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Happy Friday everyone!  I probably say that every Friday but…well, every Friday is happy, so it’s appropriate.

For Friday’s Featured Language, I am very happy to have Nozomi!  Nozomi grew up in Japan, in Kanawaga Prefecture (near Tokyo), speaking Japanese.  She started studying English in junior high and English was mandatory through high school, but she says the way the language was taught made it very difficult to actually learn, so she doesn’t think she really learned to speak English until she turned 18.  Currently she lives in Michigan and speaks English with her husband and Japanese to her son.

Japanese has three script systems: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji.  Both Hiragana and Katakana have 46 characters each, while the current system of Kanji includes about 50,000!  Despite what I would think is a bewildering writing system, Nozomi says that we would be surprised that skim reading is easy in Japanese, as most content words are Kanjis and Kanjis are ideographic, “so even if you do not know how to read them, you can guess the meanings.”  Only about 2,000 Kanjis are in everyday use, and Nozomi says that elementary students learn about 1,000 while the average Japanese adult has command of about 3,000.  As if that weren’t already a cognitive feat, Nozomi notes that “many of the Kanjis have complicated forms and are pronounced in several different ways!”

On the other hand, Nozomi says Japanese grammar is very easy, and pronunciation is pretty straightforward.  And she assures her students that they do not need to know all the Kanjis immediately; at first, students can read and write in Hiragana and Katakana scripts, which are phonetic systems, so much easier to pick up.  She loves Japanese and loves teaching it!  Her website is full of basic information on Japanese and some fun language practice.  When I asked her if there was anything she wanted to say to my blog readers, she said “Let’s study Japanese!  I will be there to help you out!”

The language sample Nozomi selected is a poem written by Misuzu Kaneko in 1928. Nozomi says, “Even though her poems were written long time ago, many of them still move our heart and make us think about life in general.  This poem was used as a TV commercial after 3/11 last year, healing Japanese hearts who were suffering from the unexpected natural disaster.  I think in this modern society where people are just busy about themselves, we need to think about others and be nice to each other.  If we are nice to others, they would respond just like an echo.”

『こだまでしょうか』

「遊ぼう」っていうと
「遊ぼう」っていう。

「馬鹿」っていうと
「馬鹿」っていう。

「もう遊ばない」っていうと
「遊ばない」っていう。

そうして、あとで
さみしくなって、

「ごめんね」っていうと
「ごめんね」っていう。

こだまでしょうか、
いいえ、誰でも。

Transliteration:
<Kodama de shooka>

“Asobo”tte iuto
“Asobo”tte iu

“Baka”tte iuto
“Baka”tteiu

“Moo asobanai”tte iuto
“Asobanai”tte iu

Soushite atode
Samishiku natte

“Gomenne”tteiuto
“Gomenne”tteiu

Kodama de shooka
Iie, daredemo

English Translation:
<Are they echoes?>

When I say, “Let’s play “
You say, “Let’s play”

When I say, “Stupid”
You say, “Stupid”

When I say, “I don’t want to play with you anymore”
You say, “I don’t want to play with you”

Then later
I feel sad

Then I say, “I am Sorry”
You say, “I’m sorry”

Are they echoes?
No, true for anyone

In addition to this beautiful language sample, Nozomi wanted to share this video with us:


It is a thank you message from some of the victims of the March 11th, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.  Please make sure you have lots of tissues handy, and maybe don’t watch it at work – it is a tearjerker.  (I’m kind of glad no one was around to see what a mess I was when I was watching it.)  But it is so lovely, and touching, and even polyglossic!

Thank you so much Nozomi for sharing your language and your culture with us.  Arigato!

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