Friday, September 11, 2009

1. Pronunciation 2. Japanese Verb Conjugating Mnemonics

1. Learn to pronounce it right! I've run into quite a few language experts who never took the time to even remotely mimic the accent of their target language. It seems such an easy step to take. Have you ever made fun of a foreigner's accent (when that foreigner is not around) when speaking English? If you can do that then you can at least try to mimic a foreigner's accent when speaking their language. When I meet someone who has learned a language but who has not expended any effort to approximate a good accent it is irritating. I have experienced this on many occasions and even by people from amazing institutions. Depending on the language being mispronounced it can be a heavy assault on the ears; so much so that I can not even listen to the person.

2. I ran across this set of mnemonics that are very useful. With them you can conjugate any Japanese verb except the handful (one hand) of irregular verbs. Those irregular verbs thankfully are extremely commonly used so you will get enough exposure to them when speaking to native speakers. By the way, you should definitely be seeking out native speakers to accost (linguistically) when learning a language. There is just no greater joy than seeing that sparkle of understanding on their faces to spur you along on your quest. I have been putting this off because I wanted to cite my source but I can not find it and it has now been many years since having come up with this mnemonic device that I am even deluded into thinking that perhaps I came up with it on my own. If you've seen it before I'll acquiesce. This mnemonic gets you to the simple past form of the verb, from where you can easily craft the other forms.

Verbs ending in mu, nu, bu replace with nda to form the past

Verbs ending in u, tsu, ru replace with tta to form the past

Verbs ending in ku and gu replace and end with ita and ida respectively

Verbs ending in iru and eru replace and end with ita and eta respectively

Verbs ending in su replace with shita to form the past

kuru and kaeru and irregular; they become kita and kaetta respectively

That looks great doesn't it? Well, it would still be difficult to learn with the data thrown at you like that. How about this. It is like a poem:

mu nu bu nda
u tsu ru tta
ku gu ita ida
iru eru ita eta
su shita


Yobu (to call) Yonda (called)
Kaku (to write) Kaita (wrote)
Yaku (to burn) Yaita (burned)
Oyogu (to swim) Oyoida (swam)
Taberu (to eat) Tabeta (ate)
Okasu (to cause to happen) Okashita (caused to happen)
Okosu (to wake someone up) Okoshita (woke someone up)

Get out your dictionary and apply these rules.

It may take a minute to memorise but it is a sight better than when I was taking a Japanese course because I needed some quick language credits (I'm self-taught) and saw the teacher using three blackboards to explain Japanese verb forms, not to mention the absolute resignation on the students' faces. I might iterate that you can learn any language on your own and in fact with few exceptions the worst place to learn one is in a school.

Have fun with that and I hope it propels you onward.

Here is a little fun for masochists:

Japanese verb form quiz:

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