Translation:Welcome to Japan!
Good ear! I’m amazed the robot voice could do this. Think of it this way: Do we say “a apple?” There is a flap of skin over the trachea (your wind pipe) that keeps you from inhaling food. This is called the epiglottis. When you say the word “ugh” like you’ve just been hit in the stomach, you will hear the epiglottis slamming against the wind pipe in what we call a “glottal stop.” (Try it aloud!) A lot of languages don’t like the glottal stop, so we add an “n” to make “an apple” in English.
Now, normally, Japanese doesn’t mind the glottal stop so much. Take a listen to any pop song, and pay special attention to words with little っ. But taking syllable ん – this is called a “liquid consonant” because, like liquid flowing, you can draw this sound out forever – the ん in Japanese isn’t the hard “n” that we pronounce in English. It’s a lighter tongue flap to the roof of your mouth (and even sometimes resembles an “m” sound, with very little tongue flap at all.) To keep the glottal stop from occurring right before a vowel, you’ll hear a teeny teeny teeny miniscule bit of a “y” sound. I would recommend don’t deliberately try to do it; just be aware of it, and as you lose your 外国人 accent, it will become natural.
In a tangent story, but just an example of this: When the Jesuits came to Japan a few hundred years ago, and were writing Japanese down in the Roman alphabet (See? They were from Rome. That’s why it’s called ローマ字… I digress yet again…) They were trying to write down every word they heard. When it came to money and they asked what a coin was, the Japanese said, 一円（いちえん）. Because there were two vowels together (and no glottal stop), the Jesuits heard a “y” in there. They had already figured out the word for “one,” so they assumed the money was “yen.”
Whenever I start waxing poetic on geeky stuff like this, my students usually make a rainbow sign with their arms and say, “The more you know.” I will imagine that they are doing that now.
Thank you for that! Can you recommend a source (in English) for more of this stuff? E.g., when I started to learn Japanese I was wondering if there was a glottal stop between two words ending respectively starting with the same vowel, but couldn't find any information about it. I am aware that you finally figure those details out by listening to Japanese a lot. But I guess I am kind of a perfectionist and want to straighten it out right away.
The only thing I can say, Ultorex, is to find yourself a geeky teacher like me. Crash a college class, but not necessarily a Japanese class; a good intro to linguistics, especially phonetics, might get you a few nuggets. I had one linguistics class that was basically, "Let's look at as many languages as we can, examining a new one every two or three weeks." Eventually, we got around to Japanese. (The professor let me help teach that section. Oh! The coolest thing ever was that we also had a native Navajo speaker in class, and she got to do the Navajo section. I NEVER would have understood a textbook talking about Navajo.)
This was, of course, long before YouTube existed. How did I ever learn anything before the internet?
At any rate, as for glottal stops: No, there are no glottal stops between vowels. The language is an "open syllabic" language, where every syllable will end with a vowel (see footnote), so that would hurt your epiglottis if it were constant. (footnote: The only exception is ん, which is considered to be a whole syllable.)
The place where you WILL hear a lot of glottal stops is in singing. This was very hard for me to get the hang of, because in English we avoid glottal stops in singing at all costs! So I was very trained to not do it. Whenever you have っ before a consonant in a song, it will often become a glottal stop.
Getting back to our friend ん, this was another hard thing in music I had to train myself out of. Since it is considered to be a whole syllable, you need to "close" on it and hold it out. When singing in English, you should hold the vowel as long as possible, and then give a little tongue flap on the "n." Totally opposite!
Hmmm... Maybe we geeky people should start a YouTube channel. ;) What would we hypothetically put in it?
Here are my current thoughts for topics. Please add what else you want to learn:
-How the written Japanese language evolved
-What exactly is 「です」 (It's not technically a verb) and how does it work?
-How to tell the difference between a 1-step verb and a 5-step verb
-Now that you know the difference between the two verbs, how to inflect any verb for any situation (Instant fluency!）
-Now that you know how verbs work, how い-adjectives work
What's the difference between い-adjectives and な-adjectives
How to turn any adjective into an adverb
Transition words and how they work
Each and every particle explained in nauseating detail
Stroke order for かんじ, why it's important, and how to use a Japanese dictionary to look up かんじ
...Add more, please. Next week, I will poll my students and we will start the ball rolling.
:) Tell you what -- I'm teaching summer school at the moment, but I'll have time to think about it next week.
What topics are you all struggling with that you want more in-depth explanation? Start making a list here. I'll also bring this list to the Duolingo Ambassadors and Duolingo Educators Network for more brain-storming. This will be fun!
Hello, is a YouTube channel still on the plate? I have no way to see the date in the app. But it'd be awesome to have such a channel. In addition to the points you've written, I would like to know more about different degrees of politeness, because for now it's just confusing. Also, comparative adjectives. Different counters, why are there so many and how come counting days is totally different.
:) Thank you, I'll add those to the list. I got distracted right now with this Remote Learning thing. There has been an immense amount of work involved in re-designing my curricula for my students.
As for politeness, for now, in your early stages of learning, use です・ます for everything. If you mess up (either too polite or not polite enough), it sounds kind of like swearing.
Counters are incredible. Here is a link to my Tinycards. https://tinycards.duolingo.com/decks/PFq6aJXn/counting-in-ri-ben-yu, which might help you. Long story short: the Japanese already knew how to count by the time the Chinese arrived to teach them how to write. So that's why you get a hodge-podge of ancient Japanese pronunciations with more logical patterns.
Yes, you are right! There were "ye" and "yi" sounds, but those pre-date the introduction of a written language by China. So there isn't any way to write them except with smaller かな。（for example, イェ）
After Chinese influence, and until about 75 years ago, there were "wi" and "we" syllables, too. Although the "w" hasn't been pronounced for centuries. You probably know that を used to have a "w" sound in front (and actually Duolingo Romanizes it with "wo,") but there were also ゐ ("wi") and ゑ("we") (Doesn't that look so cool?!) The "w" on the "wu" sound dropped out long before written language, also, so you will only see it as う.
Before you go thinking that sound change in a language is weird, here in English we had something called "The Great Vowel Movement." (snicker). So the cool thing is that languages change, or else we would all be speaking like Shakespeare. Also consider the word "Wednesday." How weird is that? Japan had a spelling reform right after WWII to unify written and spoken language; we in America only had Noah Webster making a couple of arbitrary decisions.
Since we are on the topic, also consider the は-line. Have you ever wondered why subject marker は and the direction marker へ are pronounced differently? Same reason! The line used to be pronounced differently. If you read anything classical, you will notice words like 会う being written as 会ふ. The "f" sound dropped out, and in the spelling reform every verb that ended with a ふ got changed to う. Every single one. Oh, sure, we still have verbs that end in ぶ, like まなぶ・あそぶ・ならぶ. But no more verbs that end in ふ.
Language is so fascinating! Sorry, I geeked out again, didn't I? Thanks for indulging me.
Hi! I'm back after 3 weeks, and I've done a lot of research.
There are actually kana for yi, ye, and wu. They were forcibly assigned into the gojuuon and never had a distinct pronunciation, but they still existed, and historically there were some words that were spelled with them.
The "wu" kana are based off of the kanji 紆. The hiragana for wu is in the same shape as は、ほ、に、け、except with the right part replaced with a cursive 于. The katakana for wu looked exactly the same as the Kanji 于.
The kana for "ye" are based off of the kanji 江. The hiragana for ye is �. The katakana for ye is エ (at the time, the katakana for え was �.)
The kana for "yi" is based off of the Kanji 以. The hiragana for yi is �. The katakana for yi is similar to レ, but the diagonal extends past the horizontal and is completely straight instead of curved.
Some words historically spelled with � (ye):
- 楚 (すわえ suwae): historically spelled すは� supaye (は used to represent ha, ba, and pa)
- 机 (つくえ tsukue): historically spelled つく� tsukuye
- 縁 (えん en): historically spelled �ん yen
- 燃える (もえる moeru) ← 燃�る (moyeru)
円, however, was NOT historically spelled �ん (yen). It was actually historically spelled ゑん (wen). 一円 was いちゑん (ichiwen).
Here's my (admittedly bad) attempt at writing these extinct kana on a whiteboard:
Omg the whole Chinese pronunciation system is a whole wonder for me. My next goal is to definitely check out Chinese, I hope to survive. Chinese and Japanese language systems are so different from ours. The fact that it's Logogram and syllabary, it takes time getting used to, coming from an alphabetic language system, but I will prevail haha.
I quite don't believe this romaji part. First of all, jesuits that came to Japan were Portuguese not Italians. (ok I can digress too. The word ありがとう actually comes from Portuguese obrigado). ローマ字 quite literally mean romanized character, romanized being a synonym of latinized (but hey, I guess ローマ is easier to say than ラチン).
But thank you for the rest of your message :)
:) It's been disproven that ありがとう comes from obrigado. That's a coincidence. There's a long explanation of how 有り難き（ありがたき）evolved into ありがとう that I won't bore you with. But yes, that theory about obrigado kicked around for a little while.
You are right that the Jesuits were Portuguese; I misspoke. I was thinking of how they were sent by their religious order, based in Rome. Thank you for the correction!
へ is a particle which indicates the direction of an action, it's basically analogous to "to" here, but would more commonly get translated as "toward".
山へ行きます。 I'm headed in the direction of the mountain (My journey might lead me somewhere else.)
山に行きます。 I'm going to the mountain. (The mountain is my goal.)
It's hard to say exactly why へ seems to be preferred over に for the purpose of welcoming visitors to the country, but both are used.
It might seem weird that the sentence ends there, but ようこそ is just an interjection/adverb anyway, so it doesn't need to go at the end. If you prefer, 「日本へようこそ！」 is just as correct. There's no verb or adjective here to worry about putting at the end.
Ah! I forgot that you can use tiles in Duolingo. Are you using a Windows(TM) (R) computer? (I don't know how Macs work; hopefully someone can chime in.) Go to settings, click on "Time and Language" and then "Region and Language." Add Japanese.
Down on the lower right of your systray will now be the letters "ENG." I'll try to post pictures here in the coming days, but my time is short with this remote teaching thing sucking every waking moment up.
Anyway, when you click on "ENG," it will turn to a "J" in a box. To the left of the J will either be the letter A or あ。 Clicking on that letter will toggle your keyboard between romanization and Japanese.
Click on it so that the あ is showing. Now, choose your favorite word. Let's use "Welcome" since that will tie things into this comment. Type it in y-o, and that will magically turn into よ。Then when you type u it will be う、k-o will suddenly turn into こ, and s-o will become そ. It's really cool to watch them change.
Now, the next part: "Japan." n-i turns into に, of course, and h-o into ほ. To get the ん, you type n, and then the word processor is waiting to see if you type a vowel. So to get ん you will have to type "n" twice.
Now wait! Here's the really cool part! Hit the space bar. You will get a bunch of possibilities for homonyms. One will be 日本, one will be 二本, one will even be katakana 二ホン (and a couple more). You can keep hitting space until you get the right one, or you can use your mouse, or the number key (since they'll be numbered).
(Fun fact: You could even type にっぽん to get the right kanji. Spell this n-i-p-p-o-n. Doubling the "p" gives you the little っ automatically.）
Now, you're not done yet! You have to hit "enter" to say "I accept these kanji."
Remember that the へ at the end, even though it is pronounced closer to え, will still need to be spelled with a silent h. Similarly, know the difference between は and わ and を and お.
You will get used to it, the more you type. You know what? Maybe this will be my first video. It's so much easier to show my students in real life.
Any time you want to type in English, you can toggle back to the "ENG" button. Or just go back to romanization.
Let me know if my explanation doesn't make sense! My brain is on an assignment for my Spanish class I should be creating right now instead of goofing off. (I tell you, I have never worked so hard as a teacher! I feel like I am reinventing the wheel.) I'll try to put pictures in to make this easier to visualize, and I might as well make a video because if this lasts longer, my new Japanese students in September will need instructions, too.
Hope this helps! Stay tuned...
I'd like to add some tips for switching to Japanese mode.
The keyboard shortcut to switch between English and Japanese is [Alt + Shift]. The default mode in Japanese will be Romanized. While it is in Romanized mode, you can switch to Japanese (default is Hiragana) with the following shortcuts: [Shift + Caps Lk], [Alt + Caps Lk], and [Ctrl + Caps Lk].
Japanese mode (Either あ or カ displayed) has the following shortcuts: [Alt + Caps Lk] - Katakana (カ is displayed) [Ctrl + Caps Lk] - Hiragana (あ is displayed) [Shift + Caps Lk] - Romaji (A is displayed)
If you ever end up like I have and accidentally stumble into Katakana mode, it's good to know how to go back.