Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Which character set is most used in Japanese - kanji, hiragana, or katakana?
A: Most Japanese sentences contain a mixture of kanji and hiragana with katakana used as needed (mainly for foreign/borrowed words). Kanji is the primary character set for nouns and the beginning of verbs and adjectives. Hiragana is always used for particles and verb/adjective conjugation. Kanji is a very difficult subject but necessary if you want to learn to read Japanese fluently.
Q: How do you say "I love you" in Japanese?
A: This would be "Anata o ai shite imasu" (polite form) or "Anata o ai shite iru" (plain form - spoken form would be "Anata o ai shite ru") BUT be advised that the Japanese typically don't use the Japanese word for love ("ai") when talking about their feelings for someone else (not even a boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, child, parent, etc.). They would typically say "Anata no koto ga suki desu" or "Anata ga daisuki desu". "Suki" means "like" and "daisuki" means "favorite". This may seem strange but this is just what they say for "I love you" in Japanese.
Q: How do you convert English words to Japanese or Japanese words to English?
A: You can't. Japanese is a completely different language with no similarities to English. The grammar, alphabet, vocabulary, etc. is all different. Many people think an online translator, like Google Translate, will do the trick. Truth is, machine translations such as that make absolutely no sense. The only way to "convert" English to Japanese, or visa versa, is to be fluent in both languages and translate between the two (not an easy task) or find someone to do it for you.
Q: Will you teach me Japanese swear words?
A: No. We are trying to bring people together by teaching the Japanese language and teaching people how to swear in Japanese can only have negative results.
Q: Will you teach me Japanese slang?
A: No. We teach plain form and polite form. There are forms even higher than polite form. Polite form is critical because this is what you would use on someone near your age or older that you don't know well. Once the other person switches to plain form it is ok for you to do so as well but only with that person. Plain form is the most common form of speech in Japan but should only be used with friends, family, and those much younger than you. Slang is only spoken by teens and children but most Japanese teens and children will not talk to foreigners and slang is highly offensive if used in most any scenario with an adult so we do not feel it appropriate to teach here.
Q: I want to move to Japan to work, go to school, learn Japanese in Japan, etc. Is this easy to do?
A: The Japanese as a whole aren't all that welcoming to foreigners living in their country. Especially if they don't know the language - most Japanese don't speak English. Most foreigners living in Japan end up only making friends with other foreigners living there (even if they do know the language). There aren't many foreigners living in Japan. Those in smaller cities are stared at like aliens and those in larger cities (where there are more foreigners) are typically ignored.
Imagine half the population of the United States living in a country around the size of California but with livable space around 1/3 the size of Utah. Most Japanese just want to go about their day and feel they are too busy to meet new people. With how crowded it is, who could blame them? Most are less interested in meeting people from other countries. Those that are typically move to those counties.
The government also makes it difficult to stay longer than 3 months. You would either need a work visa, student visa, or have a Japanese spouse. Work visas are incredibly difficult to get if you aren't fluent in the language. The only real option in this case is to teach English but these are very sought after positions. Japanese fluency is definitely required to get a student visa and you must also be accepted to the school (which isn't easy by itself). Japanese universities require JLPT level 2 (the second highest proficiency level) just to apply but the coursework would be quite difficult without JLPT level 1 (the highest proficiency level). It generally takes at least 3-5 years of pretty intense studying to achieve JLPT level 1.
If this is something you really want to do then don't let this information discourage you but know that it will not be easy - especially to try and fit in and make Japanese friends.
Q: I love anime. Is this a good way to learn Japanese?
A: Unfortunately, no. Anime uses a lot of regional dialects. This can be quite confusing since each dialect typically has different rules for verb conjugation. For instance, villains typically use the Kansai dialect. This is considered one of the lowest forms of speech and is very rude outside of the Kansai region (Osaka, Kobe, etc.). This is one reason anime doesn't make a good tool for learning Japanese.
Another is that most of what is spoken in anime is over the top and unrealistic. A lot of slang and low-level speech is used as well. If many phrases used in anime were repeated to a real Japanese person (especially a stranger) it could be viewed as quite strange and/or offensive.
Q: What is my name in Japanese?
A: See the What is my name in Japanese? lesson.
Q: Is Japanese grammar the same as English?
A: No. It is almost backwards from English. Please see lesson 4 for more information.
Q: Will you post sound files for pronunciation?
A: See the Members Area. Audio files are available on certain lessons.
Q: How long does it take to become fluent in Japanese?
A: Years. There is no secret to becoming instantly fluent and the public lessons are just the basics (more advanced lessons are available in our Members Area). Just think how long it took you to master whatever language you speak as your native language. Japanese is a very simple language compared to English but learning a foreign language is always difficult.
Q: Is Japanese easier than English?
A: Japanese is a much more structured and simplistic language than English, in our opinion. For example, Japanese verbs all fall into 3 categories. Godan (lesson 6), Ichidan (lesson 7), and the 2 irregular verbs (also lesson 7). All Godan verbs follow the rules given in lesson 6 with only one exception. All Ichidan verbs follow the rules provided. Irregular verbs have there own rules but there are only 2 of them! English has exceptions for almost every verb and very few rules that can be followed. As mentioned above, however, learning a foreign language is always difficult.
Q: Can you post all Japanese Kanji?
A: A good Japanese Kanji dictionary will list around 10,000 different Kanji. Not all of these are used regularly in Japan (some not at all) but there are still 2,136 Jouyou (regularly used) Kanji (as of Nov, 2010) and that is too many to list with all of their readings and meanings. Some characters have as many as 13 different readings depend on how it is used in a sentence. A list of Jouyou Kanji (without their readings and meanings) can be found here. See the Members Area (Advanced section) for Kanji lessons that contain all readings and examples of each.
Q: Can you post all Japanese words?
A: The Great Japanese Dictionary has 2380 pages each containing around 75 words. That's around 180,000 words and is probably not all of them. Even listing the thousands of commonly used words would take a long time.
Q: Do you know of a good Japanese phone directory? I have a Japanese friend I would like to get a hold of.
A: There are approximately 125 million Japanese. That's around half of the population of the United States. There are a number of online phone directories for Japan but you need to be able to read Japanese to use them and also know the prefecture ("state") and city they live in. Also, there are many, many common names and one search could return thousands of people with the same name.
Q: What is the difference between the particles "wa" and "ga"?
A: The difference between "wa" and "ga" is a subtle one. "Wa", by definition, is the "topic marker" while "ga" is the "subject marker". Here is an example, "I heard that you bought a new book." - "Watashi wa anata ga atarashii hon wo katta to kiita." The "watashi wa" portion can be left off, however, as it is implied. When you are starting out with Japanese, don't worry too much about when to use "wa" instead of "ga", and visa versa, as most Japanese themselves really don't know the rules for when to use which. It is something that is learned by feel over many years of speaking.
Q: I am a Naruto fan. What does "dattebayo" mean?
A: "Dattebayo" is a part of Naruto's hougen (dialect). It is used to add emphasis and doesn't have any meaning by itself. For more information click here.