Learn to Read! Japanese Reading Lesson 00A: Random Obscurities!

Posted by meronpan on April 6, 2009

A slight detour from reviews and a little break before we finish up hiragana.  This lesson is more for intermediate students or late beginner I suppose.  Nevertheless it may prove interesting and perhaps be a little more practical.

Click for gelbooru source

Click for gelbooru source

Today’s topic is… all sorts of random things that you might’ve wondered about… and has nothing to do with tsukiumi ^^;;  Check here to continue with the hiragana lessons, or here to go to the previous lesson.


When you see/hear っけ (kke) at the end of a sentence, it’s actually a highly informal version of the usual spoken question mark, か (ka).  It’s usually used when the speaker can’t quite remember something, for example:

そうだっけ? (sou dakke? == is that so?)

あのこ、だれだっけ? (ano ko, dare dakke? == who’s that girl again?)
くぜきりはだよ! (kuze kiriha da yo! == it’s kuze kiriha!)

Click for gelbooru

Click for gelbooru


Did you know there are different dialects of Japanese?  The most well known is kansai-ben (kansai dialect), alternately osaka-ben (osaka dialect), which the words above are associated with.

ほんま == ほんとう (honma == hontou == really)

あかん == いけない、だめ  (akan == ikenai, dame == no good, won’t do)

そや == そうだ (soya == sou da == that’s so, that’s right)

Unfortunately I don’t have the time to go through a whole lesson, but needless to say grammar is affected as well, such as the negative form of verbs (たべへん == たべない (tabehen == tabenai == don’t eat)、みえへん == みえない (miehen == mienai == can’t see)).  Things like this are why you may hear people speaking and wonder why it sounds like a different language ^^;

Here’s some kansai-ben speaking characters you may be familiar with:

oosaka (azaumanga daiou)

Click for gelbooru

Click for gelbooru

kitsune, suu (love hina)

Click for gelbooru

Click for gelbooru

touji (evangelion)

Click for gelbooru

Click for gelbooru

ruri, sango (toheart2)

ToHeart2 CG

ToHeart2 CG

kuroi-sensei (lucky star)

Click for gelbooru source

Click for gelbooru source


A fairly minor point, but for those with an eye for detail, yes your ears don’t deceive you, the ている (teiru) verb conjugation is often contracted to てる (teru) in informal speech.  This can be done with both formal and informal conjugations, so it’s not out of the ordinary to see both:

はなしてる (hanashiteru) instead of はなしている (hanashiteiru)

はなしてます (hanashitemasu) instead of はなしています (hanashiteimasu)

(all the above == talking)

Ah, I should probably mention that the ている form is the … err not sure what the official term is.  Continutive?  Anyhow, it’s the equivalent of the -ing conjugation in english.  As in, はなす(to talk) -> はなしている (talking)

Ways to say, “I”

You probably know わたし (watashi)、おれ (ore)、ぼく (boku)、and あたし (atashi) from your exposure to anime/manga/etc.  Unfortunately for completionists, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  I was also curious and tried to make the most complete list possible.  Lots of these are archaic and no long used… then again, you never know when they’ll turn up in anime (like nagi – she uses the archaic, わらわ (warawa)).

わたし – watashi – your standard, regular polite form

あたし – atashi – a female form, perhaps sliiightly less polite than watashi.  Lotsa females use this, I believe kagamin included ^^

あたしたちにらんそうせいじだからね (atashitachi niransouseiji dakara ne. == that’s ‘cuz we’re fraternal twins)


わたくし – watakushi – a highly formalized form. Tatsuki uses this form, ojyou-san that she is ^^


あたくし – atakushi – feminine form of watakushi, perhaps slightly less formal

おれ – ore – informal male form.  Used by young boys, guys who are tough shit… Unfortunately I don’t watch too many J-Dramas, which might be a better source than anime (where roles are often highly exaggerated ^^;) for specific usage.

おれはだれだとおもってる?! (ore wa dare da to omotteru?! == who the hell do you think i am?!)

Click for gelbooru

Click for gelbooru

ぼく – boku – slightly informal male form.  I’ve seen this used anywhere from boys to business men.  A safer bet in informal situations if you’re afraid of coming off as arrogant.

おら – ora – informal form that has a strong rural feel to it.

おいら – oira – (perhaps more) informal form that also has a rural feel, perhaps more casual than ore.

わし – washi – informal old man form. ^^;

I think the principal (tachibana heizou) in tsuyokiss uses this form (though perhaps wasshi)


わっし – wasshi – I believe this is just a variant of washi, above.

あっし – asshi – an archaic form used by men in the Edo period.

わがはい – wagahai – the old school (archaic) form of ore :P  Use when you want to be (literally) old school + arrogant ^^;

うち – uchi – often used in kansai dialects by young girls.  Litterally means ‘house’ or ‘my own’.

Konoe konoka uses this ^_^  Haven’t followed negi for a while but I loved konoka’s accent ^^

Click for gelbooru

Click for gelbooru

じぶん – jibun – in normal speech means, ‘myself’ but you may see some characters use it as a pronoun.

あたい – atai – very informal female form.  I think the women working the factory in mononoke-hime used this form.

わたい – watai – I believe this is an archaic kansai form – watashi -> watai

わて – wate – yet another archaic kansai form – watai -> watee -> wate (from wikipedia)

あて – ate – I have no idea where this comes from but I assume it’s a derivation of wate, above ^^;

わい – wai – archaic kansai version of ore ^^; wasshi -> wai

わっち – wacchi – a derivation of watashi in the mino dialect

おのれ – onore – nowadays it’s usually used as an informal, insulting way of saying, ‘you’.  If not used like that it can be similar to ‘jibun’.

せっしゃ – sessha – are you watching asu no yoichi?  If so you probably knew this one ^^  Used by samurai.


それがし – soregashi – another ancient form of watashi

わらわ – warawa – as mentioned above, an archaic feminine form.  Used by nagi ^^


よ – yo – archaic male form

Basically the lesson to learn here is… you’ll eventually just get used to sentence structure and be able to detect new words for “I” as they pop up.  With all the dialects, male/female forms, present day and archaic forms, it’s pretty daunting to actually memorize them.

There’s an equally long list of words for ‘you’.  I’ll leave those for next time :P


This really threw me off when I was beginning.  うん (un) == yes.  ううん (uun) == no.


Pay attention to the situational clues, intonation, and precise spelling to figure out which it is.  う~~ん can be used to represent a sort of groaning sound, to confuse things further ^^;


These are informal sentence endings male characters use.  Both replace ka, and かい (kai) is used for yes/no questions. だい (dai) is used for wh-questions.

ない -> ねえ

In slang you’ll often hear negative forms of verbs end in ねえ (nee) instead of ない (nai).  It seems to be popular amongst young and/or thuggish boys, or just in highly informal situations.

For example,

いかねえよ。 そうゆうきらいだ。 (ikaneeyo.  sou yuu kirai da.  == i’m not going.  i hate that kind of crap.)

そうじゃねえか。 (sou jya nee ka.  == right?!)

It’s often not limited to verbs, and I haven’t yet gotten a formalized explanation for me… but asically ‘ai’ sounds become ‘ee’ sounds sometimes.


Accelerator uses this kind of talk a lot.

くさい -> くせえ (kusai -> kusee == stinks)

あぶない -> あぶねえ (abunai -> abunee == dangerous)

Males and females have different ways of speaking and this sentence ending is one of them. わ (wa) is a sentence final particle usually only used by females.  It’s generally used when you would use よ (yo), although it can be conbined (わよ、わね (wayo, wane) are both common).


This one also took me a long time to get my head around.  This is an informal abbreviation for というのは (to iu no wa), and basically replaces は in certain cases.  Roughly translates to “speaking of ~”

あんたって本当にばかだね。 (antatte hontou ni baka da ne) == あんたはほんとうにばかだね。 (anta wa hontou ni baka da ne)

In the above example it’s really just a stylistic difference.  A common construction is when person A mentions something person B isn’t familiar with, and you get the following situation:

A: K-ON見た? (K-ON mita? == did you see K-ON?)

B: え? K-ONって? (e? K-ONtte? == eh?  What’s K-ON?)


It can also be used to quote someone, in this case acting as an colloquial quotation marker, or as a substitute for the と particle:

こなちゃんはくるの? (kona-chan wa kuru no? == Is kona-chan coming?)

いや、いかないって (iya, ikanaitte == nah, she said she wasn’t coming)

In the above example, the second sentence would be as follows in it’s complete form:

いや、いかないといった。 (iya, ikanai to itta)

So what happened was that って was subbed in for と and then いった (itta == said) was just dropped.  You can see how you can save a lot of time, as the formal version would be ~といいました (~to iimashita == said ~).


I’m not sure what the etymological basis for this ending is but you’ll see ってば (tteba) when characters are becoming impatient/annoyed and are trying to get their point across/get someone to pay attention.

ね~!ね~、お姉ちゃん!ねってば! (ne~!  ne~, oneechan! netteba! == hey!  hey, sis!  hey, listen to me! ;_;)


Hope I’m getting this right but I believe つうか (tsuuka) is a slurring of というか (toiuka).

No Plurals

There are no plurals ^^  No need to worry about things like goose/geese, foot/feet or whatever troublesome plurals you’ve dealt with in whatever language ^^

Because of this you have to be more specific with your wording or just accept the ambiguity.

I Should’ve Broken This Into Multiple Posts

Sorry to drone on for so long ^^;  It was the insanely long list of pronouns ^^;

Next time, last hiragana lesson!



32 Responses to “Learn to Read! Japanese Reading Lesson 00A: Random Obscurities!”

  1. YuKi-To said

    very nice random guide,love how you put in anime references :3
    yea it’s a bit long, I myself have not finished reading yet ^^; will finish up the rest when I have time

    good job mero meron!

    • meronpan said

      doumo, glad you liked what ya saw ^^ after this i hope to post my final hiragana lesson, then move on to katakana and translation of manga (while explaining grammar and vocab ^^)

  2. Koji Oe said

    This reminds me of those old HOW TO LEARN JAPANESE on the sites I’d check out back in late 90s on a website called anipike.

    Interesting stuff if you’re interesting in reading manga or whatever but a lot of this actually isn’t said in Japanese outside anime and if you do use it you sound like an otaku. I should know. I live here.

    • meronpan said

      anipike… that sounds vaguely familiar ^^;;; gads so long ago

      yes, now that you mention it, I didn’t really make the distinction for what was usable in daily life, other than titling the entire post ‘random obscurities’ ^^;

      on the other hand, my intention in doing this series is to get people to read manga, so perhaps it’s not too bad :P

  3. Yi said

    Nice guide. Will help me play visual novels somewhat better. I never knew so many I’s and you’s existed.

    • meronpan said

      visual novels are a great source for learning ^^ helps me a ton with listening since i can correlate what i hear with what i’m reading

      i was also taken aback by all the words for I i found while researching. it’s insane!

  4. Kairu Ishimaru said

    Dammit. I cant view those japanese characters.

  5. Leonia said

    It’s an interesting and great article, for persons who understand perfectly English. It is not my case, regrettably. Nevertheless, even if I don’t understand everything, it’is kind to make share your knowledge!

    • meronpan said

      indeed, because this whole post focuses on technicalities and such, it would be hard to glean too much without a good understanding on english ^^;

      at least things like the list of words for “i” should be fairly straight forward ^^;

  6. I haven’t read the whole thing yet, sooo long! But I noticed one mistake.  あたくし is not less formal than atashi. atakushi is used to sound softer and more feminine, which usually means it is more polite actually.

  7. Just gone through the entire article, great job! Arigatou gozaimasu!

  8. konadora said

    My classes don’t teach dialects so it was kind of interesting for me ^^;
    Hear そや a lot in animes though, mainly comedy or slice-of-life genres.

    • meronpan said

      alas, i didn’t really go into dialects very much. ad unfortunately i don’t have much exposure to them (though i would love to be fluent in kansai-ben ^^).

      perhaps when i cover the potential forms of verbs i’ll add in the other form for miru but it was just an example of kansai-ben negative present tense conjugation ^^;;

  9. konadora said

    Btw you should add the other ‘Can’t see’, みられない.

  10. sonic_ver2 said

    So this is somewhat like “guide to understand what anime characters said”, not a guide to formal Japanese language right?

    • meronpan said

      Wellll… this is kind of related to what koji said above… some things are really only seen on tv/anime, but others are more practical. I’ll break it down here:

      kke – this is a normal thing for informal conversation I believe. I often hear my coworkers say ‘nan dakke’ (and they’re decidedly non-otaku ^^;)

      kansai-ben – this is *definitely* not an otaku only thing. it’s a dialect for a whole region of japan! However, from what i’ve observed, if you met a kansai person in tokyo, they may just speak standard japanese so as to not cause confusion. as such, you may not encounter it as much since people may actively be switching to standard.

      teru – i’ve gotten so used to this i’m not quite sure how prevalent it is in everyday use, but it’s more of a thing you’ll notice in print anyway. the ‘e’ and ‘i’ sounds in the proper ‘teiru’ construction could technically form a long ‘e’ sound which would be hard to differentiate from a regular ‘e’ sound…

      pronouns – a vast majority of these won’t be heard in regular life. but then again, this wasn’t a list for people to pick and choose the pronoun they most preferred, but rather to give awareness. (if you chose anything but the standard pronouns, you’ll likely get a weird look ^^;)

      un, uun – this is standard japanese and commonly used.

      kai, dai – you’ll find this in japanese grammar books so it’s not terribly obscure. however, i have yet to meet someone who’s used this in normal conversation ^^; on the other hand, i don’t have very many close japanese speaking friends ^^;

      nai -> nee – again, i don’t really know that many people who fall in the demographic that would use this sort of talk. it’s pretty informal though so you’d most likely hear it getting drunk at a bar (ii jyanee ka?) ^^

      wa – this feminine sentence ending is part of standard japanese

      tte – this is also a common grammatical construct you will encounter

      tteba – not sure how prevalent the usage of this is… i haven’t been in many situations that called for this sort of whining/pleading ^^;;

      tsuuka – like the nai->nee stuff… just an informal construct… again i don’t have much exposure to informal situations so this may fall into the ‘not really used much’ cateogory

      plurals – obviously you run into this in normal speaking ^^;

      So in the end… 12 topics and I’d say about 6-7 of them apply to every day life… guess it turned to be an almost even split.

  11. phossil said

    haha, thx for the lesson, Meronpan

    Continutive? you mean Progressive (Present). Well, one less thing to worry about. ^^

    • meronpan said

      thank you, yes ^^; i’m so bad with the names for the conjugated forms (and completely hopeless if you ask me what the japanese names for them are ^^;;)

  12. elczenius said

    Handy dandy stuff here. :3
    Arigatou, meronpan-sensei. ^o^v

  13. usagi_joou said

    Wow! Thanks a lot!
    I just saw this un — uun thing yesterday in a “lovely complex” manga I’m currently reading. Err, better say “trying to read from kanji to kanji, looking into dictionary every moment”*^^*
    And I interpreted uun as yes wrongfully!

    And kansai – I’ve got a whole textbook (in English) about colloquial kansai. I’m learning it bit by bit. I love this dialect so much more then standart Japanese^__^, cause usually I love characters using it (like Gin Ichimaru in Bleach).

    And all LovCom characters also speak kansai, cause the story takes place in Osaka^^

    O-tsukaresama deshita! (can I say so?^^) Arigatou!

    • meronpan said

      glad you got some use out of my ramblings ^^ and yay for kansai-ben love ^__^

      i still have many lessons to go, hopefully i can continue be of use in the future ^^


  14. Persocom said

    I had to skip through parts of it but you can bet I’m saving it all for later reading and reference. You know I wonder if you could incorporate this stuff into smart.fm, might be able to make lessons out of it there. I think making these lessons with anime references does make it more enjoyable.

    • meronpan said

      hmmm yes, i actually have started a list @ smart.fm but i don’t really have a good idea of how to integrate it with the lessons i’m doing. half the point of my posts is to jazz things up with akiba-kei material… which loses a lot of it’s appeal when it’s just text only in a list ^^; regardless… as a supplement i suppose a custom list at smart.fm would still be useful…

  15. […] next time! (it’s slight detour that covers random tidbits, for the next regular lesson click […]

  16. mikumin said

    I just wanted to say that this post was quite helpful with the random things I had always wondered about, especially the dialect stuff. Thanks for posting this!

  17. orkanum said

    -tachi is a way to use plural form, but for certain sentence structures though.

    • meronpan said

      yeah, emphasis on “certain”. for example, i don’t think you’d ever say, 本達を買った。 when it can be used, yes, it’s one way to denote a plural, but really it’s best not to try and translate plural forms to japanese.

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