How to Pronounce つ Small Tsu in Japanese

Do you have trouble pronouncing small tsu in Japanese?

If so, this three-minute video will solve your problem!

Yes, just a quickie from the KawaJapa Cure Dolly TV channel this week, but one that answers a question I am often asked.

The 促音 sokuon or small tsu is a sound that worries people because there seems to be no equivalent in English

The Japanese word literally means “stimulated sound”, presumably because the consonant following the small tsu is intensified or semi-doubled.

Semi-doubled sounds weird, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t that logically mean “singled” or left as it is?

Ahem. What I mean is that while it is said to be doubled that isn’t quite what is happening when we pronounce it. Luckily, what is happening is very simple and is in fact a sound that we all make in English from time to time.

Once we understand that, small tsu becomes very easy.

Firefox Multi-Account Containers as a Japanese Immersion Tool (even for non-geeks)

Containers in action. Note the green underlined tabs for English activity (click to expand image)

If you are serious about Japanese immersion, you will have noticed something. Japanese content starts popping up unasked on your computer.

It’s a fact of life that your online life is tracked by various agents in various ways. If you use Japanese a lot, if your YouTube account is with YouTube JP rather than your local one (it should be, and it’s easy to do), if you use Japanese-Japanese online dictionaries and read NHK News Easy (to take a few examples), you start getting Japanese ads and other content served to you whether you wanted them or not.

This is obviously a good thing for immersion. You want things to be this way. You want to keep your Japanese bubble as complete as possible. However, if you sometimes browse in English you will get more English language content served to you. The more you use Japanese the more Japanese content you get and vice versa. If you exclusively browse in Japanese and use Japanese services your Japanese unsought content will become dominant.

But you may have to use quite a lot of English. Or at least a certain amount. This is where Multi-Account Containers for the new Firefox comes in.

To be honest, I have been using this technique for a long time and I did it by using different browsers. I use Chrome for English webbing (for example, writing this article) and Firefox for my everyday Japanese immersion life.

This works and you can use this method if you like. However, Firefox Multi-Account Containers let you run as many accounts as you like without switching browsers. The cookies generated by one account are boxed off from the others so there is no spillover from one set of activities to another.

A geeky (and well-organized) friend of mine has her different activities all neatly packaged up with multi-account containers. I will never be that well organized. However, one can also do it in a very simple way.

What I do is this:

At the simplest, just make an English container. Any English browsing/consuming/creating you do, you do in an English container tab (the tab itself will be color-coded so you can keep track easily).

That’s all. For my general Japanese online life I don’t even need to use a container. Just make sure the English stuff is packed away in a box where it doesn’t affect everything else.

Make the English container your default container and then when you visit an English site check “always open in default container” in the Containers toolbar. From then on that site will always open in your English box and won’t contaminate your Japanese immersion life.

You may also want to make a separate box for financials (PayPal etc) to make them a bit less vulnerable to hacking from all the strange sites you visit. But that’s another question.

Happy immersion!

Te Form of Verbs Made Easy – learn te-form in ten minutes with this simple mind-map

The te-form of verbs is one of the more difficult parts of Japanese because it really is a small set of “facts” that you have to learn.

Most of what gets presented as the random “gotta-learn-em-all” facts of Japanese grammar actually aren’t that at all. They are part of a logical system that the textbooks never teach and I have explained the real secrets in my book Unlocking Japanese and in various articles and video-lessons.

However, the te-form of verbs is one exception in that there really are six different forms depending on how the verb ends, which you just have to know.

Mendokusai (Japanese for “pain in the petunia”), ne?

Fortunately it can be made a lot easier.

In this video I give a simple mind-map with mnemonics that will allow you to dominate the te-form in a very short time. The video is under 8 minutes and you may want to watch it a couple of times. But you should have the te-form of verbs conquered for life in under an hour!

Notes (and advice):

There are  just three notable exceptions to the system presented here. They are Japan’s famous two irregular verbs kuru and suru, plus iku, “go”. Iku, instead of becoming the slightly awkward-sounding iite becomes itte. They work like this:

する (suru)→ して  (shite)

来る (くる kuru) → 来て  (きて kite)

行く (いく iku)→ 行って  (いって itte)

Even though I mention these for completeness, I don’t recommend “learning” them now unless it feels easy.

My advice is, if these three feel confusing, just ignore them for now. Don’t let the whole system feel over-complex for the sake of these three. Consolidate the overall system in your mind. You will easily pick up the few exceptions over time.

A lot of people stay shaky on the te-form of verbs for a long time (especially recognizing it on the fly). With this system you can master the whole structure in a very short time.

Sanrio Puro Land – Amazingly Cheap Discount Tickets – and review

Sanrio Puro Land is the world capital of kawaii, and you can get super-cheap discount tickets if you know where to look. But are they a good buy?

It’s a departure from our usual Japanese language articles, but anyone interested in Japanese kawaii really needs to visit Sanrio Puro Land.

It’s a little bit pricey but I found a really good deal on tickets. At the time of writing a day passport is ¥3,300 but by going to Voyagin I was able to get a ticket for ¥2,100 – a pretty steep reduction. I was also assured that the ticket was valid for about three months so if you buy it in advance (which you have to, but one day is fine) and then find you can’t make it on the day you planned that’s ok.

You get an E-ticket sent direct to your phone, so you just have to show the QR code on your screen at the gates of Sanrio Puro Land.

My main worry was that in the past some tickets were not full passports and did not include all attractions. However when I got there I was passed in with no trouble and was free to go on all rides, shows, and everything included in the regular passport.

Oh and before you ask, no I am sponsored or paid anything to tell you this. Just something  really good that I want to share with y’all.

If you want to get a feel of what Sanrio Puro Land is really like I think this video really conveys the feel. It is in Japanese but has English subtitles (you need to enable them) and also Japanese subtitles. So if you are practicing watching Japanese with Japanese subtitles, please use those instead.

Notes for Japanese learners

Sometimes the Japanese use of English is more confusing than the Japanese use of Japanese!

ステージ (stage) is a katanana English word but here it does not mean the literal stage, but the show.

ロケット (rocket) Is a term for a spectacular musical finale, especially as found in Takarazuka Review performances. This is why the video calls the Hello Kitty finale (which is based on Takarazuka finales) “Kitty Theater’s Rocket”.

The Japanese verb conjugation chart to END conjugation charts!

Yes, I really meant the title.

This is a verb conjugation chart that is simple enough to keep in your head. It covers all the main conjugations (except -te/-ta form) and it simplifies the Japanese verb conjugation system to the point where you’ll never have to worry about it again.

Too good to be true?

How could one small android do all that?

The answer is, I didn’t do it. The Japanese language did it. Japanese “conjugation” (so-called) really is amazingly simple, logical and easy to understand – if you look at it the way it really is.

Japanese is language done right. Until you start to apply Western models like “conjugation” to it. Then it becomes the confusing mess you find in the Western “Japanese grammar” textbooks.

So let’s just strip away the confusing ideas and show you the real Japanese verb conjugation chart.

It takes me a quarter of an hour to explain it (mostly because I walk you through showing how the same principle applies to all “conjugations”). Once you understand it in all its brilliant simplicity you will never need a Japanese verb conjugation chart again.

Please enjoy this video.

If you want to ask questions, please go direct to the YouTube page and use the comments section. I will answer as soon as possible.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the KawaJapa Cure Dolly Channel while you’re there!

Mini Q&A

Why is the は ひ ふ へ ほ (ha hi hu[fu] he ho) column written as ば び ぶ べ ぼ (ba bi bu be bo)?

Because there are no verbs ending in hu (fu) or pu. Also, I thought it too obvious to mention, but for completeness, please note that where there is a ten-ten on the last kana of a word we use the same ten-ten on its transitions. So およぐ (oyogu, swim)  becomes およが、およぎ (oyoga, oyogi) etc.

Why do you have -そう (-sou) among the helper-words on the i-row chart but don’t talk about it?

Because for the sake of simplicity I am covering only the main so-called Japanese conjugations. However, since the -そう (-sou, “seems like”) helper also attaches to the i-stem  in the same regular manner as everything else, I included it in the chart for completeness.

Dolly Departs

Your doll is leaving for Japan. I will be away for a couple of months, and while I am there (as some of you may already know) I don’t speak English.

However I have prepared some video lessons in advance, and while I was thinking in terms of a few mini-lessons, actually we turn out to have some pretty substantial material lined up that you won’t want to miss.

As I probably won’t have either the time or the magic powder (I leave my English Language circuits at Tokyo Airport so even writing English takes a lot of magic powder) I probably won’t be putting the videos here on KawaJapa or sending out DollyGrams about them.

I will, however, still be responding to comments and questions on the video lessons on YouTube. So if you have any questions feel free to pop them there.

So you might want to subscribe to the channel so you don’t miss any.

Normal service will be resumed some time in October. However I am happy to say that what we have while I am away in terms of video lessons is going to be really interesting valuable.

Please enjoy it.

Can the GA particle really become NO in subordinate clauses?

The textbooks tell you that the ga-particle can become no in subordinate clauses.

It’s true – kind of – but it is one of the most clumsy and unhelpful explanations in the long history of clumsy and unhelpful explanations that Western “Japanese grammar” has racked up.

It is also dangerous because it tends to fuzz up the nature of the all-important ga-particle (the core of every Japanese sentence) even more than the textbooks have fuzzed it up already.

This video lesson will explain what is really going on in these sentences and how it is much simpler and more intuitive than the standard explanation leads you to believe.

I am putting in some further explanation for people who want more details, and if you want still more, this note sparked a very full and interesting discussion in the YouTube comments section which you may want to read. I’ve pinned the thread to the top so you can find it immediately.

A quick nerdy note for those interested

I am not saying that “Ga can become no in subordinate clauses” is untrue. I am saying that it is an unhelpful description for the following reasons:

1. It gives a very abstract and complicated appearance to what is essentially a very simple and intuitive phenomenon. If you don’t happen to know what a subordinate clause is already, it is useless. And it isn’t a good idea to learn what a subordinate clause is just for the purpose (as I am sure many people do) because…

2. If you do know what a subordinate clause is, it is still inadequate and confusing because the point really isn’t that the clause is subordinate. The point is that it is adjectival. Using the general term “subordinate” just serves to make it fuzzy.

3. (And this is the crux of the matter) It gives the impression that ga is suddenly replaced by the unrelated particle no for no very apparent reason (other than “it just is, so learn it”). It also gives the impression that there is perhaps “another no” that means something completely different from the usual no. Actually no is doing something not all that different from what it usually does. We are in fact using the possessive/attributive function of no to attribute an (already stated or assumed) action or state to an already known person or thing. So in terms of practical grammar it does tend to de-emphasize the adjectival clause (marking it as “old news” as it were and throwing the spotlight more firmly onto the thing it is describing).

4. It just adds one more little twist to the process of obscuring ga. Ga is the heart and foundation of Japanese grammar, and Western descriptions seem to be almost willfully throwing obstructions in the path of understanding the very key to the language. Of course there is nothing willful about it but it there might as well be. While this is nowhere near as damaging to the foundations of Japanese understanding as saying that koohii ga suki desu really means “I like coffee”, it just helps to muddy the waters of ga that little bit more. Maybe not such a quick note after all. ごめんなさい。

Japanese Causative – what the textbooks don’t tell you

The Japanese Causative isn’t difficult but there are a few tricky aspects that the textbooks don’t explain very well.

Especially the problem of what particle to use where is presented as a set of “random facts” when it is all really very logical and understandable once you understand how these sentences are really structured.

Please enjoy this video lesson.

The Japanese Mo Particle -what the textbooks don’t tell you

The Japanese Mo particle is quite simple and limited in its functions. However there is a very important point about it that is simply not covered in the Western version of “Japanese grammar”.

It is an important point because it is central to how Japanese grammar works. It not only makes the mo particle easier to understand but it also clarifies where it stands in relation to the other major particles so that the whole structure of Japanese grammar becomes clearer.

Please enjoy this lesson on the Mo particle.

As usual, if you have questions please ask them in the comments section on YouTube and I will answer you.

The Potential Form of Japanese Verbs: What the textbooks don’t tell you

Japanese potential form of verbsThe potential form of Japanese verbs is really not difficult.

However, some of the things that the textbooks teach about it actually undermine our understanding of Japanese.

So let’s watch this short video lesson to learn not only how the potential form works – but even more importantly, how it doesn’t work!

And as usual, when the Doll is around Japanese gets easier than you thought!

If you want more information, we always recommend looking at the comments section on YouTube because there are often discussions going into more detailed points.

For example, in this case AzwraithPL-san wrote:

Is the emphasis placed on the hearer even when the が(ga) subject is left out in「鳥を聞こえる」(tori wo kikoeru)? I know that including the subject would necessarily include emphasis as が(ga) directs focus to what it marks, but is the implication of a subject alone enough to direct that focus as well? If it does indeed emphasise the subject in the same fashion is it simply of a lesser degree than the inclusion?

And The Doll replied:

The simple answer is yes, even the implication of hearer-as-subject by the use of wo does direct attention to it.

The reasons that particular forms are used can vary and can be quite subtle so it is hard to make a rule about all cases, but the grammatical point is that

tori ga kikoeru

does not necessarily imply a particular hearer. All we are really saying is that a bird is audible. Of course if we add (or the context implies)

watashi wa

specifying oneself (or anyone else) as a particular hearer, that changes it (though still does not carry a strong emphasis unless the wa is distinguishing the hearer from someone else).

But in this construction the ga-marked actor is the bird itself, and that is where the emphasis naturally lies (if you remember, in the advanced wa/ga lesson we said that ga throws the emphasis back onto the thing it marks – when we think about this construction we start to see that it is not just some “rule” but is built into the way the grammar works).

tori ga kikoeru

could, for example, simply be describing a scene: “There were mountains and trees and a bird was audible” – i.e., anyone who had been there would have heard a bird, but we are not saying that anyone in particular was hearing it. Conversely,

tori wo kikoeru

must imply a particular ga-marked hearer. A wo implies a corresponding ga.

To say

tori wo kikoeta

is like saying “a bird was heard by” (or better “xx heard a bird” since it isn’t passive). We immediately have to ask who heard the bird? Who is the owner of the ga that corresponds to the wo? In the English equivalent you can’t leave that part unstated (which is why I had to use xx just to express it actively in English), but in Japanese you can – however, the assumption is that your hearer will know it and fill it in mentally. The reasons for using the less common

tori wo

formation can be various. Some Japanese people do not even accept it as correct Japanese. I have heard it said that it is especially used by younger people in the Tokyo area. In these cases it may be influenced by foreign usage and feel somewhat “trendy”. But those speakers aren’t the only ones who use it.

However, whatever the circumstance or motivation, a speaker who chooses 鳥を is purposely throwing grammatical weight onto the hearer as opposed to the bird.

Naturally, if you have questions of your own you can pop over to the comments section and ask them!