I’ve been pretty much immersing myself in Japanese culture recently thanks to the various games I’ve been playing. Between Yakuza 3, School Days HQ and the Persona 4 anime that I’ve just started watching in preparation for Persona 4 Arena’s delayed European release, it’s been super-Eastern around here, to the extent that it actually felt a bit strange to boot up Guild Wars 2 earlier and hear people speaking English.
I would like to learn Japanese. I have been saying this for years, but worrying about it being difficult has stopped me on several occasions. I have, however, now found a decent iOS app (Human Japanese) that walks you through both the spoken and written forms of the language, so I will use that to give myself a good introduction and then see where I need to go after that. I am trying to devote a few sessions per week — ideally each day, but that’s not always practical — to studying. So far I have learned how to write the hiragana for the vowels, which is more hiragana than I have ever learned. I would type some to prove it, but I have no idea how to type Japanese characters on a computer as yet (except by copy and pasting from Google Translate, which is how I got the title for this post), so we’ll cross that bridge at a later time.
What I’ve found, however, is that through immersing myself in Japanese media, I’ve actually picked up a surprising number of words and phrases. Okay, I can’t spell them, write them in Japanese script or, in many cases, even say them properly, but I recognise plenty of words and phrases. Words like “densetsu” (legend), which I first came across when I heard the Japanese name of Secret of Mana — Seiken Densetsu, literally Legend of the Holy Sword. For quite a while I didn’t know that “densetsu” meant “legend” but I picked it up somehow, meaning that when someone in School Days HQ mentioned a “legendary break room” in the subtitles, I deduced that the part of the Japanese sentence that meant that bit was densetsu no kyuukeishitsu. (I know Romanji sucks, but it’s all I’ve got right now, yo!) I knew that the “no” after “densetsu” meant that “legend” was being used to describe another word (essentially the equivalent of tweaking a noun to become an adjective in English) so therefore I figured that kyuukeishitsu means “break room”. And sure enough, it does. Hurrah for apparently having the right kind of mind to work out language.
There’s a few other phrases I’ve picked up from Japanese media, too, some of which might even be useful. I can say hello in various ways (konnichiwa, osu! (tatakae! Oueeeeeendaaaaaaaa– wait, no)), good morning (ohayou!), sorry (gomen nasai), yes (hai), no (iie, pronounced confusingly similar to someone saying “yeah” hesitantly), goodbye (sayonara — if you’ve never studied any Japanese before I was as surprised as you are that it’s an actual word in another language rather than a made-up one) and express gratitude before a meal (itadakimasu, apparently bellowed by everyone before diving into one’s bento if School Days HQ is anything to go by). Oh, and strawberry (ichigo). And laughing like a shy schoolgirl (ufufufufu!).
Now all I need to be able to do is 1) incorporate these snippets and phrases into actual Japanese conversation and 2) be able to figure out how to write them in scary squiggly script. Both of those things will probably involve a lot of practice, so if I start talking about the densetsu no bento next time I’m having lunch with you, gomen nasai.