New learning approach to Japanese language

If you like to find out how this works, please drop me a line! 
I'll show you all of the slides and explain!



Question words

The other day one of my students requested me to show him a list of common question words. I wrote the list on the whiteboard during the lesson. Today I'll share the same list here.

no- (used with a negative form of verb or adjective.)
nan (used with desu ka)
itsumo (always)
Which (1. more than 2 choices)
doreka (some of these)
doremo (none of these)
Which (2. More than 2 choices. A noun follows dono.)
dono + noun+ ka (some of these)
dono + noun + mo
(none of these)
dono + noun + demo
Which (3. Only 2 choices.)
docchika (either of these)
docchimo (neither of these)
What kind of
donna + noun

Nande (more casual)

How 1
do (used with desu ka)

How 2
doyatte (used with a verb)

How much

How long
donogurai or donokurai

How old

How many people
nanmei (more formal)

(any number of people)
How many things

(any number of things)
What time


Here are explanations for the words marked in yellow.

docchi : meaning “which one” when you have two alternatives like meat or fish. It often refers to directions like this way or that way.

donogurai/donokurairefers to time, distance or degree.
  1. Tokyo kara Osaka made donogurai (or nanjikan) kakarimasu ka? “How long (or how many hours) does it take to travel from Tokyo to Osaka?” 
  2. Tokyo kara Osaka made donogurai (or nankilo) desu ka? “How long (or how many kilometers) is it from Tokyo to Osaka?”
  3. kono test wa donogurai muzukashii desu ka? “ How difficult will this test be?”
ikutsuA general counter for objects, so you can use “ikutsu” for anything you want to know the number of. There are many other counter words for certain types of objects. Japanese people usually choose the appropriate counter word over “ikutsu” according to the object in question.

dokonimo: “Ni” is a particle which has two different meanings when it is used with “doko”. One indicates direction meaning “to” or “towards”. The other one indicates location meaning “in” or “at”.
  1. ashita wa dokonimo ikanai.  “I’m not going anywhere tomorrow.”
  2. konoo machi wa conbini ga dokonimo nai.  “There are no convenience stores anywhere in this city.”
How is a series of these words used? Let’s take the nani-series as an example.
  • Q. nani o tabeteimasu ka? >> A. ramen o tabeteimasu. “Q. What are you eating? >> A. I’m eating ramen.”
  • Q. Asagohan o tabemashita ka? >> A, iie, kyo no asa nanimo tabemasendeshita. “Did you have breakfast? >> No, I didn’t eat anything this morning.”
  • Q. nani o tabemasho ka? >> A. nandemo ii desu yo. “What shall we eat? >> A. Anything is fine.”
Listing out these words really helps you learn them. I suggest you always make lists or charts of words or expressions in your notebook. This way is much better than writing down the words randomly!!


Ta-form doesn't always indicate past tense.

Long time no see, everyone! I have been busy and lazy this year, but I finally wrote one English post on a quiet day in August. I'm happy to do it. 

Let’s focus on “ta-form” today.

What expressions are used with ta-form?

              Ta toki, ta koto ga aru, ta bakari, ta tokoro, ta mama, ta ra, and so on.

Basically, a verb in ta-form means that the action of the verb is completed, but it doesn’t always indicate past tense. Here are the some examples:
  1. maiasa kaisha ni tsuita (A) ato de, asagohan o taberu (B). (Every morning, I have breakfast after I arrive at my office.)
  2. kino asagohan o tabeta (A) ato de, gym ni itta (B). (Yesterday, I went to the gym after I had breakfast.)
When action A (“kaisha ni tsuku” or “asagohan o taberu”) is completed, action B (“asagohan o taberu” or “gym ni iku”) is done. 
Chronological order:
  1.  kaisha ni tsuku → asagohan o taberu 
  2. asagohan o taberu → gym ni iku
Verb B changes its tense depending on context, but verb A always takes ta-form because it has a sense of completion. Particularly, even though the actions of sentence 1 are not in the past, “tsuita” (ta-form) is required.

The same rule applies to “ta toki”.
Watashi wa itsumo tsukareta toki, massage ni iku. (I always go get a massage when I get tired.)
The whole sentence is in the present, but “tsukareta” is the ta-form. This expresses that I go get a massage after getting tired.
Tsukareru → massage ni iku
Given the above chronological order, you must indicate the completion of “becoming tired”.

This works for “ta ra” in the same way.
Soko o migi ni magattara, eki ga aru. (If you turn right there, there is a station.)
Ame ga futtara, ie de eiga o miyou. (If it rains, let’s watch a movie at home.)
Kyoto ni ittara, kireina niwa ga mitai. (When I go to Kyoto, I want to see a pretty garden.)
Yamada san ga kitara, Tanaka san wa kaeru desho. (If Yamada comes, Tanaka will go home.)
Takarakuji ni atattara, nani o kaimasu ka? (If you win the lottery, what would you buy?)
Eki ni tsuitara, anata ni denwa o shimasu. (When I get to the station, I will call you.)
The first verbs (A) are all ta-form. After those actions are done, the second verbs (B) are conducted or occur. In other words, verbs B follow verbs A in terms of time.
Many people wonder why if-sentences require ta-form. I hope this explains why.



"sore wa ii" and "sore ga ii"

Christmas is just around the corner and 2018 will end soon. I'm glad that I can make this post today! Minasan, Merry Christmas to Yoi Otoshi o!! (Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!)

I’ll be comparing two simple sentences today.
Sore wa ii desu.
Sore ga ii desu. 

The obvious difference between them is just “wa” and “ga,” but is that really all there is to it? And do both mean “That’s good”?

The basic rule states that text following “wa” and text preceding “ga” is emphasized. 
Please keep this rule in mind and consider the following examples. 

example 1
A: fuyuyasumi ni Nikko ni ikimasu. (I’m going to Nikko during winter break.)
B: sore wa ii desu ne. (That’s nice.)

“Sore” refers to going to Nikko during winter break, and B is trying to say, “It’s nice to go to Nikko during winter break.” B wants primarily to communicate his/her opinion that “that’s not a bad idea at all, but is good,” based on the rule that text following “wa” is emphasized.

example 2
A: renkyu chu wa kuruma ga komu kara, densha de iku koto ni shimashita. ( I decided to go by train because traffic will be bad during the holiday week.)
B: sore ga ii desu ne. (That sounds like a good idea.)
B is agreeing that “It’s a better idea to go by train rather than by car” because the part preceding “ga” (“sore”) is what is focused on.

It seems that A and B don’t have any plans other than A’s Nikko trip. 

example 3
A: Tokyo no fuyu wa tenki mo ii shi, fuyuyasumi wa ii ne. (The winter weather in Tokyo is pleasant. Winter break is NICE.)
B: Itsu bonenkai ga shitai? Christmas no mae? Christmas no ato? (When would you like to have a year-end party? Before or after Christmas?)
A: Christmas no ato ga ii na. (AFTER CHRISTMAS is better.)

Christmas no ato ga ii na” has the same connotation as “Coffee ga ii desu” (Coffee is better/I prefer coffee/I’ll have coffee) when answering the question “Nomimono wa kohi to ocha, dochira ga ii desu ka?” (Which would you like, coffee or tea?).

example 4
A: watashi no kaisha wa Christmas kara oshogatsu made zutto yasumi nan desu. (My company will be closed from Christmas till New Year.)
B: sore wa ii na. (That sounds nice.   * I think “I’m jealous” is also implied.)
B: watashi wa 29 nichi kara wa yasumi dakara, 29 nichi ni bonenkai o shiyo ka? (I’ll be off on the 29th, so let’s have the year-end party on that day.)
A: sore ga ii! (Now that sounds great to me. * I’m trying to make the meaning of “ga” visible in English.) 

“Sore wa ii” in example 4 shows the speaker’s opinion on whether the previous sentence, which “sore” refers to, is good or not. It’s just like examples 1 and 3 too.

example 5
A: kodomo o tsurete kite mo ii? (May I bring my children?)
B: sore (kodomo) wa ii yo. (Yes, you can bring them.)
A: inu mo tsurete kite mo ii? (May I bring my dog, too?
B: sore (inu) wa dame. C san wa inu ga suki ja nai kara. (No, you can’t bring him. C doesn’t like dogs.)
This “ii” indicates giving permission. Further, “wa” in “kodomo wa” and “inu wa” lines up the two topics in contrast. This means I allow you to bring children, but no dogs.  

example 6
B: 29 nichi ni kaimono o tetsudatte moraeru? (Can you please help me with grocery shopping on the 29th?)
A: sore wa ii yo. demo, asa hayakattara, tetsudaenai kamo. (I don’t mind, but if you go in the early morning, I might not be able to.)
In this case, A accepts B’s request in the previous sentence, which “sore” refers to, and says, “Okay, I’ll do it!” This has a different connotation from “ii ne!” (That’s nice!). 

After going through those examples, I think you’ll see that it’s better not to consider “sore wa ii” and “sore ga ii” to simply be equivalent to “That’s good” and “That’s nice.” They often imply something else besides those simple translations. In either case, you can’t interpret these phrases correctly without understanding the previous sentences. Please be aware of the context where they are used.



sonna ni

Nihon wa atsui desu!! (It's hot in Japan.) Kyo mo Tokyo wa totemo atsui! (Today is another hot day in Tokyo.) Despite the heat I hope you're having a great summer.

I'm sorry for the radio silence. I haven't posted anything since June.
Today I’d like to discuss something that I sometimes notice when talking with foreigners.
  • It's so kind of you.
  • This is so good.
  • He is so kind.
  • It's so kind of you.
How would you phrase these English sentences in Japanese? Dictionaries say that the English “so” =  “sonna ni” or, conversely, that “sonna ni” is “so”. Therefore, I think many people would use “sonna ni”. But unfortunately, that isn’t correct.

You need to review how to use “so” in order to understand this mistake. “So” is used as “very” or “extremely” in the sentences above. In this case, “so” can’t be translated into “sonna ni”. Use “honto ni”, “totemo”, “cho” or “sugoku” instead.
1) A came 30 minutes late to a meeting with B.
A: B san, honto ni gomen ne! (I’m so sorry. = I’m very sorry.)
2) A had a bite of food.
A: Wow! Cho oishii! (This is so good. = This is very good.)
“So” can be replaced by “very” in these sentences. Once you understand this usage of “so”, please move on to the next example.
2) A had a bite of food. B is watching. 
A: Wow, cho oishii!  
B: Eh? Sonna ni oishii no?
B said “sonna ni”. This doesn’t mean “very” or “extremely”. B is asking “Is it that good?” while seeing A’s reaction.

“Sonna ni” refers to what was previously said in the conversation. It’s about something the second party is experiencing or has experienced. So, it refers to the degree of deliciousness that A has mentioned. 

Let’s go back to example 1.
A apologizes many times. 
A: honto ni gomen ne! gomen ne! (I’m really sorry! I’m sorry! 
B: sonna ni ayamaranakutemo ii yo. (No need to apologize that much.)
“Sonna ni” refers to something the other party is doing and has just said, and it indicates the degree of A’s apologies.

There is another way to use “sonna ni” also. I think the third one is actually similar to “so” in English. I’ll write about it sometime soon. I don’t want to confuse you, so I won’t write too much this time. 



JLPT N4 and N5

JLPT summer test is just around the corner. I'd like to quickly show you my charts which explain the differences of particles.

Look at
the object
すきです(non-active verb or adjective)
Other examples: じょうずです、
たべます(active verb)
Other examples: のみます、みます、

Look at the place marker!
いきます(action with destination)
Other examples:
Other examples:
Other examples:

As you can see, the object and place markers change depending on the verbs (sometimes adjectives). Verbs matter! Please don't forget it.
When you choose a correct particle from four choices, check which verb is used in the sentence first! The verb will guide you as long as you remember the patterns above.

Ganbatte kudasai!


New classes!

NEW! Small group classes:
1-2 lessons per week, face to face at your office, a cafe, your home, or by Skype! 5,500 yen/hour for two students (as opposed to 3,800 yen/hour for one student). Highly recommended for couples studying together!

Starting this year, I’ll be offering special classes geared for businesses in Japan with foreign workers. The courses are custom-made, so the content can be adjusted to your organization’s needs. Examples of possible subjects might include the lack of distinction between L and R in Japanese, how consonants and vowels in Japanese are different from those in English, why translation software like Google Translate sometimes just doesn’t work correctly between English and Japanese, and more. This is a chance to help employees unfamiliar with Japanese to learn more about Japanese in a more conceptual way and to help minimize cross-language communication errors. Of course, I also provide more traditional Japanese classes that cover vocabulary, grammar, and kanji. I think you will find that, whatever your needs, I can help. If this sounds like something you might be interested in, I would be happy to discuss this with you to find a custom curriculum and pricing that works for you and your organization.