Quick tip for remembering that 下 means “under”: It’s a horizontal line with another line hanging “under” it. The opposite is 上 (うえ), which means “above” and has a line above the horizontal.
学校 = がっこう = school
下 = した = under, below
Here There Be Dragons
Blue: English has a lot of prepositions that show location. Above, behind, inside and so on.
Yellow: I had to write a preposition based story in elementary school.
Yellow: I called it: “The Horror Beneath The School”.
Blue: Anyways, in 日本語 location prepositions have to be combined with another word like に or へ.
Blue: And you link them to objects with the pattern: Object の Location に
Blue: That means “beneath the school” would be 学校の下に
Yellow: Isn’t の possessive?
Blue: Yes it is.
Yellow: So 学校の下に is literally “In the school’s beneath”?
Blue: Some things shouldn’t be translated word for word. Just go with “beneath the school”.
We haven’t actually covered the right verb for saying things like “There are books at the library”, but I promise to cover that as soon as we finish with our basic lessons on prepositions.
公園 = こうえん = park
家 = うち = house
The Knights Who Say…
Blue: に is one of the most flexible and important of all 日本語 prepositions.
Yellow: Then why did we wait until our fifth preposition lesson to talk about it?
Blue: The simplest use of に is to mark locations: In the park. 公園に. At my house. 家に.
Yellow: Can’t we also us で to mark locations?
Blue: You use で when the location helps the verb happen: “I am studying in the library”.
Blue: You use に when telling where something is at: “There are books at the library”.
Yellow: What if I say I’m studying at the library, but I’m not actually using the library to study?
Blue: I’m pretty sure there isn’t special grammar for telling fibs.
“de” has a few other uses that don’t translate to “by using”, but they aren’t quite as common and you can usually figure them out on the spot by just looking at the sentence. In the future you might want to revisit “de” and learn a bit more about all the different ways it can be used, but for a beginner this grammar is all you really need.
図書館 = としょかん = library
Blue: Some verbs work best when used with another object.
Yellow: You write using a pen. You study using a library.
Blue: You use で to mark these helper objects and locations.
Blue: In English で usually translates to “with”, but other prepositions are possible.
Yellow: I wrote a letter with a pen. I studied at the library.
Blue: Those were some surprisingly responsible sounding examples.
Yellow: Thanks! I copied them out of your notebook.
Merry Christmas Eve everyone! This comic may not look very Christmas-y but here in Oklahoma it’s not that unusual to get a rather brown or light green Christmas. On the other hand, some years we get ice storms and snow. Never a dull moment when it comes to Oklahoma weather.
友達 = ともだち = friend
From The Heart
Blue: から is an easy word because it’s almost identical to the English “from”.
Blue: You use it talk about origins and starting points.
Yellow: Physical starting points are easy, like saying “I came from America” with アメリカから.
Blue: You can talk about starting points in time too, like “starting on Monday” with 月曜日から.
Yellow: You can also talk about where things came from. Like using 友達から to describe a “present from a friend”.
Blue: A Christmas Present? How thoughtful!
Blue: Now I feel guilty that I didn’t get you anything.
Yellow: Well, Christmas isn’t until tomorrow and plenty of stores are still open…
Learning a language is usually a two step process. First you learn basic grammar and vocabulary. Then you move on to learning the more subtle nuances and exceptions and slang and idioms.
In Gengo Girls we’re only going to cover the most basic of preposition grammar. It will be enough to get you started but won’t really explain everything.
To go further you’re going to need an intermediate book like Essential Japanese Grammar. This book lists several dozen common-but-hard-to-fully-understand words and clearly explains exactly how they should and shouldn’t be used. For example, it has seven whole pages devoted to the different ways to use the preposition “ni”.
You’re probably not ready for a book like that just yet, but you might want to look it up after you’ve been studying for a year or two and have finished mastering the basics.
Secret Training Methods
Blue: Most English prepositions don’t directly match up to a single 日本語 word.
Blue: Look at a simple word like “in”.
Blue: Depending on the sentence it might be translated as で or に or be dropped entirely.
Yellow: So I can’t just memorize some preposition vocabulary and be done?
Blue: Nope. To properly translate prepositions we’re going to need a deeper understanding of 日本語.
Yellow: Do we get this deeper understanding by meditating under a waterfall?
Blue: We get it by studying grammar books.
To be honest this isn’t really new grammar since by this point you should be used to marking things by placing a letter after them. Just like you use は to mark subjects and を to mark objects you can use things like へ, で or に to mark different types of prepositional phrases. Although I guess they’re more like post-positional phrases.
We’ll be covering this in more depth next week, but for now just relax and remember that even if Japanese prepositions seem to work backwards they are actually following a pattern you’re very familiar with.
店 = みせ = store
へ = to, towards
Blue: In English we use prepositions like “to” and “from” to add more information to sentences.
Yellow: I went to the store.
Blue: They are called “pre”-positions because they come before the new information.
Yellow: “to” comes before “the store”.
Blue: 日本語 has similar words, but they work in reverse. The connecting word comes after the new information.
Blue: “To the store” is 店へ. The へ comes after the 店.
Yellow: Backwards talking start to need I do so?
Blue: That’s not what this lesson was about at all.
More fun trivia: In English our days are named after the sun, the moon and five ancient gods (four Norse, one Roman). Which seems kind of odd to me. Why the out of place Roman god? Why Saturday? Why not make them all Norse and go with something like Baldurday instead?
日曜日 = にちようび = Sunday
月曜日 = げつようび = Monday
火曜日 = かようび = Tuesday
水曜日 = すいようび = Wednesday
木曜日 = もくようび = Thursday
金曜日 = きんようび = Friday
土曜日 = どようび = Saturday
Blue: It’s important to memorize the days of the week.
Yellow: Cool trivia: The days of the week are named after the sun, the moon and the five Chinese elements.
Yellow: Now we can say things like 今日は金曜日です
Yellow: It’s 金曜日 in my heart.
Blue: Your heart can have an early weekend as long as the rest of you still remembers to come to school tomorrow.
There are actually rules for figuring out how to pronounce or read a kanji without memorizing every single word in the dictionary. First, all pronunciations can be classified as either a “kun” pronunciation or an “on” pronunciation. Most kanji have at least one of each and there are patterns about when to use “kun” and when to use “on”. Once you know those patterns you can look at a word and make a good guess at whether you should use the “kun” version of the kanji or the “on”.
But that’s the sort of thing that’s only useful for people who are memorizing all the kanji and right now we’re mostly focusing on grammar and basic vocabulary.
However, if you do decide you want to learn all the kanji be sure to not only memorize what the kanji means and how it can be pronounced, but also how the different pronunciations are classified. Knowing that a kanji has two different pronunciations isn’t very useful if you can’t remember which is which!
今 = いま = now
日 = ひ = day
今日 = きょう = today
When Do We Get To The Fun Part?
Blue: Most kanji have two or three different possible pronunciations.
Blue: Which pronunciation you use depends on the word the kanji is in.
Blue: For example, when you combine these two kanji into one word it doesn’t just change their meaning, it changes how they are pronounced.
Yellow: So it’s not enough to just memorize all the kanji, I have to remember the words they show up in?!
Blue: This is another reason that texts with pronunciation guides are really useful to new learners like us.
Blue: On the bright side this means your 日本語 hobby will last for years and years.
Yellow: That’s not the part of the hobby I want lasting for years and years!
It took all the way until strip seventy three to fully cover all of the grammar from the simple “Good morning, nice weather we’re having” example from the beginning of Gengo Girls. Maybe I could have planned this better…
“ne” is actually kind of a weird sentence ending that’s halfway between a question and a statement. A lot of it depends on your tone of voice. Adding “ne” with a questioning voice means “Am I right? Do you agree with me.” On the other hand adding “ne” with a more firm voice is more like saying “I know I’m right” or “I agree with you”.
Once again, just expose yourself to a lot of Japanese and you’ll get an instinct for “ne” in no time at all. It’s really just a way to add emphasis to a sentence and is much easier to understand than it is to explain.
WHAT IS A CAPS LOCK?
Blue: Remember how can turn any sentence into a question by gluing a か onto the end?
Yellow: Yeah. That’s easy grammar.
Blue: You can also put a よ at the end of a sentence, which is like an exclamation point.
Yellow: Now I can be excited about things!
Blue: Or you can use ね. It’s like adding “Isn’t that right?” or “I agree” to the end of your sentence.
Yellow: Like in いい天気ですね from back in strips 4 and 5.
Blue: Exactly. “The weather is nice, isn’t it?” or “I agree, the weather is nice”.
Blue: But be careful not to overuse ね or よ in formal environments. They are both kind of casual.
Yellow: I guess yelling “!” all the time isn’t very professional…
“kowai” (scary) is easy to mix up with “kawaii” (cute). Please try to avoid doing this as it is rather awkward to accidentally tell a new mother “Your baby is incredibly frightening”.
You should also know that “kowai” can refer not only to “being scary” but also to “feeling scared”. So you have to look at the context of the sentence to figure out what the other person is saying. If someone describes themselves with “kowai” they probably mean that they feel scared, not that they personally consider themselves to be terrifying.
映画 = えいが = movie
怖い = こわい = scary
Gore Or Bore?
Blue: You didn’t think it was scary? Event the scene with all the zombies?
Yellow: What’s scary about a slow moving target that can be picked off with a single shot from a hunting rifle?
Blue: Maybe one zombie isn’t a threat, but what happens when there are hundreds?
Yellow: I guess shooting that many one by one would get pretty tedious…