Learn to Read! Japanese Reading Lesson 003: さ た な

Posted by meronpan on January 23, 2009

Hey, yeah, remember these posts?  Lesson 3, only… about 3 months after lesson 2? ^^;;;;


to aru majutsu no index

On the off chance you’ve been faithfully following along, note that we’ll be picking up the pace a little from here on~

This week we’ll be covering 15 new kana – the s, t, and n characters!

kana Pronunciation Romanization

S + (‘a’ in father, ‘o’ in otter, ‘a’ in saw), ‘sa’ in -san or ‘so’ in sonic sa

SH + (‘i’ in ski, ‘ee’ in flee, ‘ie’ in sieze), ‘she’ in she shi, si

S + (‘oo’ in food, ‘ue’ in clue, ‘e’ in grew), ‘sou’ in soup su

S + (‘e’ in egg, ‘e’ in pressure, ‘e’ in blend), ‘say’ in say se

S + (‘o’ in glow, ‘o’ in own, ‘o’ in stoke), ‘so’ in so so

T + (‘a’ in father, ‘o’ in otter, ‘a’ in saw), ‘to’ in tonic ta

CH + (‘i’ in ski, ‘ee’ in flee, ‘ie’ in sieze), ‘che’ in cheese chi, ti

TS + (‘oo’ in food, ‘ue’ in clue, ‘e’ in grew), see below, but it’s the ‘tsu’ in tsukasa tsu, tu

T + (‘e’ in egg, ‘e’ in pressure, ‘e’ in blend), ‘ta’ in take te

T + (‘o’ in glow, ‘o’ in own, ‘o’ in stoke), ‘to’ in tote to

N + (‘a’ in father, ‘o’ in otter, ‘a’ in saw), ‘na’ in nan & curry ^^;; na

N + (‘i’ in ski, ‘ee’ in flee, ‘ie’ in sieze), ‘knee’ in knee ni

N + (‘oo’ in food, ‘ue’ in clue, ‘e’ in grew), ‘knew’ in knew nu

N + (‘e’ in egg, ‘e’ in pressure, ‘e’ in blend), ‘nay’ in nay ne

N + (‘o’ in glow, ‘o’ in own, ‘o’ in stoke), ‘no’ in no no
lucky star

lucky star

Get all that?  Right off the bat, there’s some interesting new characters to discuss. You may have noticed し、ち、and つ don’t quite follow last week’s pattern with the k characters, right? Indeed, in Japanese there are no native characters for ‘si’, ‘ti’, ‘or ‘tu’ (i.e. no official characters pronounced, ‘see’, ‘tea’, or ‘too’). し、ち and つ are sometimes *romanized* like that, but they are pronounced, ‘she’, ‘chee’, and ‘tsu’.

nanoha strikers

nanoha strikers

You may be thinking, wait a second, I’ve heard the other sounds! What about Tia in Nanoha! So yes, it’s not that the Japanese have no way to write/say those sounds, it’s just not part of the native language (sometime after hiragana, we’ll go into katakana, the alphabet specially used for spelling foreign words).

code geass

code geass

This is also why romanized words and names may sound really weird when spoken by a Japanese person – for example, C.C. (C2) from Code Geass. To me at least, it sounds like they’re saying ‘sheets’, which is because C is pronounced しー and 2 is pronounced つー (ah, one quick note, the dash denotes a long vowel). Couple that with the fact that ‘u’ sounds, especially at the end of a word, are often silent, and you have sheets ^^;  Or you may have heard the term, ツーショット (つうしょっと – tsuushotto).  Basically it’s the Japanese way of saying 2 shot, and again, instead of ‘two’ they use the ‘tsu’ sound.  If you’re not familiar with the term, it refers to a picture of two people, usually a couple or the like.

In summary, just remember し、ち、and つ don’t follow the trend. ^^

About つ

つ also appears in a smaller form in words that have a double consonant.  For example, なっとう, which would be romanized nattou.  Notice the つ is smaller – a normal sized つ would look as follows: なつとう and would be romanized natsutou.



As far as pronunciation goes, perhaps it’s best to just think of the word being split at the double consonant.  In our example ‘nattou’, above, you would say, ‘nat’ ‘tou’ (as opposed to ‘natou’).  Or in regular english, ‘not’ ‘toe’.

The double consonants aren’t restricted to t either – ヒャッコ (ひゃっこ {hyakko}) – for example has a double k.

Reading / Vocab Practice!

1. すき
2. なに
3. さす
4. しぬ
5. せつない
6. そっと
7. の
8. ーたち
9. ちち
10. つかさ
11. て
12. とおい
13. にあ
14. ぬき
15. ねね
16. ーのに

shakugan no shana

shakugan no shana

Let’s go over the answers…

1. すき – ‘suki’ – you’re familiar with this word, right?  Love, liking, and all that jazz.  Unlike in English, it’s not a verb though.  The usual usage follows the pattern, XはYがすきです。 (X wa Y ga suki desu.)  This translates to ‘X likes Y.’  Substitute in your favorite subject and object and you’ve got a sentence. わたしすしすきです。 (watashi wa sushi ga suki desu. – ‘I like sushi.’)  PantherさんKOS-MOSのことがすきです。 (Panther-san wa KOS-MOS no koto ga suki desu. – ‘Panther likes KOS-MOS’).

Click for gelbooru source

Click for gelbooru source

You’ll notice in the last example, when talking about a person (well, androids probably count), you commonly add ‘no koto’ to their name.  Literally ‘Xのこと’ is translates something like, ‘the things about X’… weird as it is, that’s how things usually go :P  おれきみのことすきです。 (ore wa kimi no koto ga suki desu. – ‘I like you.’ – in this instance, we added ‘no koto’ to ‘kimi’ (you))

2. なに – Another word that you probably know, or are bound to learn early in your Japanese career – ‘nani’ = what.  You could use the above example to ask a question – あなたなにすきですか。 (anata wa nani ga suki desu ka. ‘What do you like?’ – note ‘ka’ at the end of the sentence, which is basically a spoken question mark.)

こなちゃんはなにをしていますか。 (kona-chan wa nani wo shite imasu ka. 'What are you doing, kona-chan?')

こなちゃんはなにをしていますか。 (kona-chan wa nani wo shite imasu ka. 'What are you doing, kona-chan?')

あなたはなにをしていますか。 (anata wa nani wo shite imasu ka. ‘What are you doing?’)  The examples I’ve been giving are all in the polite form, which should be used amongst people you don’t know or with people you respect.  In anime/manga/games, you may be more used to hearing なにしてんだよてめー。 (nani shiten da yo teme-. ‘What the hell are you doing?!’ Depending on the situation, it could be even more vulgar, ‘What the #@%@# are you doing, you bastard?!’ … well, maybe not that strong, but you get the point ^^;)

3. さす – ‘sasu’  is a word with a variety of meanings, depending on the context (or the kanji used).  In this case, I had 刺す in mind, which makes it mean ‘to stab’ or ‘to pierce’ ^^;



あおいさんはだれかをさそうとしています。 (aoi-san wa dareka wo sasou to shite imasu. ‘aoi is about to stab someone.’) We’ll just ignore the verb conjugation in the previous sentence ^^;  If you just said, あおいさんはだれかをさす。 (aoi-san wa dareka wo sasu.) it would mean ‘aoi-san stabs someone.’

4. しぬ – ‘shinu’ – another good word to know… the verb ‘to die’ ^^;;


じごく しょうじょ (jigoku shoujo)

しぬのはいや! (shinu no wa iya – ‘I don’t want to die!’)

5. せつない – ‘setsunai’ – I’ll stop with the morbid words, soon, I promise ^^; Until then… setsunai means ‘painful’. ^^;


せつないからなきました。 (setsunai kara nakimashita. ‘It was painful so she cried.’)

6. そっと – ‘sotto’ – softly, gently, quietly. You’re likely to hear this when someone’s doing something delicate… completing a house of cards, placing daiki kougyou kanu in her display case, etc. ^^

7. の – ‘no’ – this particle has a lot of meanings, but a good one to start with is the possessive.  For example すずみやはるひゆううつ (suzumiya haruhi no yuuutsu … do I even need to translate that? :P  Well, let’s just break it down anyway.  suzumiya haruhi – the subject.  no – the possessive so we’re talking about something that belongs to haruhi.  yuuutsu – melancholy.  So literally, ‘Suzumiya Haruhi’s melancholy’.  Or, you’re undoutably familiar with the alternative, ‘The melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi’ ^_^)

Click for gelbooru

Click for gelbooru

わたしほん (watashi no hon – ‘my book’).  しきかたな (shiki no katana – ‘shiki’s katana’). やみたいやき (yami no taiyaki – ‘yami’s taiyaki’)… I think you get the idea ^^;

8. ーたち – ‘tachi’ – a suffix used to denote a group. わたしたち (watashitachi – ‘I’ + tachi = we). あなたたち (anatatachi – ‘you’ + tachi = you (plural), ustedes). はやてたち (hayatetachi – ‘hayate’ + tachi = hayate & friends, hayate & company, etc.).

はやてたち (hayatetachi ^^) click for gelbooru

はやてたち (hayatetachi ^^) click for gelbooru

9. ちち – ‘chichi’ – The meaning you’d learn in class is most likely ‘father’ – it’s the humble way of saying father, so you’d using it when talking about your father to other people. I guess the way to think about it is that when speaking about to someone outside your family, you speak about your own family humbly. When you actually speak to a family member, you’d use the honorific, for example, おとうさん (otousan, father).

click for gelbooru

click for gelbooru

So what’s the other meaning? Erm, well, according to dictionaries, it’s milk or breast, but in my experience it’s usually used too mean boob. ^^;  So how’s your ero vocabulary doing?  mune? oppai? chichi?  かぬのちちはおおきいです。 (kanu no chichi wa ookii. – ‘kanu has big oppai’)

10. つかさ – ‘tsukasa’ ^_^ Evidently an archaic word for hill, but as you probably know, nowadays mostly used only as a name.

lucky star

lucky star

11. て – ‘te’ – hand!
12. とおい – ‘tooi’ an adjective meaning far.
13. にあ – ‘nia’ – If you don’t know the name, you should watch tengen toppa gurren lagann ^_^

14. ぬき – ‘nuki’, a suffix for, ‘without’, as in ごはんぬき (gohan nuki) – no food! Often used by Louise ^^;

ぜろのつかいま zero no tsukaima

ぜろのつかいま zero no tsukaima

15. ねね – ‘nene’, as in andou nene ^^


とらことねね torako to nene (torako & nene)

16. ーのに – ‘noni’ – used to mean, ‘even though’ or ‘despite’ with a strong feeling of, ‘Even though {subject} went through the trouble of…’ For example, せっかくしょうぶぱんつはいてきたのに。。。 (sekkaku shoubu pantsu haitekita no ni… ‘I was even wearing my shoubu pantsu…’ – a more complete translation would be dependent on the context. In Japanese, partial sentences are common, and the full meaning is usually inferred by context. In this case, a likely situation would be that poor shinobu-chan tried to get keitarou-kun but her plan was foiled ^_^)

Probably a little heavy on random grammar in the vocab, hopefully it was useful or amusing though ^^;

Next lesson we stop messing around and finish off the rest of the hiragana!



16 Responses to “Learn to Read! Japanese Reading Lesson 003: さ た な”

  1. ELTboy said

    Thanks for this as I certainly need one at the moment! ^^” … Much of the problem with learning foreign language is not having the opportunity to practice it. Nonetheless, you rekindle my desire to improve my Japanese again! It’s been ages since I tried to learn the language and I have the urge to dust off my japanese book and start again. Arigatou ne!

  2. sonic_ver2 said

    Another nice addition to my knowledge. I thought you were gonna give up this lesson, after this long absence.

  3. Persocom said

    awesome, thanks for doing this! I’m currently self-studying Japanese and every little bit of help is indeed just that, help! This makes me wonder if there’s a learning Japanese for Otaku book out there anywhere. The anime references make it more fun ^^

  4. Fumika said


    This is an amazing post :D

  5. meronpan said

    @eltboy my pleasure ^_^ as you say, it’s hard to get enough practice when learning a language, so what i figured i’ll just teach to the best of my ability until everyone understands me when i’m blabbing off random japanese ^^; good luck, and hopefully i’ll have my next lesson up in a more timely fashion

    @sonic_ver2 indeed, was a pretty long break from these posts ^^; but i’d never give up completely, i love the language too much ^^

    @persocom anytime ^^ best part about referencing otaku culture is that it’s not only more interesting, but i think it makes a bigger impression and is easier to remember. ^_^

    @fumika ん~ん…書くのは3時間くらいだったっけ… 私あんまり早くないから… ^^;

    just the blabberings of an enthusiastic pupil of japanese ^^

  6. Rin said

    Do love these lessons…
    Gives me more knowledge on some way to read Japanese…

  7. Blowfish said

    lol at the panther part!

    it was once again an interesting read.i hope ill get my butt up one day and practice a bit.
    my ero vocab is probably the best ^^; is manko next? :D (has a different meaning in german.when i talked to a japanese girl once and used the word manko she blushed ^^ i didnt know why back then)

  8. meronpan said

    @rin a couple more lessons and we’ll be moving on to the good stuff, being able to manga/games ^^

    @blowfish you said manko to a japanese girl? ^^;;;;;; sounds like a love comedy moment ^^ they even censor that word out in some eroge ^^;

  9. Blowfish said

    I didnt know what I did wrong at that moment^^
    The german manko means something like deficiency and i didnt expect it to be something disturbing in japanese

  10. meronpan said

    @blowfish hahaha awww man that’s hilarious! (assuming nothing bad came of it ^^;)… indeed, worrying that words translate to vulgar terms for parts of the female anatomy isn’t exactly on the top of my list of worries ^^;; i wonder if there are other examples like this… ^^;

  11. Meronpan-sensei! I’m picking up nihongo intensively so thanks for your lesson! Really amazed how you relate nihongo to otakuism.

  12. meronpan said

    @divine fang you’re welcome ^^ my japanese knowledge is mostly used for otaku related pastimes so i guess it just comes naturally ^^;;

  13. phossil said

    I always have wondered how to recognize words in japanese? I mean for example せっかくしょうぶ (sekkaku shoubu) are 2 words, but since there are no space how do I know where a word ends or starts??

  14. meronpan said

    @phossil unfortunately that’s a pretty difficult task and really only comes after a lot of practice. basically the following things help:

    1) kanji – when kanji is used, the word divisions occur more naturally and are separated by hiragana. for example, せっかくしょうぶぱんつはいてきたのに would become せっかく勝負パンツ履いて来たのに... Often kanji come alone or in pairs, which also helps.

    2) recognizing sentence structure – you’ll develop a feel for the sentence structure, and particles will help divide up the sentence into recognizable chunks.

    3) bigger vocabulary – obviously, once you know a lot of words, that combined with 2) will help you recognize words in a sentence.

    As you can see, there’s really no good trick. When you’re starting out, the quickest thing is probably going to be getting used to the sentence structure and using that and particles to help you decide until your vocabulary is large enough.

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