Updated: Oct 21
It’s been a while since I posted up a post about the Japanese language. I know I promised you one about intonation and all that. So here it is! First of all, let me start by saying…
Do Not Get The Intonation Wrong
It is because the slightest change can mean the difference between “how are you” and “soggy pig’s balls”! Let me put it this way…If you say “espanol” to a Spanish person, you probably will get them looking confused, and that blank “what do they mean?” kind of stare, but if you say “español” (if you haven’t read my Spanish posts, then it’s pronounced es-pan-yol) they’ll understand you, because of that extra “y” in the pronunciation. By the way, “español” means Spanish.
So, by not pronouncing a word properly, you’ll either get a slap in the face, or someone helping you out. So, for example, there is a difference between saying the word for “chopsticks”, and “bridge”. It’s not quite as extreme as a slap, but you will get several confused and concerned faces if you pronounce these words wrong. Both are said as “hashi” but in one intonation, the inflection is on the “ha”. So, when you say “HA-shi” you’re saying “chopsticks” and when you’re saying “ha-SHI” you’re saying bridge.
With me so far? There’s also another sore spot for native speakers…or native writers actually. It’s a bit like English.
Here, try this:
There is a difference between writing “there” and “their”.
Did you get it?
That’s right, is the spelling of the word. Or if you really want to annoy the hell out of a writer…that’s write, it’s da spelling ov da wrd (I’M SORRY! I’M SO SORRY! I’m even cringing at this, but it gets the point across!).
Learn The Correct Spelling
In Japanese, if you spell a word wrong, you’ll get Japanese writers looking at you as if you’ve grown a third head, because the word might not make sense when the sentence is read. So, when you learn a word, don’t just learn it using the Romaji alphabet. While it’s handy, it doesn’t list out the intonation clearly, since symbols sound the same.
For example, in Hiragana, は can sound like either “ha” or “wa” depending on the word and depending on where it’s placed in that word. Not only that “wa” has its own Hiragana symbol, and that is わ. That’s why you need to be careful about spelling too. If you spell a word with the wrong symbol, people might not understand what you’re trying to say.
So, if you spell “Hello” in Japanese, the correct spelling is こんいちは. Sometimes, you’ll probably see こんにちわ but this is a modern spelling of the word, and traditional speakers will probably get angry at you. It’s because, the last syllable “ha” is actually a topic particle (something I just learned, while researching the structure of the word), and is actually a sore subject for some native Japanese writers, because the modern version of こんにちわ is actually a wrong sentence structure. I’ll go into more detail later, once we’ve got down the basics of their alphabet.
Don’t worry if you don’t get what I mean, I’m slowly learning all of this too, so we’ll cover these topics together. For now, all you need to remember is that both pronunciation and spelling are the two most important aspects of Japanese.
Alright, that’s enough from me today, because that’s a lot of theory. For now, let’s get you some homework. I want you to find some Japanese words, and see if they have other ways of spelling them, just like they do for こんにちは. I’m sure you’ll find some, since modern society has made some of the old phrases of traditional Japanese redundant.
Well, I’ll let you guys go now. See you next time! Don’t forget, I’ll know if you’ve been practicing!