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Japanese Dialects

Japan has a wide variety of distinctive regional dialects. While the spread of standard Japanese, referred to as hyōjungo, has made it easier for people from different areas to communicate, many feel that local vernaculars convey greater warmth and friendliness.
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Talking About The Emperor in JapaneseRichard Medhurst

When service assistants talk to customers in Japan, they show courtesy by using honorific language, known as keigo. If the customer is king, appropriate deference is required. A discrepancy in rank—whether in a brief service interaction or within a company—brings into play different vocabulary than that used in casual, everyday conversation. It can take time even for a Japanese graduate new to t…
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Free Apps for Studying Japanese

There are many free smartphone apps available for learning Japanese. This article introduces some of the better options.
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“Yojijukugo”: The Compressed Poetry of Four-Character IdiomsRichard Medhurst

“Fall down seven times, stand up eight” has become a popular inspirational quote in English, extolling the virtues of perseverance in the face of repeated setbacks. An online search for related images will find countless motivational posters as well as a few tattoos. It is a translation of 七転八起 (shichiten hakki),(*1) one example of a yojijukugo, or four-character idiomatic compound. As the na…
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Kyoto’s Museum for Kanji Lovers

The Kanji Museum in Kyoto opened on June 29, 2016. The new facility includes many interactive exhibits and displays giving the history of the characters in China and Japan.
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Learning Japanese with Manga Author Umino Nagiko

Umino Nagiko’s bestselling manga Nihonjin no shiranai Nihongo (The Japanese the Japanese Don’t Know) was based on her experience teaching Japanese to international students. In an interview with Nippon.com, she gives learning tips and shares unusual words from the fringes of the Japanese language.
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How Japanese Children Learn KanjiRichard Medhurst

During their six years in elementary school, Japanese children learn over 1,000 kanji. In this time, they greatly increase their reading sophistication, moving from picture books to short novels and simple biographies. Characters are all around them and often graded to their level, whether they are taking lessons in social studies or other subjects, practicing calligraphy, or even reading manga …
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Sounds to See and Feel: Japanese Onomatopoeia and BeyondRichard Medhurst

Potsu potsu, the rain begins to fall. People open umbrellas as it continues to drizzle, shito shito, and quicken their pace as it drops steadily, para para, before dashing for shelter as the skies open and water pours down, zā zā, on their heads. The Japanese language has a huge number of phrases for describing sound—with many more onomatopoeic words than English—as well as similar words that g…
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Tokyo’s Multiplying Ethnic Enclaves

South Korean soccer fans drew people and attention to Tokyo's Koreatown in Shin-Ōkubo during the 2002 FIFA World Cup. In the years since then, Japan's capital has seen a proliferation of foreign communities.
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Making It Memorable: Japanese Mnemonics for Dates and KanjiRichard Medhurst

Sometimes memory needs a helping hand. While English speakers use “Thirty Days Has September” to remember which are the shorter months, the equivalent for young Japanese children is the phrase nishi muku samurai (the samurai looking west). First of all, ni, shi, mu, and ku sound like the numbers two, four, six, and nine, representing nigatsu (February), shigatsu (April), rokugatsu (June), and ku…
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