Conversation StudiesImage by Len Allwood
So the other articles leading up to this one have been kind of easy, kind of hard, maybe a little more than one person should process on a single run through. I can’t say for sure, but since fun feels less like work, let’s take this opportunity to add a few odd words to our study vocabulary and learn a little bit about culture.
Let’s do a little less vocabulary and grammar today and focus a little more on discussion about Japan.
Sam: Tomomi-san, “ghosuto hausu” te itta koto aru?
Tomomi: Obake yashiki no koto kana? Koukou no bunkasai de kurasu de tsukutta yo.
Sam: Donna no tsukutta no?
Tomomi: Zonbi ni nattari toka. Tenjou kara kon’nyaku o tsuru shitari toka.
Sam: Nani o tsuru shita no?
Tomomi: Aa, wakaru kanaa. Tabemono de katai jerri mitaina mono. Kao ni attatara, kimochi warui ne.
Sam: Sugoina! Hoka ni wa?
Tomomi: Hitodama o tsukuttari.
Tomomi: Chisana honou mitai nan dakedo, shinda ningen no tamashii no koto dayo.
Sam: Tomomi have you ever been to a “ghost house?”
Tomomi: Do you mean a haunted house? When I was in high school my class made one for the cultural festival.
Sam: What was it like?
Tomomi: There were zombies. And they hung kon-nyaku from the ceiling.
Sam: They hung what?
Tomomi: You know. It’s like hard jelly. And it’d hit you in the face and was gross and slimy.
Sam: Was there anything else?
Tomomi: Well we had hito-dama.
Tomomi: They’re like fiery little balls that represent the souls of dead people.
When in doubt try it in katakana is something I’ve mentioned directly and indirectly a few times, and we see it here again as Sam katakan-izes “ghost house” in trying to elicit the idea of a haunted house. All these scripts have been run by Japanese friends to make sure the phrasing and grammar were as natural as I could get them, while still being useful for the topics I wanted to delve into—or at least glimpse through a keyhole.
I mention this because when I used the term “ghost house” in katakana one of the responses I got was that “ghost house” in katakana English referred to “actual” haunted houses, or houses that were really believed to be haunted, as opposed to お
Of course お化け屋敷 comes from combining お化け for ghost and 屋敷 for residence or estate. While お化け or ゴースト is most often used for ghosts, you may have heard the term
You can look up
Last, I’d like to mention
One of the constructions I use a couple times here and almost every time I open my mouth to speak Japanese involves みたいな. I’m a big fan of similes and metaphors (and metonymy), and this is one of the easiest ways to construct them in Japanese—because why would you say “rowdy” when you could say “like a beach ball full of crabs.” While みたい can also mean “want to see,” here it operates more along the lines of “looks like.” Let’s look at it in a few examples:
So in A you have a comparison being made that works kind of like build your own adjective. First you say your description, then みたいな, and then finish with the thing you’re talking about. In B and C the sentence ends with みたい, so the な gets dropped, and the meaning is more about what seems to be so. “Look” in both instances could just as easily be “seems”: you don’t seem well; it seems I’ve eaten too much.
This is obviously a little different than its usage in A. Also notice in A the comparison is two nouns, in B みたい follows an adjective, and in C it follows a past tense verb. This is important because if you use みたい with a て-form verb, it means “to try” something; e.g. 食べてみたい means to try eating something, like a new food.
One of the topics that occasionally comes up amongst students of Japanese is about how the economy of effort behind kanji seems somewhat untenable. Now, usually this has to do with memorizing all of them, but until you really get used to writing them—and many people never do thanks to the marvelous advent of word processors—all those strokes seem unnecessary to relay relatively little information. For example, above we have 気持ち, which when written in hiragana is きもち. Writing the word in kanji doubles the number of strokes involved.
Of course Japanese is a language of homonyms, and once you’ve grown accustomed to kanji, going back and trying to read something written mostly in hiragana is just a headache. So I intend this as a bit of a pep-talk. Studying and learning kanji is worth the effort. You’ll get to the top of the mountain, and it will be glorious!