Vocab and Grammar

“Hello”/”Hi” in Japanese


“Hello”or “Hi” has no equivalent in Japanese. But there are words that can come close enough. Consider the basic Japanese greetings:

Ohayou gozaimasu – Good morning

Konnicha wa – Good day, good afternoon

Konban wa – Good evening

Oyasumi nasai – Good night

The usage of all the above is similar to their English equivalents.  “Oyasumi nasai” is used at the end of a conversation. The other three are used in the beginning of a conversation and can double as  a light “hello” too.

“Doumo” is another word that works like “hello”. It’s a little informal and is normally used with people you know quite well. “Doumo”with a slight bow roughly means “hello, how do you do”. The reply to this would be another “doumo”.

You would say “hajimemashite” if you are meeting someone for the the first time. It means “pleased to meet you”. If you are meeting someone after a long time, you would probably say “Ohisashiburi desu” which means “It’s been a while”.

Then there’s the super formal “Gokigenyo”, which means “hello, how do you” and “good bye, farewell”as well.

But, if you are a student in a Japanese university, you would probably just greet your friends with a cool “YO”!

Japanese thoughts

Here’s the book I chose for “book lover’s day”

聖女の救済(せいじょのきゅうさい)or “Salvation of the saint” by Keigo Higashino. Love to read books based in Japan as they allow me to indulge in guilt-free binge reading. “Guilt free” as anything to do with Japan or Japanese counts as  “work” for me:-). I have read almost all of Higashino Keigo’s books but this is the only one that I have read in Japanese. I have enjoyed reading his translated books but reading his words in the language that he wrote felt truly special. The language is not too tough – I would say anyone with  intermediate level of Japanese can easily follow the book . This is another “detective” mystery from Higashino. The plot is interesting enough, but I personally liked “Malice” better. Really want to read his “Malice” (あくい。悪意) and “Naoko” in Japanese.

Reading books and magazines in Japanese is a fun way to up your vocab and improve your reading skills. Here’s a site that allows you to legally download full length Japanese novels for free. You would probably find some of these books on Amazon Japan for 0 Yen.


Books for learning Kanjis

As you move to advanced levels of study you might want to invest in an authoritative book that does more than list out Kanjis required to be memorized for an exam.

“A guide to remembering Japanese characters” by Kenneth G.Henshall (1998) lists 1,945 Kanjis beginning with the easiest “一” which means “one”. The Kanjis are arranged grade- wise. The entry for each Kanji mentions the total stroke count, onyomi (chinese reading) and kunyomi (Japanese reading). Each Kanji also has a brief account of how the picture came to represent a particular meaning. There is a mnemonic as well to help you memorize the Kanji. The stroke order however is not shown which makes things tough for those who want to practice writing.

Though I used this book for N1, I don’t remember finding the “mnemonics” useful in memorizing. It is interesting to go through the origin of the Kanji, but even this didn’t really help much. I remember going through the “basic rules of stroke order” mentioned at the end of the book and using it to practice writing the Kanjis. As I wrote I learnt to break the Kanjis into individual radicals and made my own mnemonic based on the meaning of the radicals. The book gives the principal meaning of all radicals.

More recently, I purchased “Kanji learner’s course” by Andrew Scott Conning. This book gives the stroke order too for you to practice writing. Also since the mnemonics here break the Kanjis into radicals, I personally found this book closer to my style of learning. Kanjis with the same radical such as  花、北、背、比 have all been grouped together making it very convenient for the readers to compare and make a note of any minute differences. There is a note for Kanjis that look confusingly similar .

Wonder if the more recent edition of Henshall’s have made any changes to address the problems mentioned above?

Japanese thoughts

The many similarities between Japanese and Tamil expressions


According to Prof. Susumu Ohno, many Japanese words have been derived from the Dravidian language Tamil. According to him besides sharing a lot of similarities in grammar, words such as “tanoshii” (adjective meaning fun) and “hanasu” (verb meaning talk) have similar sounding words in Tamil. The similar sounding words in Tamil that Prof. Ohno had in mind was probably “khushi” and “pesu” respectively. They rhyme  alright!

Not sure how much of the above theory is correct. But, there are some undeniably interesting similarities in the way Tamil and Japanese are spoken. For starters the sentence structure is the same. Like Japanese, Tamil too follows the Subject-Object-Verb pattern.

Here are a few things that are expressed in the same way in both these languages:

  • The expression, “kono kusuri wa kikimasu ka” means “is this medicine effective?”. But when spoken this sentence can be taken to mean “will this medicine listen” – “kikimasu” means “listen” although while writing,  the kanji 効 (meaning effective) is used and not the kanji 聞(meaning listen). In Tamil too, we say “Indha marundhu kekuma” which literally means “will this medicine listen”.
  • When you want to say “try this chocolate” in Japanese, you’d say “kono chocoreto wo tabete mite” which literally means “Eat and see”. In Tamil too, we say “Saptu paar” which means “Eat and see”.
  • When you leave home, you’d tell the folks at home “poitu varen” in Tamil which when translated would mean “I’ll go (now) and come(back)”. In Japanese you have “Itte kimasu”.
  • When you are stepping out for a bit, say to buy something, you’d say “vaangitu varen” in Tamil which in English would be “I will buy and come(return)”. The Japanese say “Katte kimasu” which means the same thing.
  • When you do something (say teach something) for someone, you say “solli kudupen” in Tamil which means “teach and give” and in Japanese you say “Oshiete agemasu” where “agemasu” means give.
  • When you keep something ready or when you do something for a future use, like for e.g. buying a ticket for a trip, you’d say “Katte okimasu” in Japanese which literally means ” buy and keep” in English. In Tamil too, we have same expression “vaangi vekkaren”.

So many, right? There are more am sure. These expressions make no sense when literally translated in to English. Japanese language can certainly seem more challenging to an English speaker.


Please do not reproduce this post in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.