Learn to read! Japanese Reading Lesson 001: あいうえお
Posted by meronpan on October 30, 2008
We’ll see how long this lasts, and I’m not sure this blog is the best place to do it, but I felt like trying to spread the Japanese language love. Assuming I follow through, I’m not expecting anyone to be fluent when I’m done but I hope it may inspire those who are curious to follow up with classes or otherwise.
These “lessons” will be aimed at otaku, so expect anime/manga/game/novel examples and such. ^^;
Anyhow, the first step towards reading Japanese is learning the alphabet (well, technically it’s a syllabary)! aaand the first letter (or kana) is… あ！ In English it’s pronounced as ‘a’ in father, ‘o’ in otter, ‘a’ in saw, etc. Unfortunately I’m not sure how the pronunciation turns out in other languages/accents, gomen m(_ _)m
Here’s the rest of the vowels:
|‘a’ in father, ‘o’ in otter, ‘a’ in saw||a|
|‘i’ in ski, ‘ee’ in flee, ‘ie’ in sieze||i|
|‘oo’ in food, ‘ue’ in clue, ‘e’ in grew||u|
|‘e’ in egg, ‘e’ in pressure, ‘e’ in blend||e|
|‘o’ in glow, ‘o’ in own, ‘o’ in stoke||o|
I think when learning this stuff it’s best to immerse yourself immediately so from here on out, after a character has been covered, I’ll start using the kana rather than the romanization.
Getting right into things, let’s practice!
Read the following:
1. あい – ‘ai’ – you’re probably familiar with this word. Usually when you hear it it’s, ‘love’ or ‘affection,’ though it’s also a homonym for the color indigo. It can also be a name – i.e. Enma あい
2. いい – ‘ii’ – translates to ‘good’, as in ‘kimochi いい‘ (feels good) or ‘いい tenki’ (good weather). Or if you see Kan’u you might tell her, ‘いい pantsu’ (nice pantsu)
3. うえ – ‘ue’ – means ‘above’, like ‘tsukue no うえ ni aru hon’ (the book on top of the table) or ‘うえ no hou onegai shimasu’ (i’ll take the upper one please). Or, in Shakugan no Shana-tan, 「いいkagen, あtama no うえ de meronpan taberu no wo yamete kure yo!」 (will you behave yourself and stop eating melonpan on my head?)
You may also hear うえ as a suffix when people address someone they respect like ‘hahaうえ‘ (mother). Love Hina fans are probably familiar with Motoko’s sister, Tsuruko, who Motoko addresses respectfully as “あneうえ“.
The way I like to think about this is that to praise someone, you consider yourself a lowly being, with a lower social standing. This makes the target of your praise someone who is *above* you, with *higher* social standing, hence adding うえ sort of literally translates to ‘who is above me’. Anime fans are probably familiar with the use of ‘sama’, and yes, the usage is similar – showing respect to the person you address. I believe うえ is old fashioned though, and no longer in common use. I also usually only see it with kinship terms (i.e. haha, chichi, ane (mother, father, sister)), not appended to names, though because I so rarely see it, I’m not sure if it’s technically wrong to do so.
Here’s a close up of the upper right panel above:
Not quite readable (sorry ’bout that ^^;) but the speech bubble on the right is 「あ 姉上 いや こ これは …」 The little characters to the right of the kanji are called furigana, the reading of the kanji usually in hiragana. We’ll go into that a bit later, but in this case the reading is あねうえ (aneue). So the whole blurb would be “a- aneue iya ko- kore wa…” (si- sis! err th- this is…)
4. あおい – ‘aoi’ - ‘blue’ as in ‘あおい sora’ (blue sky… also the name of a famous… *ahem* well I’ll you research that yourself if necessary *nsfw, don’t research this in public! the link is to wikipedia so I suppose it is relatively sfw though* ^^;;).
5. おおい – ‘ooi’ – an adjective meaning ‘many’, as in ‘rozario to banpaia no panchira wa おおい desu ne’ (there are a lot of panchira in rosario and vampire, aren’t there?).
6. あう – ‘au’ – the verb ‘to meet’ as in, ‘kanojo to あう‘ (he’s meeting with his girlfriend). It can also be attached the end of verbs to mean “to each other” or “together”. For example…
“あい shiあう futari ga to-dai tte toko ni haいru to ne, ‘shiあwase ni narerundatte” Here あい is love as in 1. followed by shiあう (to do to each other). As such this becomes ‘to love each other’ although in this case when translating, it’s more natural to say something like ‘lovers’ rather than ‘two people that love each other’. If you’re not already familiar with Love Hina, this is the opening passage, “Did you know that if two lovers both go to Todai they’ll live happily ever after?”
7. ええ – ‘ee’ – can mean a lot of things depending on what dialect, how you pronounce it, etc. For example, in the kansai dialect it’s the word they use for いい. In normal speech it can be used in a complaining tone ‘ええええ?’ (whaaaat?/do i have to?), or a questioning sort of phrase, ‘ええ?’ (wha?)… or more of a flat agreement ‘ikun desu ka?’ ‘ええ’ (are you going? yeah)
“fukubikiken desu ka?” “ええ、kore kuraいno” (A lottery ticket? Yeah, about this big…”)
“KORAaaaaaa!” “Wa E?!” (“HEY!!!” “Wha.. wha?!”)
Next time, か き く け こ！ (ka ki ku ke ko)