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NHK radio journal’s “シリーズ戦争を考える”: War orphan ~ 小倉勇さん

This week, the NHK radio journal has started a series to commemorate the end of the war. I listened to the first episode and, as usual, was totally unable to follow what was being said. I understood enough to know that a man in his 80’s (whose name is M. Ogura) was talking about his experience of American air raids.

As I really wanted to hear his story, I listened to the episode several times and was finally able to understand enough to follow the narrative. When the NHK announcer speaks, I can follow, but sadly, I can’t understand well what M. Ogura says.

But, as I really would like to be able to comprehend everything, I feel motivated to keep studying.

This episode is called 終戦が地獄の始まりだった~戦争孤児・小倉勇さん and was launched for the commemoration of the end World War II in Asia, on August 15th.

This episode is about 小倉勇さん(おぐら・いさむ)who is now 85 years-old, and is telling for the first time his experience of the war. Even if I listened to the interview/reportage several times, I still could not understand everything and I may be mistaken in the notes I made…

To listen to the episode, go to the NHK Journal homepage, choose 最近放送したコーナー to access the streaming page and select the date 8月15日, the program’s complete title is “シリーズ戦争を考える(1)終戦が地獄の始まりだった~戦争孤児・小倉勇さん”

Listening to the episode

The first expression to know is 戦争孤児・せんそうこじ which means “war orphan”. M. Ogura will talk 語る・かたる about his own experience 体験・たいけん for the first time.

As a child, M. Ogura lived with his mother 母親・ははおや who worked in a local 地元・じもと factory 工場・こうじょう. The speaker says that the time M. Ogura could spend with his mother was limited (because she had to work):

一緒に過ごせる時間は限られていました.

The speaker then talks about the last time M. Ogura was praised 褒められる・ほめられる by his mother, an episode that occurred in the 15th year of Showa 昭和15年・しょうわ15ねん (=1940), before the begin of 泰平戦争・たいへいせんそう the Pacific War.

The speaker then uses the expression “一変させます・いっぺんさせます” to say that the beginning of the war completely changed M. Ogura’s life. The ravages of war 戦禍・せんか came to M. Ogura’s city: we are in 昭和20年7月12日 (July 12th of 1945), the American air-raid 空襲・くうしゅう strikes the little city of Tsuruga in Fukui Prefecture.

At this time, M. Ogura’s mother was working at the factory, and M. Ogura was staying at relative’s home 親戚・しんせき.

何も考えられず、ただ、皆が逃げていく方向へ逃げていきました。

While wondering how his mother was doing, but without having much time to think at all, M. Ogura ran with the others. The following day 翌日・よくじつ M. Ogura, who was only 13, was confronted with his mother’s corpse 遺体・いたい.

The young M. Ogura had then to live with relatives 親戚・しんせき but, from what I understand, things didn’t go well, the relatives in question wouldn’t feed M. Ogura correctly, and he eventually flew out the house 飛び出す・とびだす. He then tried to survive, sleeping in the station like many other orphans 孤児・こじ, some of whom he saw starving to death 餓死・がし.

What encourages M. Ogura during the three years he spent at the station, was this phrase:

生きていればいいことがある.

Three years later, in 昭和23年・しょうわ23ねん (1948), M. Ogura, who was then 16, was taking shelter from rain 雨宿り・あまやどり in Kyoto station. There, he was found by the personnel 職員・しょくいん of what seems to be an association for war orphans? (I can’t understand this part well…, it may be something like “孤児の一時保護”, temporary protection for orphans?).

M. Ogura was taken under protection 保護されました・ほごされました and was able to take his first bath for 3 years and wash his body from tick だに, flea のみ and lice しらみ.

When asked what he desired 求める・もとめる the most during these years, M. Ogura answers something that I am not sure to understand… 😫

M. Ogura made the promise to become someone useful for the century 世紀に役立つ人間? (I am not sure if I understand correctly). He studied hard and was later able to administrate 経営する・けいえいする a massage place.

Conclusion

M. Ogura’s story stroke me by its resemblance with the film Grave of the Fireflies by Isao Takahata. Many children who lost their parents during the air-raids must have had the same story. I am glad that I could understand a little of this moving testimony and I hope I will be able to understand it all one day.

I am glad that I could understand a little of this moving testimony and I hope I will be able to understand it all one day.

As for language learning, today’s post confirms that it is much easier and interesting to study Japanese to be able to understand a radio program that interests us, than listening to a radio program to learn Japanese. Of course, I do listen, read, or watch many things that I don’t really care about just to improve my Japanese. But I never study as well as when I am striving to understand something that I really care about.

I am certain that one source of demotivation when learning a language is that we often consider the language to be the goal and all contents in this language to be tools to reach our goal. In fact, it should be the other way around. Contents in the target language should be our goal and the language, the tool to reach our goal.

JLPT program with the Shin Kanzen master series

It has been two weeks now that I am studying with the Shin Kanzen Master series for the preparation of JLPT N2. I am amazed by the quality of these books and totally satisfied.

This is a review of these two weeks.

General feeling

As I have enough time to study, it is no problem to follow the program that I designed for myself two weeks ago. I must admit, however, that having no day off in the week is a little tiring, especially concerning the kanji. Instead of learning 10 kanji a day, I will certainly learn 14 kanji a day from Monday to Friday and rest during the weekend.

My strategy for vocabulary and kanji is to enter everything in my Anki decks with tags. I have a tag “N2” if I want to revise the whole vocabulary of N2 and a tag per lesson to make daily focused revisions. I totally rely on Anki to learn vocabulary and kanji.

Concerning the grammar, I list the grammar points in a notebook with explanations in French and all the important characteristic related to this grammar. Even if I can understand the Japanese explanations of the Shin Kanzen master book, I still feel like I don’t want to read them again some days before the exam. I can make an effort to read grammar explanations in Japanese when I am studying the grammar in question, but I don’t think that I will want to re-read them again when revising. Taking notes in French also allows me to verify if I understood the grammar correctly or not.

As for the reading and listening parts, I consider that practice makes perfect and just follow the activities of each book. For listening, however, I bought another N2 book which is entirely devoted to listening. There are no lessons, no explanations, no exercises, just a great amount of listening tests from past years. I listen to the audio, again and again, trying to understand every single word and repeating each phrase, too.

First impression of the books

Vocabulary

vocabulaireN2 This book is challenging because every lesson comes with an extensive list of words and expressions to remember. But the words are well classified and often come associated with other words. Instead of just presenting a list of words out of context, the book presents phrases with contains the new words in bold.

For example, instead of listing the words “適度な”, “休養”, the book gives you the phrase “適度休養を取る”. Another example: “徹夜して睡眠不足する”. The words you want to learn are in bold.

The book also brings similar patterns to your attention. For example, the pattern ~上がる which appear in “立ち上がる”, “起き上がる” or “飛び上がる”.

The last part that precedes the exercises consists of 4 phrases which each contains an adverb. It means that you can learn 4 adverbs per lesson, which is a correct amount in my opinion. You also see them in context and can grab their meaning easily. In the So-matome series, the adverbs were all presented at the same time in several consecutive lessons. You had to learn the same day very similar adverbs, and I gave up remembering them all. As a consequence, I appreciate very much the way adverbs are presented in the Shin Kanzen Master series.

Then come a lot of exercises that I only started today (because I want to leave a two weeks gap between the day when I learn the new words and the day when I do the exercises). I will review them later.

Grammar

grammaireN2To me, this is the best book of the series. I am able to fully understand grammar points that seemed very similar when I first studied them with the So-matome series. Back then, I remember that I could not completely understand the differences or nuances between some grammar that were introduced in the same lesson.

Each lesson introduces 5 or 6 grammar which meaning are more or less similar. The meaning of the grammar is given along with several examples. What I find the most useful is the complementary explanation that is provided for each grammar. The book explains exactly when this grammar is used and the things you should pay attention to when using it. By only reading and understanding this explanation, you should be all set, but the double-page of exercises that comes with each lesson will make sure that you understood 100% of the grammar.

I do think that the people who prepared these exercises are some kind of genius who are perfectly aware of the difficulties a language learner encounter. These exercises do not ask you to choose the right grammar point. They are dedicated to each grammar you have just learned so that you know that these questions will all concern this grammar. The exercises focus on the points you have to be aware of to master the grammar fully. For example: Is this grammar used in a positive or negative context? can the speaker express desire, hope or will with this grammar? can a noun precede the grammar? if we talk about time, should it be something that is done daily, something that is done once in a life time, a far away past, etc.?

Being able to answer this questions is a kind of guarantee that you master the grammar.

Kanji

kanjiN2The book is divided into two main parts: the first part is just a list of kanji to learn and the second part is a series of exercises.

Concerning the kanji list, there isn’t much to say. The kanji are divided into three levels of difficulty and ordered by alphabetical order in each level. They are provided with all possible readings and words which contain the kanji.

It’s a little boring to study kanji in alphabetical order, and I much preferred the So-matome kanji book which presented kanjis in context, each lesson being defined by a theme.

On the other hand, the exercises seem to be useful and different from other kanji exercises I have made so far. But, same here as for the vocabulary, I have just started them and will review them later.

Reading

readingN2I have only made two lessons of the book, but they were both very interesting and useful. The lessons help you to analyse two texts by focusing on a particular point (comparison, for example). The analysis is well made, it helps you extract the main information of the text and answer the question correctly. You are then left alone to read a few more texts and answer the questions. The answers provide some more information about the general purpose of the text and why the wrong answer didn’t fit.

I like this book as much as I like the So-matome reading book.

Listening

listeningN2Here again, I haven’t gone very far in the book, but the first lessons were very useful and enjoyable. Each lesson or part of the lesson, focus on something (intonation, who is doing the action, etc.) with interesting explanations and several listening exercises. To give an example, you learn to distinguish “これじゃないと思います” from “これなんじゃないかと思います”.

Comparing to the reading book, which requires a lot of concentration, the listening book is entertaining!

Conclusion

The So-matome series was very pleasant to study with lessons never exceeding one double-page and illustrations, but the Shin Kanzen master series is very thorough and challenging. I have no doubt that completing this series is the key to get N2 with a good score.

If you can afford both series, then I would recommend starting with the So-matome series which has English translations and explanations and a reasonable amount of information in each lesson. When you feel more confident, you can attack the Shin Kanzen Master series which is only in Japanese and very challenging, especially concerning the amount of vocabulary to learn.

Review: どちらかが彼女を殺した by Higashino Keigo 東野圭吾

I have finally finished the fourth book of the Kaga series, by Higashino Keigo. I read this series because I like the personality of Higashino Keigo’s detective. But even if we do learn important things about Kaga in the first novel of the series and in 悪意, I didn’t feel that I got to know Kaga better in this novel.

In fact, in this novel, Detective Kaga is not even the protagonist, and the reader never reaches Kaga’s mind. We see the progress of Kaga’s investigation through the eyes of the real protagonist, a police officer whose sister is found dead in her apartment. I personally found very frustrating that Kaga was so little present in this novel, but the story was still exciting.

The reader must investigate, too

Higashino Keigo offers his readers not only a novel but a real investigation. Every detail counts, every description and dialogues can reseal something of importance for the case. In most of Higashino Keigo’s stories, the action is less important than logical deduction. With all the gathered clues, one has to make possible scenarios and see if every thing fit into it.

I liked the fact that the reader can participate and even has to participate. Instead of taking vocabulary notes I should have written down every clue, drawn a sketch of the scene where the body was discovered and noted what we learn about the two main suspects.

I appreciated this novel, especially the concurrence between the main protagonist and Kaga, and I also liked the end, which was very surprising. I was just disappointed that the focalisation never changed (like it used to do in other novels of the series).

As for the Japanese difficulty, it was not the easiest book I have read by Higashino Keigo. What was easy is that there were a few main characters, a few places and little action. That means little description. The whole novel is mainly composed of dialogues which are much easier to understand than narrative and descriptive passages. However, when there were descriptions, I found them challenging, with important but difficult words. As the reader has to understand every detail to be able to take part in the investigation, this book does require some amount of concentration.

If you want to read this book, you can check the list I made of all the characters that appear or are mentioned in the story.

To see a short review of other books from Higashino Keigo I read in Japanese, here is the page!

An 110-year-old carousel pig

Opening Asahi’s web page today, I find this intriguing article in the top news.

Read the article

An 110-year-old carousel pig presents itself, speaking in the first person. Thanks to this article, I learnt that merry-go-round is said 回転木馬・かいてんもくば in Japanese.

Our carousel pig is turning 110-year-old this year and is still amusing children in the park Toshimaen, along with the horses ウマくんと一緒に without having failed a single time 負けたことはない.

The pig and its equid friends have an interesting story. Born in Germany (ドイツで生まれたぼくたちは), they crossed the Atlantic to the U.S (アメリカに渡り) and stayed there for about a half century 半世紀・はんせいき before going to Japan.

7 years ago, the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers 日本機械学会・にほんきかいがっかい certified  認定する・にんていする the carousel as Mechanical Engineering Heritage 機械遺産・きかいいさん.

The carousel was carved 彫られた・ほられた by hand 手で彫られた in style Art Nouveau アールヌーボー様式・ようしき. The creaking sound ギシギシ that can be heard when the carousel is set into motion is part of its charm.

Our pig wishes we could see the 1200 light bulbs 電球・でんきゅう that accompany them when they go round on summer nights. If you want to pay him a visit, the carousel is called “carousel El Dorado” and is situated in the park Toshimaen としまえん in Nerima 練馬区・ねりまく, Tokyo.

すみっコぐらし~ストーリーズ

Do you know すみっコぐらし or すみっコ for short? They are cute characters designed by San-X (who also designed the famous リラックマ).

As I love those characters, I decided to read this book, which contains two short stories that feature the すみっコ. It’s a book for children (primary school) but, even if it contains some illustrations, it looks more like a novel than an illustrated book. I bought it mainly to have something easy to read in Japanese, but I must admit that I enjoy reading it for the story, too.

The book has 119 pages, and even if it looks like a novel, there is a lot of blank space between each line, so it is quite short.

The story

The two stories each features a primary school girl who meets the Sumikko when they decide to settle in her room. The first story deals with loneliness and solitude and depicts the difference between being alone because one wants to, and being alone because one is ignored by others. I found a lot of interest in this story.

The second story is about shyness and the difficulty to express one’s feelings.

The characters Sumikko are all more or less negative, being either extremely shy like the cat ねこ or lacking self-confidence like ペンギン? who is not even sure to be a penguin. The white bear しろくま is so sensitive to the cold that it had to leave its home country, the North Pole. Finally, とんかつ is just the remaining last end of a fried pork cutlet, left over because it contains a lot of fat and almost no meat. In the first story, it hangs around with エビフライのしっぽ, the remaining tail of a fried shrimp, left over, too.

As we can see through these stories, the Sumikko tend to sympathise with people who like to sit in the corner and remain unnoticed or people who suffer from shyness and lack self-confidence.

For Japanese learners

When one learns a language, a natural move is to start reading books for children. Talking from my own experience, I think that books for very young children are not a good choice. They often talk about animals, traditional stories, fairy tales, contain a lot of onomatopoeias and are overall quite difficult to read.

On the contrary, books aiming at primary school children, that is, easy and short novels, are often a good choice. You do have to know a lot of grammar, at least all N4 grammar and most probably N3 grammar, too, but the vocabulary will be reduced, and the furigana may even be written, as it is the case in this book. If you choose a story that deals with everyday life, school, friends, family and so on, you should not be out of your depth.

In this book, the vocabulary is easy, and even if you don’t understand everything, you still can guess what happens and what will happen next. It is definitely a good choice if you are around N3 level and are looking for something substantial but accessible. Contrary to a manga, you will have narrative parts, so it’s a good way to start reading novels.

Sumikko’s official site

About this book: すみっコぐらし~ストーリーズ、ひみつのすみっコ生活(ぐらし)はじめました、著:せきちさと、イラスト:サンエックス、出版:小学館、2015

ネイマール’s transfer in Japanese news

Neymar’s transfer to PSG didn’t go unnoticed in Japan, even if the article that I found on Asahi website is concise and factual. But, short articles are accessible to me, who is still struggling to read the news in Japanese.

Read the article

We can learn interesting expressions through this article. For example, if you want to say that something is the most / best / etc. in history, you can say 史上・しじょう.

As much as you can say 退職・たいしょく for retirement, 退院・たいいん to leave the hospital or 退学・たいがく when you leave (or have to leave) school, you can say 退団・たいだん when you leave your club. 退団 means “to leave a group”, and I guess that it can be used in different contexts.

The news of Neymar’s transfer was announced on the “Official Twitter” of Barcelona which is 公式・こうしき ツイッター. Neymar’s agent, who is called a 代理人・だいりにん, announced Neymar’s transfer 移籍・いせき to France’s PSG.

The article then reminds us that Neymar is an outstanding 屈指の・くっしの player and that he is one of the “corner” of the trio formed with Messi and Suarez: トリオの一角・いっかく. Is a trio thought of like a triangle in Japanese 🤔 ?or is it just because Messi, Suarez and Neymar form a triangle on the field? 🤔

Then comes an interesting word: 新天地・しんてんち. This word means “a new world”, “a new environment”, “a new field of activity” and is used for example to bid someone farewell and wish him good luck in his new life. In our context, the 新天地 is the PSG, Neymar’s new club. The article says that Neymar will become the symbol 象徴・しょうちょうof a club that aims for 図る・はかる more popularity 知名度・ちめいど at an international level 世界的・せかいてき.

That’s it for this article. I hope that I understood it correctly and that I will be able to read the news in Japanese someday!

どちらかが彼女を殺した~第6章

This is the last chapter of the book! I was very surprised by the end, haha, I certainly didn’t expect that. Anyway, I am almost tempted to reread the book right away, to see what I missed and collect more clues!

6-1

  • 物騒・ぶっそう dangerous, disturbed, insecure
  • 克明・こくめい faithful, accurate, elaborate, detailed
  • 茶化す・ちゃかす to make fun of, to poke fun at
  • 苛立ち・いらだち irritation
  • 弁護・べんご defence, pleading, advocacy
  • 辻褄・つじつま coherence, consistency
  • 揶揄・やゆ banter, raillery, tease
  • 切り札・きりふだ trump card
  • 翻す・ひるがえす to turn over, to turn around
  • 朦朧・もうろう dim, hazy, vague
  • 小骨・こぼね small bones

6-2

  • 度胸・どきょう courage, bravery, nerve
  • 忍び込む・しのびこむ to creep in, to steal in
  • 一目瞭然・いちもくりょうぜん apparent, obvious, very clear
  • ぐらつく to be unsteady, to shake
  • 錯乱・さくらん confusion, distraction, derangement
  • 貰う is もらう
  • 鉢合わせ・はちあわせ bumping of heads, running into, coming across
  • 安普請・やすぶしん cheap structure (of houses)
  • 完遂・かんすい to accomplish, to carry out
  • 鵜呑み・うのみ swallowing (a story)

6-3

  • 催す・もよおす to feel
  • 勿体ぶる・もったいぶる to put on airs, to assume importance
  • 破壊・はかい destruction, disruption
  • 億劫・おっくう troublesome, annoying
  • 生き甲斐・いきがい something one lives for, purpose in life
  • 過ち・あやまち fault, error
  • 暴露・ばくろ disclosure, exposure, revelation
  • 面食らう・めんくらう to be confused, to be bewildered, to be taken aback
  • 遮断・しゃだん isolation, cut off, blockade
  • 金儲け・かねもうけ money-making
  • 脅迫・きょうはく threat, menace
  • 値打ち・ねうち value, worth, price, dignity
  • 貶める・おとしめる to cause to fall, to make decline

 

About choice, willpower and my new listening strategy

Sometimes, too much choice consume your willpower, and you end up doing nothing. While wondering if I should listen to the news, a podcast, the radio, an audiobook, the audio from my textbook, the audio from the JLPT, let an anime run on my phone or listen to some Japanese music… I am just consuming my willpower and not listening to any Japanese.

I am very concerned with my poor listening skills at the moment, and as I said in another post, I am facing the following contradiction:

  1. Improving one’s listening skill is easy, listening to a lot of Japanese every day should settle the problem.
  2. Knowing this, and having a lot of material to listen to, I still haven’t transformed listening to Japanese into a daily habit. Even if I study or read Japanese every day, I can stay weeks without listening to anything in Japanese.

I tried to resolve this contradiction by reducing the number of listening material I can pick from and make it accessible. To be more concrete, I reduced the number to only one material, which is the audiobook from the novel 世界から猫が消えたなら・せかいからねこがきえたなら (If cats disappeared from the world). I have the audiobook on my phone, right away available in my “iBooks” application. It automatically starts where I quit the last time I listened to it, and I can choose to slow down the reading space (by 0.75x).

So far, it worked. I don’t lose time thinking of which material I will listen to and having this audiobook rapidly accessible allows me to launch the audio even if it’s for 10 minutes. I still don’t listen to it every time I could, but since I applied this method, I did listen to it a little every day. Having some Japanese enter my ears every day (even if only for 10 minutes), compared to not listening at all, will certainly pay off.

About choice and willpower

This experience reminds me of something I have read in the book: 自分を操る超集中力・じぶんをあやつるちょうしゅうちゅうりょく by メンタリストDaiGo. In this book, DaiGo explains why and how our willpower is consumed. One of these reasons is that we continuously have to make choices during the day. More than the actions themselves, it is this endless necessity of deciding whether to do or not do something, how to do it and so on, that leaves us exhausted.

The author then cites a fascinating study about consumers in a supermarket. The study compares days when only 6 sorts of jam were proposed for a jam tasting and days with 24 sorts of jam displayed. As one can imagine, the 24 different jams attracted more people to taste the flavours. But, if we look at the proportion of individuals who actually bought a jam after having tasted it, then the table with only 6 different flavours to choose from wins by far.

多すぎる選択肢はウィルパワーを人間から奪い、結局、決断できなくなるのです。
自分を操る超集中力, メンタリストDaiGo, かんき出版, 2016, p.40

I feel exactly like a consumer before 24 kinds of jam. I taste everything, that means, I listen to an episode of this newly discovered podcast, to the first 10 minutes of my audiobook, to the first episode of this anime, to today’s news, etc.  Then I conclude that every flavour is tasty and that I want to buy them all, meaning that every material is worth listening to, and I can see my listening skills potentially improving. But I end up buying nothing, that is, listening consistently, from beginning to end and on a regular if not daily basis… to nothing.

As is suggested in DaiGo’s book, one way to avoid spoiling willpower in those daily choices we have to make, is to decide in advance what you are going to do.

I will take another example that is not in the book. Personally, I hate cooking, but strangely, I do find some pleasure while working in the kitchen. In fact, what I hate is not the act of cooking in itself, it is the question that comes back twice a day, every day: what should I make for lunch? What should I make for dinner? I am tired of having to decide twice a day what I will eat.

Now let’s supposed that I make a plan for the week, deciding in advance what I will cook for every meal. I won’t have this feeling of tiredness when it comes to cooking. Maybe, on a particular day, I will not want to prepare what I had planned for that day. But doing it anyway will be less tiring than having to think of what to cook. Because, as DaiGo said in his book, having to make choices is more exhausting than the action in itself or, to say it in other words, deciding consumes more willpower than the performance of the option we chose.

人は、行動ではなく「意思決定」で疲れるのです。
自分を操る超集中力, メンタリストDaiGo, かんき出版, 2016, p.41

Following this reasoning, I don’t have to limit myself to only one audio in Japanese, but defining beforehand what I will listen to on a particular occasion will surely help me saving time and willpower. For example, I can select one audiobook for commuting, one podcast, which episodes are about 10 to 15 minutes, that I will listen to while playing with my cats, the news will be while getting ready in the morning or drinking coffee, and so on. If I know what to listen to and where to find it quickly, I won’t have to think about it, and I will reduce the probability to eventually give up listening to Japanese while doing this or that activity.

Anyway, memorising vocabulary is hard, studying grammar can be boring, reading a book takes efforts… but listening to something does not require much time (as you can do it while doing something else) nor efforts. Even if you can’t study Japanese every day, not listening to some Japanese on a daily basis is a shame (I say that mainly to myself…🙄).

Conclusion

I do not usually read self-training books, and I don’t know much about willpower, but I must admit that this study echoes strangely well with my apathy when facing the listening injunction. Since I have started learning Japanese, I have been frantically gathering materials, some of which I never exploited. I guess that I am like those jam connoisseurs: a wide range of choice enchants me, but a reduced range of choice gets me moving.

Of course, listening to a lot of different things is better than locking oneself into a single source, but, once again, it’s better to listen every day to one thing than letting the days passing by without training your ears at all.

どちらかが彼女を殺した~第5章~3-4-5-6-7

From page 269 to 309

I will group the remaining parts of chapter 5 into a single post because each part was quite short and there was not much vocabulary to search, mainly because those parts are composed of dialogues which are much easier to understand than description.

Things evolve very fast at the end of our chapter, with all protagonists reunited for the first time in the same room. The chapter leaves us with a terrible cliffhanger, and I realise that I was wrong all along with my own suppositions.

Chapter 5 – 3

  • 絞殺・こうさつ strangulation
  • 金目・かねめ monetary value
  • 脳裏・のうり one’s mind
  • 蘇る・よみがえる to be recalled (memories)
  • 没頭・ぼっとう immersing oneself
  • 怪訝・けげん dubious, puzzled, suspicious
  • 罠・わな trap
  • 時折・ときおり sometimes

Chapter 5 – 4

  • 侵害・しんがい infringement, violation
  • 餌・えさ bait
  • 取り調べ・とりしらべ investigation, inquiry, examination
  • 真摯・しんし sincerity, earnestness

Chapter 5 – 5

  • 付け出す・つけだす to add to
  • 警戒・けいかい to be vigilant, to be cautious
  • 無我夢中・むがむちゅう losing oneself in, being absorbed in
  • 予め・あらかじめ beforehand, in advance, previously
  • 合致・がっち agreement, conformance
  • 途端・とたん as soon as, soon after
  • 衝動的・しょうどうてき impulsive
  • 迂闊・うかつ careless, stupid
  • 頸動脈・けいどうみゃく carotid artery
  • 悪戯・いたずら sexual assault, sexual misconduct
  • 逡巡・しゅんじゅん hesitation, indecision
  • 縛る・しばる to tie, to bind

Chapter 5 – 6

  • 狂う・くるう to go mad, to get out of order, to go amiss
  • 歪む・ゆがむ to incline, to be distorted, to be bent
  • ただならぬ unusual, uncommon
  • 懴悔・さんげ repentance, confession, penitence
  • ふざける to joke, to mess around
  • 筆跡・ひっせき handwriting
  • 癒える・いえる to recover, to be healed
  • 関与・かんよ participation, taking part in, being concerned in

Chapter 5 – 7

  • 当てずっぽう・あてずっぽう conjecture, guesswork
  • 的を射る・まとをいる to be to the point, to be pertinent
  • 精悍・せいかん fearless
  • 竹刀・しない bamboo fencing stick (kendo)
  • 面・めん helmet (kendo)
  • 引き金・ひきがね trigger
  • 気まずい・きまずい unpleasant
  • 偽装・ぎそう disguise, camouflage

There is just one chapter left, and we will finally know what actually happened, hehe!

After the JLPT, the JLPT! My study plan to N2

I sat the JLPT on July the 2nd, and I have taken some rest during the whole month of July (meaning, still doing some Japanese regularly but not studying grammar or anything related to the JLPT). And now I realise that there are only four months left before the next test in December 😱

When self-studying, taking the JLPT gives you a straight road to follow when most textbooks leave you in the wild pretty soon

I tried the N2 level in July, but I don’t think that I will pass it and anyway, prepare for N1 in 4 months would be 無理・むり. So, I’ll try N2 once more, but this time I MUST have it! 😤

To pass the test in July, I studied with the So-matome series. I love this series, I recommend it to anyone who is studying Japanese, not only test takers. It was as fun as a textbook can be, with exactly the proper amount of new information in each chapter. I will maybe do a review of this series, but I must say that there was one disadvantage: the series is too easy compared to the JLPT, at least for the N2 series that I used.

So, for the exam of December, I will prepare with the Shin Kanzen Master series! Opening the books is enough to understand that you have left behind you the comfortable and comforting world of the So-matome series to a somewhat more austere material. You will find no funny drawings that help you memorise your words, kanji and grammar, no English translations, and almost no blank space at all!

So let’s study this austere book and get a perfect score in December!

The following is how I plan to work with the Shin Kanzen Master series for the next four months. (I love doing study plans 😊😋)

Material to study

I went rapidly through all 5 books to determine how many lessons I have to study.

  • Vocabulary: 37 lessons. (Each lesson is composed of a list of words and exercises)
  • Grammar: 26 lessons which contain several grammar points and exercises + 7 lessons that seem to put together already learned grammar + 15 other lessons that appear to focus on how to use the learned grammar in long sentences correctly. A total of 48 lessons.
  • Kanji: There is first a list of 1046 kanji sorted by “sessions”. Then, there are 53 sessions which are composed of exercises using the kanji associated with the session in question.
  • Reading: 15 lessons, each very long + a series of reading training exercises that appear in the JLPT.
  • Listening: 18 lessons mainly composed of listening activities, each focused on improving a particular skill.

Time left

4 months = 120 days

Study plan

Why make a study plan

Making a study plan doesn’t mean stick to it at any cost (well, in fact, you should ), but it helps to study on a daily basis and keep the goal in sight, especially when you are studying for a test. It’s easy to open your book only when you have the time and realise too late that you won’t be able to complete your book before the test.

That’s especially true with the JLPT where you do have a certain amount of words, kanji and grammar to know. If you skip one day, it is easy to skip two and to end up doing nothing for a week without even realising it. But if you write down your study plan on a calendar, it will be easy to see if you are keeping the pace or not. I use my agenda and write what I need to study every day and what I did study.

I sometimes feel bad when I must admit, face to face with my agenda, that I am far behind my study plan, but I also know that I just need to study two lessons per day instead of one, and to do this for one week, to catch up on the days I skipped. Without study plan, I would probably restart my study where I left it and realise one week before the test that I have only gone through the half of each book.

My study plan for N2 in 4 months

I will start on Monday 31st, to have a full week.

Vocabulary: 3 lessons/week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I don’t think that I can do the exercises the same day that I learnt the vocabulary, I can’t see how this can be effective because you will obviously have to check the new words to complete the exercises. That’s why I will leave a gap of two weeks between the moment when I learn the words of a lesson and the day I do the exercises. Concretely, I will start learning the words of lesson 1 on Monday 31st but I will do the exercises of lesson 1 on Monday 14th, and so on. In other words, from Monday 14th, I will study two lessons per day: the lesson of the day where I just learn the new words, and the exercises of the lesson I learnt two weeks ago.

Grammar: 2 lessons/week, on Tuesday and Thursday. For the grammar, I will do the exercises the same day I learn the grammar because the activities help to understand the grammar point and how or when to use it.

Kanji: learn 10 kanji/day. Here again, I will keep the exercises for later and start them two weeks after. I will make 4 sessions per week, 2 on Tuesday and 2 on Thursday. (I don’t feel like studying vocabulary and kanji on the same day). Concretely, I will start the first two kanji sessions on Tuesday 15th.

Reading/Listening: one lesson every weekend.

End of August

  • Vocabulary: 14 lessons studied (words), but only 8 lessons completed (words and exercises)
  • Grammar: 10 lessons completed
  • Kanji: 320 kanji learned, 12 exercises done.
  • Reading/Listening: 4 lessons each

End of September

  • Vocabulary: 27 lessons studied, 21 lessons completed
  • Grammar: 18 lessons completed
  • Kanji: 620 kanji learned, 20 exercises
  • Reading/Listening: 9 lessons each

End of October

  • Vocabulary: All 37 lessons studied, 34 lessons completed
  • Grammar: 27 lessons completed
  • Kanji: 930 kanji learned, 38 sessions
  • Reading/Listening: 13 lessons each

End of November, and end of the 4 months preparation

  • Vocabulary: All lessons studied and completed!! I will also have most of the month to revise the N2 words and make special study session with Anki.
  • Grammar: only 36 lessons completed… 😬😨 I know I can’t count correctly… 😩 Well, as I will have finished the vocabulary book by the beginning of the month, I will have to use my free Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to complete the Grammar book, too.
  • Kanji: all 1046 kanji learned! The 53 sessions completed!
  • Reading: all 15 lessons completed
  • Listening: only 17 lessons completed, so I will have to make two lessons on the last week-end.

At the end of November, as I will have finished most of the lessons, I will have time to do the mock tests that are at the end of each book.

Conclusion

By making this study plan, I realise that 4 months are very short to go through all the 5 books of the series. I think that I can do it because I already studied for N2, so most of the material will be revisions and not new material to digest. If you are studying for N2 for the first time, I think that 4 months are a little short. But study plans are flexible!

I will try to hold on to this 4 months plan and get a perfect score at the next JLPT.

preparing for JLPT

倍書千恵子~世界の約束

This is the ending song of Howl’s moving castle. The song is sung by 倍賞千恵子・ばいしょうちえこ Baisho Chieko who is a Japanese actress and singer. She also gave her voice to Sophie in the film and interprets both young and old Sophie (two different actresses made the English version). That’s funny because it never occurred to me that the singer who sings the ending song was the actress who gave her voice to Sophie. To me, she has a very different voice when she speaks and when she sings.

Howl’s moving castle is far from being my favourite Ghibli film but it has a fantastic music. I find the ending song very sad, it leaves me with the same melancholy than the ending song of Spirited Away and From up on Poppy Hill.

涙の奥にゆらぐほほえみは
時の始めからの世界の約束

  • 涙・なみだ tears
  • 奥・おく inside, interior
  • ゆらぐ to swing, to sway
  • ほほえみ・微笑み smile (the verb is 微笑む・ほほえむ to smile)
  • 約束・やくそく promise

いまは一人でも二人の昨日から
今日は生まれきらめく
初めて会った日のように

  • 生まれ・うまれ birth (the verb “to be born” is 生まれる・うまれる)
  • きらめくto glitter, to glisten
  • Noun+のように means “like”, “similar to”

思い出のうちにあなたはいない
そよかぜとなって頬に触れてくる

  • 想い出・おもいで memories
  • うち inside
  • そよかぜ・そよかぜ gentle breeze, soft wind
  • I am not sure about “~となる” but I guess it is used together to say “to become”, instead of “~になる”.
  • 頬・ほほ cheek
  • 触れる・ふれる to touch. It is used with the grammar ~てくる which indicates a direction: the gentle breeze comes and touches the cheek.

木漏れ日の午後の別れのあとも
決して終わらない世界の約束

  • 木漏れ日・こもれび sunlight filtering through the trees.
  • 別れ・わかれ parting, separation, farewell
  • 決して・けっして never, by no means
  • 終わる・おわる to end. Here in the negative form 終わらない・おわらない

いまは一人でも明日は限りない
あなたが教えてくれた
夜にひそむやさしさ

  • 限りない・かぎりない endless, boundless, unlimited
  • 教える・おしえる means “to teach”, it is used with the grammar ~てくれる which means that the action made was made for the speaker, I don’t think that it can be translated directly into English.
  • ひそむ to be hidden, to lie dormant
  • 優しい・やさしい means “kind”, “gentle”. By replacing the ending い by さ it transforms the adjective into a noun: the kindness.

思い出のうちにあなたはいない
せせらぎの歌にこの空の色に
花の香りにいつまでも生きて

  • せせらぎ small stream
  • 香り・かおり aroma, fragrance
  • いつまでも forever, eternally
  • 生きて・いきて this grammar form is an imperative form but I wonder if it’s not better to understand it as 生きている with the grammar ~ている that describes a state.

聲の形・こえのかたち

聲の形・こえのかたち, by 大今良時・おおいまよしとき, translated into English as “A Silent Voice”.

As I haven’t yet seen the film adaptation of 聲の形・こえのかたち I decided to have a look at the manga. I am not a big manga reader, and I do not usually like this kind of story but I did enjoy reading the first two volumes. I mainly appreciated the fact that the manga gives a good insight into Japanese school bullying while the focalisation is made on the bully, the boy Shoya. I am also curious to see if Shoya will regain the reader’s approbation. Striving to get closer to the girl he bullied in elementary school, Shoya is also evolving in the reader’s mind, becoming more likeable.

I like the characters of the manga, except for the female protagonist, Shoko, who I find very annoying. Being deaf should not prevent her from expressing her feelings or her way of thinking but she remains (at least in the first two volumes) impenetrable. Is it a characteristic of manga female protagonists?

I will probably stop after the third volume (I just bought the first three volumes – out of 7) but I recommend this manga to anyone looking for something relatively easy to read in Japanese. I like to have some relaxing things to read in Japanese when I don’t feel like reading a novel, and this manga is a perfect choice. The story is easy to follow, so I don’t bother to look out for words I don’t know.

I will probably watch the film, too!

The Korean film Battleship Island in the Japanese news

Today, I have read an article on the NHK News Web about the Korean film untitled Battleship Island who came out today (July 26th) in Korea.

Read the article

Battleship Island is a way to call Hashima Island, an uninhabited island in the prefecture of Nagasaki where Koreans were used as forced labourers by Mitsubishi from the 1930’s until the end of World War II. The island is now inscribed as a World Unesco Heritage site and photos of the remaining concrete buildings are quite impressive.

To understand the first two paragraphs of the article, we need to know some advanced vocabulary:

  • 炭鉱・たんこう coal mine (which were situated on the island)
  • 徴用・ちょうよう requisition, impressment. The term  徴用工・ちょうようこう is used to describe the Korean forced labourers.
  • ~をめぐって concerning, in regard to

… and some grammar like the causative-passive form: 働かされた・はたらかされた which is the shortened form of 働かせられた and means something like “were made to work”.

  • 軍艦島・ぐんかんじま Battleship Island. (another name of Hashima Island, and title of the Korean film)
  • 長崎市・ながさきし Nagasaki
  • 端島炭鉱・はしまたんこう. The first two characters are Hashima, and the last two mean “coal mine”.
  • 過酷な・かこくな cruel, harsh
  • 坑内・こうない within a mine shaft
  • 閉じ込める・とじこめる to lock up, to shut up
  • 爆殺・ばくさつ killing in a bombing
  • 察知する・さっちする to sense (danger)
  • 脱出・だっしゅつ escape

To summarise the first two paragraphs of the article, the Korean film Battleship Island takes as subject 題材・だいざい the Korean forced labourers 徴用工 who were “made to work” in the Japanese coal mines 炭鉱. At the end of the war 終戦・しゅうせん the Japanese army, in order to hide the existence of these labourers, plans to lock them up 閉じ込める in the mine shaft 坑内 and kill them by explosion 爆殺. Sensing danger 察知, the labourers try to escape 脱出.

The article then says that starring big Korean stars, the film promises 見込み・みこみ to become a blockbuster ヒット作.  Among the spectators of the first day, were a girl in her twenties who said that things that occurred on the island were not all made public yet: 明らかになる・あきらかになる means “to become clear”, “to be made public”. A man in his fifties said that Japan had to make apologies 謝罪・しゃざい.

Koreans who were forced-labourers in Japanese industry at that time or their bereaved families 遺族・いぞく keep taking action against 相手取る・あいてどる Japanese enterprises to ask for compensation 賠償・ばいしょう for the damage 損害・そんがい. The article then concludes that the film will raise a negative 否定的・ひていてき public opinion 世論・よろん about Japan’s past history.

That’s it for the article! The release of Battleship Island seems to be quite an issue in Japan as I saw many articles on the subject. It certainly won’t help appeasing the relationship between Japan and Korea…

If you are interested in the film, which does feature Korean drama’s stars, here are the two trailers:

and:

I don’t make any progress 😕

When learning a foreign language, it is easy to get demotivated and give up, especially when one is self-studying. One of the most common causes of demotivation is the belief that we don’t make any progress.

I think that there are two reasons why language learners can have this feeling:

  1. if you don’t study, you are not making measurable progress
  2. if progress means “getting closer to an unreachable goal”, the journey will last forever.

These are some ideas to stay motivated when you feel like you are treading water.

First of all: are you studying?

Before lamenting that your Japanese is not improving and so on, ask yourself if you are really studying. Sometimes, I think “I am fed up with studying because I don’t make any progress anyway”, when the truth is, that I am not making progress because I am not studying.

I wish that I could become fluent by just watching films and reading books but, even if it does help improving one’s reading and listening skills, it’s not enough to take the next step. Reading crime novels will improve my capacity to read crime novels but not my capacity to read the politics section of a newspaper. This requires a new field of vocabulary, difficult grammar, a good knowledge of the current state of affairs and so on.

So, first of all, if you feel demotivated because you don’t feel like you are improving, ask yourself if you are making it happen.

Forget about being fluent, set little goals and enjoy the learning process

If you are studying, you are making progress. But measuring them is hard. If you accept that “being fluent” will take time and in the meanwhile, set little goals easy to reach, you won’t feel like you are far away from your ultimate goal: “being fluent in Japanese”. I think that one should set aside fluency and concentrate on reachable goals. These goals could be “finish the next chapter of my book” or “watch a Japanese film”.

I personally use a notebook where I write down dozens of little goals I want to achieve. Even if measuring one’s progress is hard, it is easy to keep track of achieved goals. A multitude of achievable goals also allows you to feel rewarded often. A feeling that helps to stay motivated.

To go a little further, you should not only see those goals as mere means or intermediate steps to reach “fluency” but enjoy these goals for themselves. I enjoy watching a Japanese film, and I am happy when I can understand a little of what is said. I enjoy reading a book for itself, without asking myself how much reading this book will allow me to improve my Japanese.

To avoid feeling demotivated, surround yourself with personal, meaningful and realistic goals.

Focus on one skill at a time

When you study a language, you certainly make progress, but you are not necessarily improving all your skills at the same pace. To take a personal example, I only focus on reading, and even if I do make progress when reading books, I still feel discouraged every time I listen to the radio in Japanese and don’t understand what is said. After months of learning passive vocabulary and reading books, I think: “I can’t even understand this anime without subtitles, I don’t make any progress!”.

Inevitably, I feel discouraged because I associate two things that are not related. I am used to thinking:

hours and hours spent to learn Japanese = not even able to understand an anime

But the right equation is:

hours spent to train my reading skills = able to read some novels  didn’t study listening = don’t understand the radio, films, anime, etc.

I guess we all make this kind of misappreciation from time to time. It’s a shame to get demotivated because we fail to appreciate our progress.

To avoid being demotivated, we should define our goal and measure our progress concerning this goal. To come back to my own experience, after having been overwhelmed with joy and pride when I first read a Japanese novel from the first page to the last page, I continued reading novels and learning vocabulary. Then I realised that I could not even follow the news on the radio. I felt demotivated because I thought that I was making progress and then I realised (falsely) that I didn’t make any. But the thing is, that I can’t improve my listening skills while making only reading exercises.

Now, I concentrate on listening, and I am already able to measure some progress, not much, but still.

So if you currently feel that you don’t make progress, choose one skill to improve and work on it. Of course, one could say that learning a language implies to feel at ease in every skill, but I am talking here about how to get out of a demotivation phase. It is better to have a disbalance in your skills than to give up.

Vocabulary is an endless road

I personally think that vocabulary is the most discouraging thing when learning a language. You will soon learn all the useful grammar points, but vocabulary never ends. You feel like you know a lot of words, but you are still puzzled by most writing materials, you know 6000 words but still can’t read the newspaper, etc.

Well, there is no miracle: if you want to know enough vocabulary to be able to understand anything, you will have to learn it. I think that it is useless to learn too many words at the same time because there is some kind of “daily potential” concerning vocabulary. You should not exceed this potential, but you should not waste it neither by not using it. Every day spent without learning new words is a day that does not bring you closer to your goal. I think that we all can learn 5 to 10 new words a day, but even 1 or 2 is better than nothing.

Of course, with only 5 new words a day, reading newspaper will take time. But we have to accept that learning a language takes time.

To avoid feeling discouraged, choose material that suits your current vocabulary level and go back to easier material from time to time to enjoy your progress and see how easy this book, this audio, etc. is to you now. You can choose books for children or go for the series called Japanese Graded Reader. I used this series a lot and watched several times some Ghibli films that allowed me to understand dialogues here and there: Whisper of the heart (耳をすませば) is a very easy one. Even a beginner can catch familiar expressions and phrases from time to time, and you can even find the script online (with some research) if you don’t have the Japanese subtitles.

Prepare for the JLPT

A good way to realise that you are indeed making progress is to prepare for the JLPT.

Even if you don’t need to get the JLPT because you are studying Japanese just to be able to watch anime or read manga, sitting the test is a good way to stay motivated and to know where to go next, especially if you are learning on your own.

I will make a comparison with running. When running alone, I can hardly run longer than 10 km. After 10 km I feel that I would die on the spot if I were to continue. But then I participated in a 16km race, and I finished it without difficulty. I was baffled. After that, I heard other people say that running a marathon gives an energy you don’t have when running alone. I feel the same energy when preparing for the JLPT. Even if I am not taking any preparatory class, feeling that hundred of thousands of other Japanese learners are also preparing for the same test boosts my motivation.

Conclusion

I am sure that there are many other ways to measure one’s progress and stay motivated. I just listed some tips that I am applying myself and that work for me. But anyway, don’t forget that “I don’t make any progress” is sometimes an excuse for not studying when not studying is the reason for not making progress. 😛

 

どちらかが彼女を殺した~第5章~2

From page 256 to 269.

Some pages with Detective Kaga! In this part, Kaga and Yasumasa take a drink and allow themselves to talk about other things than the case. Some words are said about Kaga being a famous kendoka, a topic which is covered in more details in the first book of the series: 卒業・そつぎょう

This part’s vocabulary:

  • ぼそぼそ whispering
  • 摑む・つかむ to seize, to catch, to grasp
  • 嚙む・かむ another way to write 噛む to bite.
  • 暗躍・あんやく secret manoeuvring
  • たまたま casually, unexpectedly, accidentally, by chance
  • にやにや grinning, broad grin
  • 尾行・びこう shadow, tail, follow
  • 下心・したごころ secret intention, ulterior motive
  • 割り勘・わりかん splitting the cost
  • ぼちぼち little by little, gradually, slowly
  • 光栄・こうえい honour
  • 誇り・ほこり pride, boast
  • 引け目を感じる・ひきめをかんじる to feel inferior, to feel small
  • 真摯・しんし sincerity, earnestness
  • 殆ど・ほとんど nearly, almost
  • 下戸・げこ someone who can’t drink, non-drinker
  • 窪む・くぼむ to cave in
  • 眼窩・がんか eye socket, orbit
  • 張り込み・はりこみ stakeout
  • 気障な・きざな affected, pompous, conceited
  • 悪戯・いたずら mischief (not used to see this word written with kanji)
  • 芽生える・めばえる to bud, to sprout
  • 厄介・やっかい trouble, nuisance, bother
  • 咄嗟・とっさ moment, instant

平原綾香・いのちの名前

いのちのなまえ is the vocal version of the famous theme あの夏へ・あのなつへ from Spirited Away. Composed by Joe Hisaishi, the vocal version is sung by 平原綾香・ひらはらあやか Hirahara Ayaka. Music takes such an important place in Miyasaki’s film and Joe Hisaishi’s compositions confer to the story its emotional colours that make every film unique and so full of affecting echoes.

Lyrics:

青空に線を引く
ひこうき雲の白さは
ずっとどこまでも ずっと続いてく
明日を知っていたみたい

  • 青空・あおぞら blue sky
  • 線・せん line
  • 引く・ひく which first sense is “to pull” also means “to draw” (a line).
  • 飛行機・ひこうき here written in hiragana is “a plane”
  • 雲・くも cloud
  • 白さ・しろさ comes from the adjective 白い. By replacing the い ending by さ, the adjective is nominalized: the whiteness.
  • ずっと means “continuously for a long distance”, “throughout”, “all along”.
  • 続く・つづく means “to continue” and is here in the form “ていく”, the い being omitted: it continues and goes away.
  • 明日・あす note that she uses the other pronunciation of あした.
  • 知っていた・しっていた simply here the form “ている” which means “to be doing sth”, “to be in a state of” in the past tense.
  • みたい like, similar to, as if.

胸で浅く息をしてた
熱い頬 さました風も おぼえてる

  • 胸・むね chest, breast
  • 浅く・あさく comes from the adjective 浅い・あさい which means “shallow”. By replacing the い ending by く you change the adjective into an adverb.
  • 息をする・いきをする to breathe. Here again, the grammar ている which means “to be doing sth” in the past tense. The い is omitted, it should be: していた
  • 頬・ほお cheek
  • 冷ます・さます to cool, to let cool, to dampen. Past tense: the wind that cooled my hot cheeks.
  • 覚える・おぼえる means “to memorise” but in the form ている, it means “to be in the state of having memorised” i.e: to remember. Here again, the い is omitted. The ending “て” is just the form to say “and”, I think.

未来の前にすくむ手足は
静かな声にほどかれて
叫びたいほど なつかしいのは
ひとつのいのち
真夏の光
あなたの肩に 揺れていた木漏れ日

  • 未来・みらい the future
  • すくむ to cower, to be cramped
  • 手足・てあし hands and feet
  • ほどく means “to unfasten”, “to untie”. ほどかれる is the passive form of the verb ほどく: to be unfastened. The subject that is unfastened is “the hands and feet that were cramped, tied, bound” and they are unfastened by (に) a calm voice.
  • 叫ぶ・さけぶ means “to shout”, “to cry” and is here in the form masu-たい which means “to want to”.
  • ほど means “extend”, “to the extent”. Here it means that sth is so… that…/to the extent that…, and more precisely: it is so missed and desired that I want to cry.
  • 懐かしい・なつかしい desired, missed, it is used to express the nostalgy felt when thinking of the past.
  • ひとつ “one” when counting things
  • 命・いのち life
  • 真夏・まなつ Midsummer
  • 肩・かた shoulder
  • 揺れる・ゆれる to shake, to sway. Here again, the form ている in the past tense.
  • 木漏れ日・こもれび sunlight filtering through trees.

つぶれた白いボール
風が散らした花びら
ふたつを浮かべて 見えない川は
歌いながら流れてく

  • つぶれる to be smashed, to become useless
  • 散らす・ちらす to scatter, to disperse, to spread
  • 花びら・はなびら flower petals
  • ふたつ “two” when counting things
  • 浮かべる・うかべる to float
  • 見える・みえる to be seen, to be in sight, here in the negative form.
  • 川・かわ river
  • 歌う・うたう means “to sing” and is here in the form “masu+ながら” which means “while”, meaning that two actions are done at the same time.
  • 流れる・ながれる means “to stream”, “to flow”. The form ていく with the い omitted conveys the idea that it flows away.

秘密も嘘も喜びも
宇宙が生んだ神さまの 子供たち

  • 秘密・ひみつ secret
  • 嘘・うそ lie
  • 喜び・よろこび joy
  • 宇宙・うちゅう universe, the cosmos
  • 生む・うむ to give birth, to produce
  • 神さま・かみさま god

未来の前にすくむ心が
いつか名前を思い出す
叫びたいほど いとおしいのは
ひとつのいのち
帰りつく場所
わたしの指に 消えない夏の日

  • いつか sometime, someday, one day
  • 思い出す・おもいだす to recall, to remember
  • いとおしい sweet, precious, lovely
  • 帰り着く・かえりつく to arrive home, to return
  • 場所・ばしょ place, location
  • 指・ゆび finger
  • 消える・きえる to vanish, to disappear

How to add an audiobook (mp3) to your iBooks library

I said some days ago, that I wanted to buy an audiobook in Japanese and have it available on my phone to listen to it often. Well, I bought an audiobook on the site febe.jp, which is a site that sells Japanese audiobooks. I bought 世界から猫が消えたなら and I am very satisfied with it. The narrator speaks in a clear voice, other characters’ voices are made by different actors and the overall quality is really good. I will certainly make a review of it in some time.

But then, I encountered a problem: I could not listen to this audiobook on my iPhone. It took me some time to figure out how to do it, so I thought it might help other people too if I explained the procedure.

When you buy an audiobook on the site febe.jp, you can download it in mp3, which is a good thing because you can easily listen to it on any music player. If you are using iTunes, just import the file into your iTunes library and you can listen to your audiobook on your computer, with iTunes. So far, so good, but it won’t synchronise with your phone. Your iTunes library will tell you that it cannot send your audiobook in the cloud. I don’t know why, but it is so. What you have to do is go to “edit the information” of your audiobook (where you can change the title and so on) and choose “option”. You can tell iTunes that this file is not “music” but “audiobook”. If you do so, it will disappear from your music section and appear in your audiobook section. There, you can send it to the cloud. BUT, it still won’t synchronise with your iPhone, certainly because it is a mp3 and iTunes’ audiobook files are all m4b. BUT you don’t need to convert your file, just connect your iPhone to your computer and synchronise manually (go to the audiobook section of your iPhone on iTunes and choose “synchronise”). On your iPhone, you won’t be able to listen to your audiobook on iTunes, it will be in your app iBooks (which is much better because it remembers where you stopped the last time you listened to an audiobook, and starts from there).

It is very easy to do really, once one knows how to do it. Until now, I had audiobooks in iTunes on my computer but I hadn’t them on my phone and, as a consequence, was not listening to them often (except for those that I bought directly through the app iBooks but, as I am not using the Japanese store, there isn’t much choice).

Anyway, transferring an audiobook in mp3 in your library iBooks is simple and quick! No excuses to not listen to Japanese now!

すーちゃん~11

From page 73 to 79.

In this story, Mai is having a hard time and talks about those little wounds people inflict carelessly to others.

  • ため息・ためいき sigh

Mai is saying (quoting someone to be exact) that: “ため息一つで幸せもひとつ逃げる” which I translate literally as: “with one sigh, one happiness runs away” or, less literally “each sigh makes your happiness run away from you”. It seems to be a very well known saying, even if I couldn’t find who said it for the first time. Anyway, it’s frightening, I think.

  • 窒息・ちっそく suffocation

As Mai says, the only way to go through it is to tell oneself that everybody is experiencing stress, that suffering from stress is normal. That’s even more frightening.

  • うんざり being fed up with. This is a word I learnt with my JLPT N2 study, I always feel rewarding to encounter a word learnt recently
  • 正解・せいかい correct, right
  • 宅配・たくはい home delivery

Her male colleague and superior is telling Mai that she has a rough skin. 肌荒れ・はだあれ means dry, rough, bad skin. The colleague said that casually without the intention to hurt her. Some people are eager to comment openly on others and inflict wounds unconcerned and unaware of the other’s feeling. For those who don’t have the courage or cannot respond, it only mutilates their confidence.

  • なにげない casual, unconcerned, nonchalant
  • 青春・せいしゅん youth, springtime of life
  • ニキビ pimple, acne
  • 片寄る・かたよる to be one-sided. When talking about meals, it means unbalanced. Another word learnt from my N2 vocabulary book!
  • 梅雨・つゆ rainy season

 

Listen, listen, listen

Why I don’t listen to enough Japanese

I have always considered the listening skill to be the easiest one to improve while self-studying. It does not require a professor and it is easy to find listening material on the internet. I also think that listening a lot, even without making special efforts to understand everything, is enough to progress. In this regard, listening should be easier than reading, which requires effort and concentration.

So the question is: why am I totally at a loss when it comes to understanding what I am listening to? The obvious answer is: because I don’t listen to enough Japanese on a daily basis. Then comes a new question: why not? why not listen to some Japanese every day? I can’t even answer “because I’m lazy” for the reason that listening does not require much effort.

After thinking a lot about it I came to the conclusion that

  1. I don’t know what to listen to, maybe because there is so much choice I don’t know what to pick or I start listening to a little of everything and persevere in nothing.
  2. I try to force myself to listen to material that does not interest me. It’s the same for reading. At the beginning, when I still thought that a novel would be too difficult, I forced myself to read easier material like magazines articles. But the fact it that I don’t enjoy reading magazines. I never read magazines in Fench. So how could I enjoy reading magazines in Japanese? I really made progress in reading when I struggled my way through my first novel in Japanese. It was a detective novel, a genre that I like very much. Of course, it was much more difficult than reading a magazine article but I didn’t have to force myself to go back to my book (compared to all the magazines left untouched) and I really wanted to know what would happen next. The conclusion is that when we pick a material, out taste should prevail upon the difficulty level (I mean, be reasonable). Why I haven’t applied this principle to listening, I still don’t understand. But it is never too late, and I will start now.
  3. I am too lazy to search for an audio when I have time to listen to Japanese. Let’s say it’s time to cook, I know that I will have between 30 minutes and one hour before me when my brain will be available to listen to some Japanese (cutting vegetables does not require all my concentration). So I should start a podcast and there we go. The problem is, that I don’t have a favourite podcast and looking for it will take too much time so I just give up. Having material close at hand should resolve this problem.

What I have to do

Obviously, I have to select material I want to listen to and make it easily accessible. After a week or two, I will see what works (ie what I listened to a lot) and suppress what doesn’t work from my list. Here, I hear myself make an objection: Shouldn’t I listen to as many different formats as possible in order to get used to a lot of speaking contexts: narration, dialogue, radio, anime, and so on. But if I do so, we come back to our problem number 1 and 2: too much material to listen to and contents that I don’t like. And anyway, listening to just one type of material is better than what I am doing now, which is almost nothing. Wanting to do too much, often equals to do nothing. So even if listening to a lot of different things would be optimal, let’s begin with a reasonable range of things that I like.

In my case, what I want to listen to are audiobooks and if possible, from novels. I don’t mind buying 2 or 3 audiobooks that I really like and want to listen to, even if a lot of material can be obtained for free. As I said before, I tend to be discouraged when facing tonnes of contents that don’t interest me. Let’s go for a small amount of carefully chosen audiobooks. And of course, they will have to be accessible from my phone, so that I can listen to them anywhere.

The advantage of audiobooks is that there is nothing else than a narrator talking in Japanese. I have a lot of audio tracks from textbooks which all start with 1 minute of jingle and unnecessary explanations about how you should listen to the text and repeat or answer the questions. It really is irritated. Sometimes, I say to myself that I should take a textbook CD (for example, a JLPT N2 CD) and edit the tracks to keep only the text. But I haven’t taken the time to do it yet…

So what I am going to do is:

  • Find an audiobook I want to listen to and put it on my phone.
  • Have a look at the podcasts that I can find and, if I find one or two that seem interesting, follow them.

It’s not much, but it won’t take too much time and it’s a good start.

Conclusion

Those were very personal thoughts but I think it can apply to other Japanese learners, too (or any language learner). I will come backs with a list of things that I listen to, there may be interesting titles in it!

いつも何度でも~木村弓

いつもなんどでも・いつもなんどでも is the ending song of Spirited Away. It is sung by 木村弓・きむらゆみ Kimura Yumi. It is certainly one of the most beautiful songs that appear in Ghibli films. The melody as much as the lyrics embody the melancholy that lingers at the end of Spirited Away, the feeling that you left the magic behind.

Lyrics:

呼んでいる 胸のどこか奥で
いつも心踊る 夢を見たい

  • 呼ぶ・よぶ to call, here in the form ~て いる, meaning “calling”
  • 胸・むね chest
  • どこか means “somewhere”
  • 奥・おく inside
  • 心躍る・こころおどる which literally means “the heart dances” means “to be excited”.
  • 夢を見る・ゆめをみる means “to dream”, literally “to see a dream”. Here it is used in the form “masu-たい” which means “to want to”.

悲しみは 数えきれないけれど
その向こうできっと あなたに会える

  • 悲しみ・かなしみ sadness, sorrow
  • 数える・かぞえる to count, to enumerate. It is used with the grammar “masu- きれない” which means “being too much or too many to finish or complete”.
  • 向こう・むこう opposite side, other side, over there, far away
  • きっと almost certainly
  • 会う・あう means “to meet” and 会える is the potential form meaning “being able to meet”.

繰り返すあやまちの そのたびひとは
ただ青い空の 青さを知る
果てしなく 道は続いて見えるけれど
この両手は 光を抱ける

  • 繰り返す・くりかえす to repeat, to do something over again
  • あやまち fault, error, faux pas
  • そのたび each time
  • ただ only, merely, just, simply
  • 青さ・あおさ the -さ ending is used to nominalize the adjective 青い.
  • 果てしなく・はてしなく eternally, interminably
  • 続いて・つずいて comes from the verb 続く・つずく to continue. I think it means that the road looks like it continues eternally.
  • 両手・りょうて both hands
  • 抱ける・だける is the potential form of 抱く・だく to embrace, to hold in the arms.

さよならのときの 静かな胸
ゼロになるからだが 耳をすませる

  • 静かな・しずかな quiet, calm
  • からだ means “body” but I wonder if it could not be understood as “soul” here.
  • 耳をすます・みみをすます to listen carefully. Here again, we have the potential form “すませる” of the verb “すます”

生きている不思議 死んでいく不思議
花も風も街も みんなおなじ

  • 生きている・いきている is the form “ている” which means “to be doing something” or describes a state.
  • 死んでいく・しんでいく uses the grammar “ていく” which is hard to explain but includes some kind of movement away from the speaker. Like “dying away”?
  • 不思議・ふしぎ can mean “wonder”, “miracle”, “mystery”.
  • 街・まち can mean “town” and “street”
  • おなじ means “same”, “identical” and is usually written 同じ・おなじ

ラララララララララ・・・・・・・・・
ホホホホルルルル・・・・・・・・

呼んでいる 胸のどこか奥で
いつも何度でも 夢を描こう

  • 何度でも・なんどでも means “several times”, “again and again”
  • 描く・かく to draw. The ending おう means “let’s…”

悲しみの数を 言い尽くすより
同じくちびるで そっとうたおう

  • 数・かず number, amount
  • 言い尽くす・いいつくす to tell all, to give a full account
  • より here it means “instead of”
  • くちびる lips, the kanji is 唇
  • そっと softly, gently, quietly
  • うたおう here again, the おう ending of the verb 歌う・うたう to sing, express the will to do something, the act of willing, and can be translated as “let’s…”

閉じていく思い出の そのなかにいつも
忘れたくない ささやきを聞く
こなごなに砕かれた 鏡の上にも
新しい景色が 映される

  • 閉じる・とじる to close. Here again, we find the grammar ていく. I must admit that the meaning is hard to grasp, at least to me. Maybe, if memories (想い出・おもいで) are closed, they get away from me, they tend to fly away?
  • 想い出・おもいで memories
  • 忘れる・わすれる to forget. It is here in the form 忘れたい which means “to want to” (masu- たい) but in the negative form. The negative form of this grammar is the same as an i- adjective. Just drop the “i” and add くない for casual form. 忘れたいくない means “don’t want to forget”.
  • ささやき means “whisper”, “murmur”.

It confirms, I think, the idea that the memories are “closing away”, fading away because they are closed, meaning that they are past memories that nothing reactivate, that don’t come to life anymore. But inside those fading away memories, there is this whisper the singer hears and don’t want to forget.

Maybe I am giving too much meaning to the grammar ていく, maybe it does convey the idea of moving away from the narrator…

  • こなごな砕く・こなこなにくだく “to smash to pieces”. “こなごな means “in very small pieces” and 砕く・くだく “to break”, “to smash”. Here, the verb 砕く・くだく is in the passive form: 砕かれる・くだかれる: to be smashed (to pieces), in the past tense.
  • 鏡・かがみ mirror
  • 景色・けしき scenery
  • 映す・うつす to project, to reflect. Here again, it is the passive form 映される・うつされる that we have: to be reflected.

はじまりの朝の 静かな窓
ゼロになるからだ 充たされてゆけ

  • はじまり beginning, origin
  • 朝・あさ morning
  • 窓・まど window
  • 充たす・みたす means “to fill”. Here again, the passive form: 充たされる・みたされる “to be filled”. As for the ending “てゆけ”, I am not sure, but my guess is that we have the grammar “ていく” once again, but the “い” is pronounced “ゆ”. The ending in “え” is certainly the imperative form. So, we would have something like “be filled (again) and go away”, meaning that her empty body (that became “zero”) will be filled again and go on living, go on with life. (?)

海の彼方には もう探さない
輝くものは いつもここに
わたしのなかに 見つけられたから

  • 彼方・かなた beyond, across, the other side
  • もう used with a negative verb means “not anymore”
  • 探す・さがす to search, to look for. In the negative form.
  • 輝く・かがやくto shine, to glitter, to sparkle
  • 見付ける・みつける to discover, to find. Here in the passive form 見つけられる・みつけられる “to be discovered”.