Let’s tackle the bottom of page 1 today which seems to be a thought bubble for Kyon on initial glance. Japanese is read from right to left and vertically from the top to bottom. This is a little disorienting at first but you find it quick to get used to. For the sake of brevity lets do only the first line starting from the left. (BTW, clicking on the image at left will get ypou to the higher res version)

Taking advantage of the furigana we have So no “ore” wa (ha) yoko ninatsute.  Japanese use those sort of half brackets as quotation marks. Sono translates as “that”, ore the kanji in brackets is an informal for man or male person. Wa (hiragana is “ha” but it is pronounced “wa”) means is. the second kanji is yoko or side. The string of hiragana after is ni na tsu te. Plugging this into Google translate is comes out as “the summer to”

Broken English translation is That man is the summer to. Which doesn’t make a whol;e lot of sense as is. So we are going to hold off on trying to translate that into plain English from the broken until we get the rest of the lines translated and can see what the other lines are talking about. Japanese often does not have a word for word translation into English and this makes translating an art instead of a science.

What kind of Apps are available for the Android smartphone crowd wanting to learn or practice Japanese? and more importantly what can we get for a budget. Even though the Android market is relatively new compared to the iPhone’s there are a lot of apps available for the study of Nihongo. Two of the ones I have tried just recently and like:

Robert Muth’s Kana Drill. The basic demo version is complete for Hiragana for free with a paid upgrade to include the Katakana syllabary. The app is simply for review of the kana syllabaries. A hiragana symbol appears at the top and the user has seconds in which to match it to the romanji pronunciation. The options allows you to set the time and the number of rounds and alter the number of rows that the kana are used in the drill. A very simple and effective free app that I have been using quite a bit to learn kana.

Survive! Japanese Lite is a little adventure game for learning basic hiragana, vocabulary and common phrases. This is a nice little adventure style game that puts the player/user into daily situations that would occur in Japan and uses both audio and text to teach basic Japanese. Very simple and fun idea, the basic game is free with the full version as a paid upgrade. The game begins with the user disembarking at Narita airport after flying into Japan and a little adventure awaits. Very highly recommended little game. The company also makes other study Japanese related apps.

These are just two of the better free apps available for Android, surely more to come as the developers come into Android.

This is the first post of the translation practise series. Lets dive right in. The scan we are using is the opening page of a Melancholy of Haruhi Suzimiya page from an issue of Shonen Ace.

Working into the first frame of the scan, (Japanese is read from right to left and vertically from the top to bottom) The first line is all Hiragana text and in romanji is read as shikashi maa. The second line is mixed with a kanji and hiragana. In manga aimed at younger people there are often little hiragana symbols printed next to or above to help with the exact pronunciation of the kanji. Taking advantage of this the kanji -hiragana is nan to iu.

The first line – shikashi is an interjection roughly equivalent to however or but and the maa is a feminine injection. So this translates as, running shikashi maa through Google Translate (free webtools FTW!), “but well” with an emphasis on the softer pronunciation since its a girl (Mikuru?) speaking.

The second line is Nan to iu. Looking up Nan in a Kanji Dictionary (or running it through Google Translate) we get “what” with to iu being modifiers. This is where being new to the language hurts a little, Running nan to iu through Google comes out as ‘sake’ (not the rice alcohol). Generally to iu is a modifier that sets up what follows (or previous stated) as ‘what happened’. It does not have a direct translation. Mikuru is setting up the rest of the dialogue in the boxes on the page.

This is why translating is an art, not a science. Japanese with all its use of modifiers and particles does not always translate in a word-for-word manner.

As always comments and clarifications are welcome. Please help us all by giving your input.

Haruhi Scan

Rainbow Hill Language Lab had an excellent blog post up on learning Japanese through reading. He makes the point of Japanese being easier to read than listen to because of the way words run together. There being no way to pause or rewind an audible conversation, it is a leap to listen to a speaker just talking in his (or her) language with a limited vocabulary and even with that it can still be a challenge: just listen to the rapid fire Japanese of manga live reader Rikimaru Toho in the video. Learning Japanese through reading can help to overcome this because you are able to slow down and look something up and return to the  text and pick up where you left off.

To learn any language you need massive amounts of authentic input, and it helps if it is something that you find interesting. This is especially important if you are not living in a place where you are constantly exposed to the language you want to speak.

If the only Japanese you read is in the classes that you go to, the rate you learn new words is going to be pretty low. I make a point in my lessons on eduFire of using words that most people in the class already know. This is so we can focus on practice, without getting hung up on explanations of new vocabulary.

When you read you are going to be exposed to may more words than you would if you were just listening to a conversation. You are also going to be exposed to Japanese that is authentic and without error. Manga is almost 100% dialogue, and depending what genre of manga you read, an accurate picture of modern Japanese spoken today.

Coming soon to this blog – an series of scans from an old Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya manga starting with the above page. Practise with a purpose.

readkanjitodayI picked up Len Walsh’s Read Japanese Today in the bookstore on a whim one day. I loved his historical approach to learing kanji. He goes into the history of how each character was written in China and how it evolved to its current form. This really gives you a good way to remember each kanji. Not just a simple mnemonic but the history and evolution of the kanji which is rooted in the actual depiction so it helps you remember how to write it too.

japanesethemangawayI have been reading Japanese the Manga Way by Wayne Lammers recently. Lammers uses a wide variety of manga to illustrate the topics under discussion. He also uses the four line method of translation which I prefer.  The four line method is to give the kana/kanji original on the first line, then the romaji phonetics on the second line, then the direct english translation on the third, then the correct and proper english on the fourth line. The manga comics also supplement the topics very well; giving good examples to explain the topics at hand. It is hard for the typical westerner to grasp the politeness levels in Japanese (choices of words changes based on the relationship between the speaker and the listener which can imply a lot in terms of the story, understanding it is a must).