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    Archive for February, 2014

    Differences Around Japan.

    Different Countries in One

    In almost every country in the world, things are going to be different in different areas of that country. Even in a country as young as the US there are very big differences between different areas. Japan is no exception.

    Japan wasn’t a unified country until the early 1600’s. Despite it becoming a single country, many differences have persisted even till today. Some differences are difficult to see, but then there are some stark differences.

    Are you speaking Japanese?

    Any Japanese textbook that you study will be teaching you the standard polite Japanese. That is what I studied in school. Anyone in a professional position will speak to you that way (with the exception of restaurants. They’ll use the honorific language.) However, when you get out into the real world or off the beaten path, you may suddenly find that you can’t understand a word.

    Home sweet home

    I live down in the south west of Japan (referred to as western Japan by Japanese people.) When I came here, I really couldn’t speak any Japanese. Having studied for 2 and 1/2 years, though, I could at least recognize things. Well, until I got here. What I hadn’t known was that a dialect is spoken here. Stores were ok as long as it wasn’t official explanations. (For that they use the honorific Japanese.) when I spoke to regular people or people in privately owned shops, I had a problem understanding what people were saying. Especially older people.

    A gourmet tour

    Each area of Japan has it’s own style of food. And they have their own special dishes too. Even some of the “same” dishes are actually quite different.

    Everyone’s image of Japan is that they eat sushi all of the time. True, sushi is very popular, but maybe a large part of it’s popularity is because it has become famous around the world. Actually, ramen and curry rice are eaten a lot more often than sushi. But not all ramen is the same. Each area of Japan has it’s own kind. I am particular to the pork broth ramen eaten down here where I live.

    As you travel around Japan, you will experience many different dishes, dialects and even some customs. The good part is that as you practice standard Japanese, anyone will be able to understand what you are saying.

    First Impressions

    First arriving

    When I first got to Japan I was at the airport in Osaka. I had a layover. That was my first impression of Japan. Pretty standard, actually. When I got to my final destination, it was night and I was exhausted. I stepped out of the airport and it just seemed like there were so many people, so much noise and so many lights. The funny thing now is that when I go back to that airport, I see just how small it actually is!

    Bright lights, big city

    There are a lot of rumors about how crowded Japan is and how many lights there are. Well, that’s true for a few parts of Japan. When you first arrive it can be a little overwhelming. Though, your impression is based on where you’re from. I’m from a smaller, spread out city with a low population density and very strict laws about advertising, building and zoning. Japan doesn’t have such stringent laws. Streets are narrow and full of buildings. The larger cities have the tall buildings and skyscrapers and small cities have the shorter building. But they are all equally close together! There is a lot of advertising. Some structures that I had once thought to be parts of buildings actually turned out to be billboards.

    You could eat off it

    Once you get over the initial shock of being in a new place, you notice that it’s clean: like really clean! Japanese people litter just as much as anyone else, but it’s cleaned up. You might think, “Oh, that’s not too strange.” But actually, it’s not usually cleaned up by government crews. You will see shop owners, employees at nearby companies and even retired people out cleaning. It was very funny when I saw people in business attire out sweeping a small park. Or the little old man who cleans a river every morning.

    Here a shop, there a shop

    Another interesting thing to me was that there are little shops and restaurants everywhere! Even in residential areas. Want some ramen? Go down the street. You could spend a lifetime wandering around one city, trying all the little places to eat. Much of what you need is right around where you are living or staying.

    Japan’s refrigerators

    Another thing you notice is that there are convenience stores everywhere. There are two that are a reasonable walking distance from my apartment. If I choose to ride my bike, I could get to a dozen in no time at all. A Japanese friend once said to me that because Japanese peoples’ refrigerators are so small they need the convenience stores to hold the things that they needed. And they are so popular in Japan that it is huge business. There are over 10,000 different convenience stores. That’s not individual markets, there are over 10,000 brands! Who knows how many individual stores there actually are.

    Back home the convenience stores are full of junk food. Chips, candy and sweetened drinks are mostly what’s sold. In Japan you can get whole meals that are made at the convenience store! Of course they have the junk food too, but they also have ready made side dishes for the person who wants a little help cooking, ingredients, such as seasonings, and sometimes even vegetables and fruit. Now that’s convenience! The prices aren’t that too radically different from a supermarket either. You an buy wine, magazines, rain gear, long underwear, umbrellas and a bunch of other things. It’s really amazing what you can get.

    Language Teachers Can Now See How Their Students Are Doing

    February 22, 2014:  We have just added some cool new features that we think will make it much easier to teach foreign languages.

    Teachers can now see exactly how their students are doing.

    Lessons You Should Study Before Going to Paris

    Are you traveling to Paris soon?  All of our French lessons will help you, but the lessons listed below are the most important ones to study before you travel to Paris.

    Warning:  You won’t learn much by looking at these lessons here.  You need to first become a paid registered user, then add them to your study plan and study them.

    Trying to learn from this list is like trying to learn French from a dictionary.  It really won’t work even though the content is all there.

    When to Add New Lessons

    We suggest only adding a lesson when prompted to add a lesson.  That way you will know you are making progress.

    Suggested lessons for a visit to Paris:

    1)      Beginners Lesson 1

    2)      Beginners Lesson 2

    3)      Discover Paris

    4)      Public Transportation

    5)      Talking with Travelers

    6)      Talking with Travelers 2

    7)      Checking in to your hotel

    8)      Checking in to your Hotel 2

    9)      Getting Directions

    10)   Renting a Car in France (which I would not do for Paris, only for travel outside the city)

    11)   In the Restaurant

    12)   Buying Coffee and Croissants

    13)   Beginners Lesson 3

    14)   French for Travelers

    15)   Where are you from?

    16)   Dinner in a French Restaurant

    17)   Beginners Lesson 5


    Besame Mucho – Andrea Bocelli – With Lyrics

    This is a favorite Spanish song of many non-Spanish speakers.


    Here,  Andre Bocelli is singing “Besame Mucho” which was written in 1940 by Mexican songwriter Consuelo Velazquez.  Wow!


    How to Learn Japanese at

    Particles give very important information in Japanese sentences

    The meanings of hints and explanations in the lessons

    In the Japanese lessons, there are a number of explanatory notes to help students. Japanese grammar is quite different than that of English. There are some things that have no equivalent in English, so a creative workaround was necessary.


    How to Learn Japanese

    by David Ockey

    Before I came to Japan I had studied Japanese in college for 3 1/2 years. When I came to Japan, I could say virtually nothing!

    I could say my name, where I was from and “The apple is on the table.” To this day, I have not been asked one time where the apple is.   I could also ask how much something costs.  Of course I couldn’t understand the answer, so I never asked…

    Eleven years later, I can speak Japanese reasonably well. The moment I knew that I had finally “made it” is when I could order pizza over the phone. (Speaking a language that you’re not confident with is particularly difficult over the phone.) I was elated!

    Getting by in Japanese is Easy

    So how did I do it? Well, the good news is that getting to the point where you can get by in Japanese isn’t that difficult. (Higher levels of proficiency require a great deal of difficult study.)  If you can speak English, then you already speak what I believe is the most difficult language in use today. There are many rules to English. But what makes English more difficult is that there are many exceptions to those rules!

    Many Rules – Few Exceptions

    Japanese is a relatively pure language. It hasn’t really been affected by other languages (although that’s changing.) Yes, it has many rules too, but I haven’t encountered any exceptions.

    Another thing that makes basic communication easier is that Japanese has a lot of set phrases. You can communicate a lot of meaning with just a simple phrase.

    Japanese Crunch – Boom Crash Words

    There are also two types of words that are very common in Japanese that communicate an exact idea. The closest thing we have in English is onomatopoeia (words like crash, crunch, boom, etc.) The Japanese version of these words express not just sounds, but a lot of other things, even texture!

    However, the best thing about tying to get by in Japanese is that Japanese people are very forgiving. A non Asian person speaking Japanese is still pretty rare. In fact, when I travel with Japanese friends to other Asian countries, the people in those countries are pretty surprised to hear me speak Japanese. Sometimes that’s the best part of traveling!

    What Should You Start With?

    If I were telling someone how to learn Japanese, I would suggest starting with greetings, compliments and other common phrases.  Learning a few disarming phrases will make your Japanese friends feel good and is a good way to get started in Japanese.