one’s dream and finally find oneself. I feel empowered every time I watch it.

Contrary to other lyrics I have studied until now, I will focus more on translation and less on grammar and vocabulary.

ひとりぼっち おそれずに
生きようと 夢みてた
さみしさ 押し込めて
強い自分を 守っていこ

  • ひとりぽっち means “being on one’s own”
  • 押し込める・おしこめる can have several meanings. I think that the most appropriate one is “to shut up”, “to lock up”

I was dreaming of living all alone without fear. Let’s put the loneliness aside and preserve my determination.

この道 ずっとゆけば
あの街に つづいてる
気がする カントリー・ロード

I knew the word 続く・つづく which means “to continue” but I was puzzled to see it with the particle “に”. By searching the dictionary, I learned that “Aに続く” means “to lead to A”, which naturally makes sense in these lyrics.

Country Road, I feel that if I kept following that road, it would lead me to that town.

歩き疲れ たたずむと
浮かんで来る 故郷の街
丘をまく 坂の道
そんな僕を 叱っている

  • 佇む・たたずむ stand still for a while, stop, linger
  • 浮かぶ・うかぶ I know this verb mainly as either “to float” or “come to mind”. I think that “come to mind” fit here.
  • 丘・おか a hill
  • 坂・さか a hill

To understand the difference between 丘 and 坂, let’s have a look at a Japanese definition:

  • 丘・おか: 土地の小高い所。低い山。小山
  • 坂・さか:一方は高く一方は低く、傾斜している道

丘 is used to describe the hill in itself, as a high place or a small mountain. 坂 is used to describe the inclination of the hill, the slope.

If I stand for a while, tired of walking, my hometown comes to my mind and the inclined path turning around the hill watches me reproachfully. 

I understand this passage as such: Every time “he” stops for a while, the souvenir of his home country haunts him and the “country road”, the path that leads to his home, reproaches him to walk away instead of following it to come back home.

この道 ずっとゆけば
あの街に つづいてる
気がする カントリー・ロード

Country Road, I feel that if I kept following that road, it would lead me to that town.

決して 涙は見せないで
心なしか 歩調が速くなっていく
思い出 消すため

  • 挫ける・くじける be depressed, lose heart, be discouraged
  • 心なしか・こころなしか somehow or other, I somehow felt, I somehow get the impression
  • 歩調・ほちょう the pace at which one walks

Even in the most disheartened times, by no means will I let my tears show. Somehow or other, I start to walk faster, to leave the memories behind. 

この道 故郷へつづいても
僕は 行かないさ
行けない カントリー・ロード

Country road, even if this path leads to my home, I won’t follow it, I can’t follow it.

明日は いつもの僕さ
帰りたい 帰れない
さよなら カントリー・ロード

Country road, tomorrow, as usual, I will want to return, I can’t return. Farewell, country road.

I am surprised to see that Shizuku totally transformed the meaning of the original song. When John Denver sang about returning home, Shizuku evokes, on the contrary, someone leaving his home behind and walking away, resisting the temptation to follow the “country road” that leads to his hometown.

It is much more natural for a 14-year-old girl who is thinking about her life, to wish to go away instead of “returning home”. That’s why I find the Japanese version of the lyrics so meaningful for the film. It also accentuates the bitterness she feels when Seiji goes to Italia, feeling that he fulfils the contents of her song and she doesn’t. She still has to learn that one doesn’t necessarily have to “leave” to follow one’s route.

These lyrics are the final translation of “Take me home, country roads” by Shizuku. But before completing the final version of her translation, she first wrote a first one and showed it to her friend Yuko. This is the extract Yuko sings in the film (with a rough translation):

白い雲わく丘を まいてのぼる 坂の街
古い部屋 ちいさな窓 帰り待つ 老いた犬

An inclined path that goes up around a hill surrounded by white clouds. The old dog is waiting for my return behind the small window of my old room.

はるかなる 故郷へ つづく道
母なる山 なつかしい わが街

Country roads, the road that leads to my home, in the distance. West Virginia, mountain mama, old sweet home.

As we can see, Shizuku evolved a lot between the two translations. In the first one, she more or less stuck to the original version and the overall meaning of the song. In the final version, she gave a personal interpretation of the song. Having no experience herself about missing one’s home country, she wrote about what she felt, as she explains in the film. The new version is much more personal and very far from the original version, too. I never realised that the difference between the two translations of Shizuku was also a way to express how Shizuku’s personality develops and she slowly becomes herself. I can say that I discovered a new element of the film with today’s post!


Currently reading: 私が彼を殺した by 東野圭吾

Even if I am still reading 舟を編む (progressing very slowly), I couldn’t resist the temptation to start a new novel by Higashino Keigo. I am reading the Kaga series (加賀恭一郎シリーズ) and I bought the 5th novel of the series: 私が彼を殺した.

When I started the novel, I really felt comfortable, I think the Japanese word 落ち着く would be appropriate to describe this feeling. Steadily reading the same author has the consequence that you get used to his or her style of writing. I have read 6 novels of Higashino Keigo so far in Japanese and I feel accustomed to his writing. Returning to one of his novels after a long pause felt like returning to a familiar and comfortable place.

I have read very comfortably a good third of 私が彼を殺した this weekend and I think that there are three reasons why I can read this novel quite easily:

  • To begin with, Higashino Keigo’s novels are not difficult. If I compare with 舟を編む for example, Higashino Keigo’s books are very straightforward. Everything is said or described plainly and there are no long or difficult descriptions (except for the crime scene but it does not concern every novel).
  • As I said before, I think that I got used to Higashino’s style of writing. This can be a problem when learning a language. I could be under the impression that I am progressing when I am only getting more familiar with a certain author. On the other hand, being able to read something in Japanese without effort is a great joy and a good motivation booster.
  • Finally, it seems that the Shin Kanzen Series N2 that I am studying at the moment pays off. I am happy that I started this novel because it encourages me a lot to continue to study N2 material. The grammar book is especially hard and discouraging but seeing that I can read a novel easily now motivates me.

To say a word of the story itself, I am both very excited by it and a bit disappointed. Disappointed because, like the previous novel of the series, I fear that we will never get to follow detective Kaga’s decisions and actions. He will be seen through the eyes of the other 3 protagonists. But the story is captivating and the novel’s structure is very appealing: the story is narrated by three protagonists, each speaking with the first person. The back cover says that there are 3 suspects in this case, no doubt that our three narrators are these 3 suspects… Higashino Keigo does not only tell a new detective story with each novel, it seems that he also creates a new way of telling a detective story!

I will not make any reading notes for this novel because I don’t really need to. I haven’t come across any difficult part that would need some extra attention or vocabulary investigation. This novel is really something that I am reading for pleasure, not to study Japanese. 😁

Read my review of the 私が彼を殺した here.

Environment vs Commitment

Recently, I am thinking a lot about what it means to immerse oneself in a “target language environment”. As every language learner, I try to immerse myself in Japanese, listening to Japanese news, reading as much as much as possible in Japanese, and even playing games in Japanese, and so on. Sometimes, I think of how easy it would be to learn Japanese if only I was living in Japan and I come to envy those who can study or work there…

But of course, the environment is not everything. I would even go as far as to say, that in the couple “environment-commitment”, environment count for almost nothing, what counts is your attitude. And then I asked myself: am I really immersed in a Japanese environment or am I only surrounded by it?

Environment vs Commitment

We are all aware that living in a country is not enough to speak fluently the language. We all know, or have heard about, people who spent years in a foreign country without actually mastering (or even speaking) the language. On the contrary, I have met several language learners who could speak or write an excellent French without having set foot in a French spoken country or who had just arrived in France.

Being surrounded by the target language or living in a country where this language is spoken is not enough to bring you to fluency. What counts is how you use this environment, what you make of it and how you make it yours. You have to be active.

We can even say that a poor environment concerning the target language but a firm, and absolute commitment is a thousand times better than a rich environment without any active involvement.

Commitment strategies

This may seem obvious, but it is also very easy to forget because relying on the environment is so much easier. I think that a good way to remember to stay active is to create personal strategies concerning concrete examples.

For example, I read books in Japanese. This alone will help me improve my Japanese, but if I am willing to put more energy and consciousness in the process, it will help me more. In the novel I am currently reading, I try to seek every grammar point that I am learning for JLPT N2. When I see one, I write the phrase down in a notebook if I can, or at least read the phrase out loud. Doing this will help me get familiar with the grammar, and I know that I am not reading lazily, but stay alert and consciously pay attention to what I am reading.

Another example is setting your computer in Japanese. If you tell your browser that your favourite language is Japanese, every time you want to install a new plugin, for example, the explanations will come in Japanese. Of course, you don’t really need to read all these explanations, you know what this plugin is used for, and you can select “download” without even bother to read anything in Japanese. But then, why have set your browser to Japanese? If you do read the contents that are proposed to you, it will make the difference between a useless Japanese environment and a useful one. It is like the WordPress dashboard I am using to write this article. I know exactly where are the functions I want to use and I could make my way through it without knowing a single word in Japanese. But I always try to read mentally every function before selecting it: 投稿・とうこう、アイキャッチ画像・がぞう、購読ブログ・こうどく…

To start creating your personal strategies, list everything that you are doing in Japanese. These are your environment. For each of these things, try to find something you can do to actively use this environment and be completely involved in it. Don’t stay passive.


Even if you don’t live in Japan, if you don’t attend Japanese course, if you don’t have Japanese friends, you still can reach a good level of Japanese if you really want to. A bad environment is only a pretext we find ourselves to justify our lack of progress when the only thing to blame should be our lack of commitment. Being active and having the attitude of an enthusiast learner is the best way to travel through your Japanese journey and reach your goals.


Japanese News: France not going to Pyeongchang?

I was very surprised when opening Asahi website this morning to see an article stating that France may not attend the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang if the relationship with North Korea gets worse. Let’s analyse Asahi’s article

Link to the article

The title is not difficult to understand:

フランス、平昌五輪不参加の可能性も 北朝鮮情勢を懸念

The word underlined is Pyeongchang. I am always fascinated with how Japanese use kanji for Korean places and names, when Korean themselves don’t use them anymore (they write everything in hangeul, even Names). For example, Japanese newspaper, when talking about Korea’s actual president, would write 文在寅(ムンジェイン)when Korean do not usually use the kanji and simply write the name in hangeul. That’s interesting because Japanese could use the sole katakana transcription like they do for other foreign names. But given that Koreans do have kanji names, Japanese media prefer to use them. The problem is the pronunciation. I don’t know how 文在寅 or 平昌 would be pronounced in Japanese but it would be different from the Korean pronunciation. That’s why the Korean pronunciation is given in most cases. In our article, however, it is assumed that everybody can read 平昌 as ピョンチャン.

五輪・ごりん is another way to say オリンピック and is often used after the city’s name: 東京五輪、ロンドン五輪…

情勢・じょうせい means “situation”, “condition”, “circumstances”, “state of affairs”.

懸念・けねん fear, anxiety, concern, apprehension.

The article reports that フレセル (Laura Flessel), French Minister of sports スポーツ相, talked about the possibility for France to not participate in Pyeongchang Winter Olympics: フランスが参加しない可能性.

French team would stay at home if the security cannot be guaranteed: 安全が保証されない場合, referring mainly to North Korea’s recent missile launch ミサイル発射.

The article cites Laura Flessel:


Which in French was:

si (ça s’envenime et qu’)on n’arrive pas à avoir une sécurité affirmée, notre Equipe de France resterait ici.


The French sentence is very strange in fact, Flessel mixed two different ways of expressing condition and hypothesis in French:

type1: possible condition

“if the security is not guaranteed, the French team will stay at home.”


type2: hypothetical condition

“if the security were not guaranteed, the French team would stay at home”.

But what Flessel said is “if the security is not guaranteed, the French team would stay at home”, which sounds strange in French. To me, it looks like she started to express a possible condition and wanted to soften it at the end by saying that all this is only hypothetical.

Anyway… I think that the Japanese translation evokes a possible condition, not a hypothetical one.

The article then reports that Paris has just been chosen to be the host city 開催都市・かいさいとし of 2014 Summer Olympics 夏季五輪・かきごりん.

According to European media, it is the first time that a possible (hypothetical?) abstention is evoked by a cabinet minister 閣僚・かくりょう. The Japanese expression is “平昌五輪の参加を見送る可能性”. I knew the verb “見送る・みおくる” with the meaning “see somebody off”, but I learn right now that it also means “let sth go”, “resign oneself”, “stand by doing nothing”, “put off”.

The article ends citing IOC President Thomas Bach saying that “doors were open for North Korean team’s participation”:


扉・とびら a door

This sentence puzzles me completely… 😲 Shouldn’t it be either:

扉が開いている: the door is open (it is in the state of being open)


扉が開けてある: the door has been opened (intentionally by someone) and is now in the state of being open.

but 扉開いている…



There is a gap between Flessel’s position and the hopes that South Korea President 文在寅(ムンジェイン)uttered in his address to the  UN General Assembly yesterday (September 21st):

My heart is filled with great joy when I imagine North Korean athletes marching into the stadium during the opening ceremony, a South-North Korean joint cheering squad enthusiastically welcoming them alongside the brightly smiling faces of people from all over the world. It is not an impossible dream.


I am curious to see how things will evolve…


Discover Japan

I guess that “Discover Japan” is a well-known magazine among people interested in Japanese culture, but I discovered it only recently… In fact, I saw an interesting issue in a bookshop last year (September 2016) about Tokyo Olympics and bought the magazine thinking that I would read it later. At the time, I was not able to read in Japanese but I am glad I bought it because I can enjoy reading it now.

Discover Japan has a beautiful website which presents each issue of the magazine and even gives access to some articles online. I think that it is possible to buy an old issue via Amazon or other sites and they even offer a wide range of e-versions, but I haven’t tried them.

As for the issue I have about Tokyo Olympics (Discover Japan 2016年9月号 Vol.59), it is a very thorough and interesting overview of the different aspects of the games preparation and what it means for the hosting country. There is, for example, a parallel made with the Games of 1964 and a recollection about how it changed Tokyo at that time. There are also surprising articles about the meals that were served in 1964 and will be served in 2020 to the athletes. The issue also gives a lot of numbers relatives to the Olympics, and even make a presentation of worldwide Olympics partners. Finally, for those who want to follow the 2020 Games, there is a short description for each sport and the name of Japanese athletes to keep in mind.

I don’t usually read magazines, but I buy one in Japanese from time to time. Magazines articles are often short and pleasant to read, with beautiful pictures.


Daily Study: Listening to Okinawa radio

This weekend, I went to a Japanese restaurant where you could hear the radio of Okinawa. Back home, I checked their website, and they have several programs accessible in streaming.

I have always considered the radio to be one of the best ways to improve one’s listening skills. People tend to speak at a natural speed and use expressions they would use in everyday life. I often listen to audiobooks too, but the reading speed of the speaker is much slower than real life conversation. Even if I can understand some audiobooks, I am totally lost when it comes to radio programs or Japanese people talking to each other.

If you take a look at the radio of Okinawa and go to the “streaming” page, try the first program “ゴールデンアワー”. They speak so fast!! 😮 Compared to the slow and peaceful stream of an audiobook… I take it as a challenge and a way to get out of my comfort zone in the hope that I will get better at listening to Japanese.

I like the program called スクリーンへの招待 because I can more or less understand it, and the contents interest me. The announcer reads film critics sent by listeners, it’s always short and simple. In fact, more than film critics, it’s more about the listener’s 感想・かんそう his or her feelings and impressions on the film.

This program is updated once a week, and the last shows can be accessed for free. It only lasts about 20 minutes, so it’s a good way to do a short session of Japanese listening.

Conclusion and further reflexions

Listening to ゴールデンアワー was very discouraging because they speak so fast I can’t follow. But the only way to get better is to get used to this kind of pace and immerse oneself in spoken Japanese.

Too often, learners stick to learning material which is spoken much too slowly and clearly and do not reflect how Japanese people actually speak. I think it’s a good thing to confront oneself with “real” Japanese, even if it is beyond one’s level.

I know that it works because I have experienced it with German. For all the languages I have learned, listening has always been the most difficult part. With German, however, it is the other way around, listening is almost the only thing that I can do properly now. The reason is that I found German sounds so beautiful that I listened to German a lot: the radio (the Deutsche Welle has incredibly good contents for learners), dramatized audiobooks (I have a lot of Sherlock Holmes adventures dramatized), series (I loved German so much I even watched Tatort, so you see…), songs, films… I was always listening to something in German, and I started the day I learned my very first words in German. Of course, in the beginning, I didn’t understand a thing, but it was like music to me, so I just listened. Naturally, my listening skills improved to that extent that I was soon able to watch a film without subtitles (when it is not always the case in English).

I don’t know if I will keep listening to Okinawa radio, but it is part of my working on listening strategies!


Japanese News: People’s reaction after North Korea launched another missile over Japan

It’s time for me to study a news article! I have come across an interesting (but difficult) article about how Japanese people reacted when they received the alert (emergency notification) concerning the missile North Korea launched over Japan this morning (Sept. 15th).

Link to the article: またか。逃げようない。ミサイル通過、周辺地域では

To start with, some vocabulary relative to the subject:

  • ミサイル missile
  • 発射・はっしゃ firing, shooting, launching
  • 通過・つうか going through, passing through
  • 緊急・きんきゅう emergency
  • 避難・ひなん taking refuge, evacuation, seeking shelter
  • 避難訓練・ひなんくんれん evacuation drill

The article focuses on three cities where evacuation drills have been organised: the city of Takikawa 滝川市・たきかわし, the city of Sakata 酒田市・さかたし and Yurihonjou 由利本荘市・ゆりほんじょうし.

To summarize the article, even if evacuation drills have been made after North Korea launched a missile over Japan on August 29th, citizens of the above-mentioned cities remained calm when they received the alert notification.

In Takikawa city, the person interviewed said that he was working in the fields when he received the alarm message. There had been a specific evacuation drill in case people would be weeding (草取り・くさとり ) when they received the emergency message 緊急メール・きんきゅう. But, the person interviewed said that he remained calm 冷静・れいせい and, given that a second message came soon afterwards, saying that the missile already went away, there was nothing else to do:


source: Asahi

I had to do some research to understand this passage. It seems that people in the area concerned received two messages, as you can see in this post. It explains how to find the emergency alerts on an iPhone (it concerns the launch of August 29th) and there is a screenshot of the author’s phone where we can see that two messages were sent. The first message concerns the launching of the missile ミサイル発射 and it urges citizens to take shelter. The second concerns the missile having flown over the country and gone awayミサイル通過 and only says to not get close to anything that looks suspicious.

I guess that when they received the second alert, people stopped worrying.

In the Yurihonjou City, a woman said that, even if she participated in an evacuation drill and was supposed to take shelter in the citizen’s hall 公民館・こうみんかん, she didn’t leave her house on the morning of September 15th. As she says, if the missile were to fall もし落ちれば, it would be the end おしまい, and struggling desperately じたばた would not change anything.


Even if there are numerous articles in English about how politics reacted to this new provocation from North Korea, it’s harder to find articles (in English) about how people reacted in the concerned areas. As far as I can tell from this article, even if evacuation drills are organised, the people don’t seem to worry much. On the other hand, I read the post linked above (about emergency alerts on iPhone), and one can see that it is somewhat disturbing to receive a message saying that a missile has been launched and that you should take shelter! 😨

∗緊急速報・きんきゅうそくほう “emergency report”, alert.

Korean resources: “Japanese Sentences”

I am currently renewing a strategy I had at the beginning and which consists in listening to a lot of Japanese sentences (almost until I know them by heart), to learn vocabulary and grammar pattern at the same time.

At that time, I used a Korean book which is called “Japanese Sentences” and belongs to the “Cakewalk series”. Even if the book has a title in English, it is published in Korea and entirely in Korean (and Japanese of course). Now that I am using this book again, I think it might interest other Japanese learners with an intermediate level, even if you don’t speak Korean.

This is a little review of the book. If you want to order it via an Asian bookshop in your region, here is the reference:

book title: 일본어 필수 표연

From the series: 무작정 따라하기

Author: 후지이 아사리

Editor: 이지톡 (eztok)

ISBN: 9788960472730

How the book is structured

It is a small but thick book of 550 pages which contains 990 sentences in Japanese.

It is divided into 4 parts, each containing several chapters:

Part 1: Expressions often used in everyday life

  1. Everyday life
  2. School
  3. Work
  4. House

Part 2: Expressions you will use in all sorts of contexts

  1. Being ill
  2. Communication
  3. Days off
  4. All kinds of institutions
  5. Ceremony of marriage and funeral ceremony
  6. Others

Part 3: Expressions you will use when travelling in Japan

  1. Arrival
  2. At your travel place

Part 4: Expressions you will use to express your sentiments

  1. Happiness
  2. Anger
  3. Sadness
  4. Pleasure
  5. Others

Each chapter is then divided into several sub chapters. For example, the first chapter of the first part, “everyday life”, is dividing into “morning”, “going to school, going to work”, “go home”, “computer”, “evening”. Each sub chapter contains around 20 to 30 sentences and ends with a dialogue.

The book presents, on each double-page, 5 sentences in Japanese on the left page, and their translation in Korean on the right page. There are also some complementary explanations in Korean.

I don’t speak Korean

Even if you don’t speak Korean, you can take advantage of the many useful sentences that are in this book. The CD (see below), is the best merit of this book. Of course, this means that you can understand the sentences in Japanese or know enough grammar to just look up unknown words.

So, what is the level of this book? As is written on the back, this book aims at beginners. But, what is meant by “beginner” is more some kind of “pre-intermediate” or even “intermediate” level. I think that it uses mainly N5 and N4 grammar, but there are some complicated words (I would even say: a lot of) that are above the N4 level.

I will pick some random expressions from the book so you can judge for yourself:

  • 文化祭で友達と歌を歌うことにしました
  • 図書館で資料を探しました
  • お得意様は大事にしないといけない
  • 頭が痛いんですが、頭痛薬をいただけますか
  • 今日は定休日だって
  • お口に合いますか
  • ビザの延長を申請しに来たんですが

(to me, it is not “beginner” at all… 😒)

In my opinion, this book is great for intermediate students or above. I have just passed N2, but I am far from mastering this book. Even if I do understand the sentences when I see them, I would not be able to say them quickly and naturally if I had to.

I think that there can be a gap between the resources you use to improve your reading skills and the one you use to learn how to speak Japanese. In my case, even if I am studying N2 books, I like to go back to easier material to train my pronunciation and my speaking skills. Being able to understand the sentences without having to reflect upon the grammar or look up words allows you to concentrate on listening and speaking, so aiming at easier material can be a good strategy.

This book’s good points

The CD

“The cakewalk series” is focused on listening and speaking. All the books of the series come with a very complete audio (mp3 CD), and the goal of the author is to confront the student with Japanese intonation as soon and as completely as possible.

Our book contains two audio files, and I think you will use mostly the second one.

  1. The first file contains all the sentences read in this order: Japanese (read by a man), Korean, Japanese (read by a woman). The dialogues are read in this order: First, the entire dialogue in Japanese, then, one Japanese sentence at a time followed by its Korean translation, last, the whole dialogue in Japanese again.
  2. The second file contains all the sentences in this order: Japanese (read by a man), time for you to repeat the sentence, Japanese (read by a woman), time for you to repeat. As for the dialogues, it is first entirely read in Japanese, then sentence by sentence with time to repeat.

You can easily listen to the mp3 while doing other things, or really concentrate and try to repeat each sentence. I find the CD to be much more useful than the book, in fact, I almost never open the book.

No Furigana

Furigana written above kanji are very useful but not very natural. What is natural is to associate a kanji with a sound, a pronunciation that we hear, not that we read. The Cakewalk series wants us to use our ears, not our eyes, to know a word’s pronunciation.

In this book, the kanji pronunciation in hiragana is given at the bottom of the page. You can hide it or try not to look at it while you listen to and read a sentence. Even if there are kanji you don’t know, try to repeat them, following the sound you just heard, don’t read the hiragana. We have to trust our ears and concentrate on long and short sounds and intonation.


As you can imagine, Korea has tons of great material to learn Japanese. When you are confident enough in Japanese and don’t need translations or explanations, using other’s countries material can be a good idea. I have several books from the Cakewalk series, and they have all been very useful.

This book is great if you are looking for a collection of useful sentences, all in one place, with both a reading and a listening support. Sometimes, I just let the mp3 run and find myself repeating some sentences even without thinking of it. It’s a good way to get assurance in speaking and work on the Japanese intonation.


Motivation: don’t pass N2 in 4 months and be enthusiastic!

I am preparing the JLPT N2, and I think that I might have put myself too much into it. I met several Korean students who passed N1 and even a girl who got a full mark at the section “language knowledge” of N1 😳

I also saw that some Koreans can pass N2 in 4 months (beginning from nothing) and it made me reflect upon level and enthusiasm and how one is so much more important than the other.

Don’t pass N2 in 4 months

Last week, I came across this advertisement for an institute in Seoul (Japanese sisa) that offers a course to pass N2 in 4 months. (I roughly translated it)


Source: Japansisa

As you can see, the course aims at complete beginners and promises that you will get N2 in only 4 months. The line that I translated in light blue indicates clearly that the purpose of this course is to add a line to your resume.

If you can study like Koreans do, it is maybe possible to pass N2 in 4 months, but still, I was very shocked when I saw that. For these course takers, the purpose of “learning Japanese” (“cramming for a test” would suit more I think) is only to add a line to their resume and make their way through a very competitive, demanding and stressful society.

If you don’t need to make your resume look like it has a hoarding disorder don’t try to pass N2 in 4 months. Take your time and enjoy every step of your Japanese learning journey!

Stay enthusiastic

Japanese learners who study on their own have to face the big challenge of staying motivated, especially if they are not living in Japan and don’t have the opportunity to go there often or even at all. But they have something that is priceless: they are enthusiastic. When I read blogs of beginners who start memorising hiragana, I feel empowered by their energy. Even people who don’t invest much time in Japanese and spend weeks or months to learn the alphabets and their first kanji are so much more inspiring than those who passed N2 in 4 months… because they are so excited about it.

I was too much focused on JLPT these days, and now I try to be as enthusiastic as I was at the beginning. I realise that the real source of motivation is not “how good you are in Japanese” but “how enthusiastic and excited you are about learning Japanese”, “how much you love Japanese”. Unfortunately, I experienced that excitement and level grow in opposite directions.

It’s the same for all languages, the farther you go, the more boring become the words you encounter, the articles you read. The excitement of the first days, when you learned how to say “this is a book” in a manual full of cute drawings tends to fade away, and you are only faced with serious, grown-up material.

beforeVS after

(if you want to know the difference between these grammars, have a look at lesson 5 of the Shin Kanzen Grammar book for N2)

Let’s find back the excitement of the first days/months! I guess we all have our reasons why we are so excited about learning Japanese.


I wish people would not ask “how is your Japanese level?” or “how good you are in Japanese?” but “how much do you love Japanese?” or “what excites you so much about Japanese culture?”. Your Japanese level can be compared to the kilometres you have made, but your enthusiasm for Japanese is the energy that keeps you going. If I wanted to go somewhere, I would not worry about the distance made yet, but about the strength and power I have in reserve.

Twice ~ Cheer up (Japanese version)

I am not a K-pop or J-pop fan and to be honest, I am not familiar with trendy groups. Having said that, I do appreciate some famous songs that I know and “Cheer-up” by Twice is one of them. This song was so popular when it came out that several candidates for the presidential elections (2017) in Korea used this song as part of their campaign, changing the lyrics to promote their candidature. This was one of the weirdest things I saw in my life…

Anyway, Twice has made their debut in Japan this summer and released an album with all their title songs in Japanese.

I hesitated a lot before translating the lyrics of “Cheer-up” because:

  • It’s much more difficult than I imagined, sometimes what they say just does not make sense (to me)
  • I have checked several English translations found on the internet, and they are all different! But the worst thing is that, in several parts, they all differ from mine! 😱There is a greater probability that they are all right, and I am wrong… But as it would be totally pointless to post my own translation if it were just a copy of others’, I will stick to my interpretation.

What decided me to turn thoughts into action is this post by Kotobites. Lyrics do not always make sense, and the meaning is sometimes hard to grasp because of limited grammar. But it is definitely an excellent exercise that forced me out of my comfort zone. And I did learn some very interesting expressions like “よそ見させない” or “既読スルーされる”.

The lyrics are very long, but I really had fun translating them. It is frustrating to understand every word and still don’t see what the meaning of a phrase is. But it is fun too, to try to crack the lyrics, especially if you study only one or two strophes a day like I did.

Please, keep in mind that I am maybe (certainly) wrong in some parts of my translation. Don’t hesitate to correct me in the comments!

Note: when I post about Japanese songs, I like to illustrate my post with a drawing inspired by the song’s music video or film in which the song appeared. In this case, it refers to the original Korean music video.


君から鳴る ベル ベル
ごめん マジ無理

  • 鳴る・なる “to ring”
  • 無理・むり means “impossible”, while まじ means “seriously”, “really”. The two together mean something like, “really impossible”.
  • 減る・へる to decrease, to diminish.
  • 早い・はや(い) + すぎる. すぎる is a grammar point which means “too much”, “excessively”. Drop the い of the adjective and add すぎる.

I am sorry, but I can’t receive all your phone calls (it’s really impossible), my battery is decreasing too rapidly.

着信が 止まらなくて

  • 着信・ちゃくしん incoming message or call (on the phone)
  • 止まる・とまる to stop. Here in the negative form 止まらない・とまらない + the form て which only means “and” “so”. With an い adjective or the negation ない, replace the い with くて.
  • スマホ smartphone
  • 弾ける・はじける to burst open. そうだ is a grammar point which means “look like”, “seem”. It is attached to the ます form. In the case of 弾ける it is はじけ+そうだ.

Calls from you won’t stop, and it seems that my phone will explode.

んで? なんで?
だけどね みんな カワイイねって近づくの

  • せい means “fault” here
  • って is a casual way of saying と
  • きゅんする means “be shocked by emotion” or “momentary tightening of one’s chest caused by powerful feelings” and is often used with 胸・むね chest.
  • なんて is a grammar which means “things like”.
  • だけどね however
  • 近づく・ちかづくto get acquainted with, to get closer to, to get to know.

Why is it my fault if your heart is torn apart (or things like that) when you think of me (by only thinking of me). It’s just that everybody is approaching me telling me that I am cute.

I first thought (and most translations on the internet go in that direction) that “っておもうだけで” referred to “why is it my fault”. The meaning would then be something like “I am sad or upset just to think that it could be my fault – that you consider it to be my fault”. But, きゅんする is used when suffering from a great emotional shock, for example when parting with a lover. I think this word would be strange referring to the girl being upset and instead, applies best to the boy being in love with her (but not able to see her often). Secondly, I think that the expression “なんて” (but I may be mistaken) may be used to take some distance from what is said and would suit better if it referred to the guy’s feeling. 🤔

As for people trying to get close by saying she is cute… I just don’t understand how it is supposed to make sense here. Is it a way to say that the boy’s approach is nothing new to her because she is used to hearing such things? Or on the contrary, that the boy is saying something else than just “cute”, and that’s why she will eventually fall for him? Or am I totally mistaken with the translation? But well, there are some lyrics that I don’t even understand in French, so… 

Ah さっきの電話ごめんね
友達といて shy shy shy
かけ直すから later

  • さっき some time ago
  • 会えない・あえない is the potential form 会える・あえる of 会う・あう, here in the negative form: 会えない “not able to meet”.
  • かけ直す・かけなおす to call again, to call someone back.

Ah, sorry for not answering your call some time ago, I was with friends (that’s why I was shy). Sorry if we still can’t meet, I will call you back, so see you later.

おねがい 急かさないで
前のめりな Baby
もう少し ガマンしてね

  • 急かす・せかす to hurry, to urge on. Here, the form ないで means “don’t…”
  • 前のめり・まえのめり first means “pitching forward”. But here, it describes someone who can’t wait to do things and urges things on.
  • 我慢する・がまんする to be patient
  • よそ見・よそみ means “to look away” but, in this particular context and associated with させない, the negative form of the causative form of the verb する, it means to look another girl/boy. よそ見させない・よそみさせない is a way to say “do not let or make your partner have an affair”.

I beg you, don’t urge me, restless baby. Be a little more patient, I won’t let you go after someone else (look at another girl).

When I googled よそ見させない, I found it associated with “浮気させない”. 浮気・うわき means “unfaithfulness”, “infidelity” or simply “extramarital sex”. I found out that there are three ways of using this word, which allow us to make a little grammar revision:

  • Active form: 浮気する having an affair, cheat on your partner
  • Passive form: 浮気される your partner cheated on you, your partner is having an affair.
  • Causative form: 浮気させる, more often used with the negative form 浮気させない which would mean “let or don’t let your partner cheat on you”.

今よりも もっと大胆に
気がないフリして 恋してるの
Just get it together
and then baby CHEER UP

  • 追いかける・おいかける to chase, to run after
  • 扉・とびら door, gate
  • 叩く・たたく to knock, to beat, to strike. Here in the imperative form 叩いて・たたいて
  • よりも is an emphatic form of より.
  • もっと more
  • 大胆・だいたん bold, daring, audacious. It’s a な adjective, so changing な into に transforms the adjective into an adverb.
  • 気がない・きがない to be uninterested
  • ふりする means “to pretend to”
  • 恋する・こいする to love

Cheer up Baby and chase after me. Knock on the door of my heart more audaciously than now. I am pretending that I am not interested but I love you, I really like you.

ソワソワしてる姿 浮かぶし
ドキドキしてるの 伝わるけどね
ダメダメ軽いと 思われるから
メッセージ届いても 既読でスルー

  • そわそわ restless, nervous
  • 姿・すがた figure, form, state, condition
  • どきどき the heart beating fast
  • 伝わる・つたわる to be transmitted
  • 思われる・おもわれる is a passive form: I will be thought to be…? = you will think that I am…
  • 届く・とどく to reach, to arrive (ex: for a message)
  • 既読・きどく “already read”, it is the notification that will appear next to your message when it is read. (on Line, for example).

I am well aware of your restlessness (the restless figure of you comes to my mind), and I know that your heart is beating fast with emotion (your beating heart is transmitted to me), but no, it would not be good to reply to your messages (it’s no use), you would think that I am easy (light). I leave your messages “read” but unreplied. (Even if your messages arrive, I let them “already read”)

What she means is that she reads the boy’s messages so that he knows she has read them – the “read” 既読 mark will appear on his phone – but she does not reply, leaving him even more restless than if she hadn’t read them at all. I found this article about “being left already read” 既読スルーされる. I love this expression, haha!

Oh oh oh 許してね boy
やりすぎなのかな 胸が痛いよ
Oh oh oh どうすればいいの

  • 許す・ゆるす means “to permit, to allow” but it most probably means “to excuse”, “to forgive” in our context.
  • やる means “to do” and is here associated with “すぎる”, which means “too much”. すぎる is attached to the ます form of a verb. In the phrase やりすぎなのかな, she is asking herself if she didn’t go too far.
  • すれば is the ば form of する. It means “if” and express a condition. “どうすればいい” means “how shall I do?, what should I do?”.
  • 夢中・むちゅう trance, delirium. 夢中になる・むちゅうになる means that you love something so much, you are in a trance. Here, the form てしまう is attached, which means that something is done completely with a possible negative consequence. 夢中になってしまう is contracted into 夢中になっちゃう.

Forgive me, maybe I went too far, my heart aches. What shall I do, I am so into you.

Ah 悩ませてごめんね
嫌いじゃないの shy shy shy
打ち明けるから later

  • 悩む・なやむ to be worried, to be troubled. 悩まさせる・なやまさせる is the causative form and means “to make someone be worried”.
  • 不安・ふあん means “to be restless”. 不安にする・ふあんにする means “to cause someone to be restless
  • 打ち明ける・うちあける to confide in sb, to open one’s heart to sb., to lay bare one’s feeling.

I am sorry that I have troubled you, I don’t dislike you (I am shy because I like you). I am sorry if you are restless because of me, as I will eventually open my heart to you, we’ll see each other later.

こんなに 苦しいのは
君のせいよ Baby
あと少し 本気見せて

  • 苦しい・くるしい painful
  • N+のせい the fault of, because of
  • 本気・ほんきseriousness, earnestness. 見せる・みせる means “to show” and is here in the imperative form.
  • 奪う・うばう to take by force, to rob sth. The form ます + に来る means “to come to do sth”.
  • ~て欲しい・ほしい is used when you want someone to do something. “I want you to…”

If I am in such a pain, it’s your fault. From now on show me a little more earnestness and come to take my heart.

君の気持ちを 今すぐ
ありのまま 全部届けてよ
これ以上 私に近付いたら
Just get it together
and then baby CHEER UP

  • 会う・あう Here again, the form ます+に来る. Come to meet (me).
  • 気持ち・きもち feelings
  • まま means “as something is”, for example, “show me your feelings as they are”. あり is the noun form of ある.
  • 届ける・とどける to deliver, to notify.
  • 近づく・ちかづく to come, get closer. The form たら means “if”.
  • 恋する・こいする to love
  • オーラ aura
  • 隠す・かくす to hide. Here, we have the potential form 隠せる・かくせる in the negative form 隠せない・かくせない be unable to hide.

Cheer up Baby and come to meet me. Tell me all that you feel for me right now (deliver all your feelings as they are, right now). From now on, if you come closer to me, I won’t be able to hide the fact that I love you (the aura of my love for you).

もぅ 傷つくの 怖いだけよ
臆病な心に 気づいて

  • 傷つく・きずつく to get injured, wounded.
  • 怖い・こわい frightening
  • 臆病な・おくびょうな cowardly, easily frightened, scared.
  • 気づく・きづく to see, to perceive, to notice, to become aware of, to be conscious of, to realize. Used with に.

I am just afraid of getting hurt and I am aware of my cowardice (my easily frightened heart).


  • ばれる “come to light”, “be discovered”, “be revealed”. Here again, the ~てしまう form contracted into ちゃう.
  • 聴かせる・きかせる is the causative form of 聴く・きく “let hear” or “let know”.
  • 迷い・まよい means “perplexity” or “indecision”, “doubts” or “delusion”. I think it can mean “indecision” or “doubts” here.
  • とかす means to dissolve

Before my feelings for you are exposed, let me hear (…), dissolve my doubts.

I think that what is meant here is: Before she exposes her feelings and reveals her heart, she wants to be sure (of the guy’s sincerity). To clear up her doubts, he should let her hear how sincere he is (this part is omitted in the lyrics). Once again, I don’t know if my interpretation is correct…

Be a man, a real man
gotta see u love me
like a real man

今よりも もっと大胆に
気がないフリして 恋してるの
Just get it together
and then baby CHEER UP