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    Archive for May, 2015

    What to do when you can’t understand.

    When Japanese people learn English, they are taught to say, “Could you repeat that please?” or “Could you speak more slowly, please?” Consequently, when we learn Japanese, we are taught to say the same kind of things. Sounds like a good idea, but there’s just one problem: it doesn’t work.

    It’s just not natural

    If you think about it, when you are talking to your friends, if someone says someone that you didn’t quite catch or could understand, you don’t use those phrases. Japanese people don’t use those phrases either. Furthermore, Japanese people aren’t used to talking with non Japanese people so when someone can’t understand they often don’t know how to react. So when you ask someone to repeat something or to speak more slowly, it often has the opposite effect. It stops the conversation.

    What to say

    There is a way in Japanese to indicate a quote. It’s a glottal stop in front of the syllable, TE (て) (pronounced teh) Because it’s a glottal stop, you hold back your breath before pronouncing the “T”. It kind of explodes, but don’t do it too strongly. You don’t want to spit on anyone!

    The structure

    This way of quoting is written like this; って. The small つ (TSU) indicates a doubling of the consonant that follows.  The pronunciation changes to a glottal stop. The word or phrase in question comes first and the って comes last.  It’s kind of like saying, ” ____ you said?”


    Here is a simple conversation.

    Daisuke: さば は すき です か?(approximate pronunciation) Saba (WA) ski dess kaw?

    Do you like makeral?

    John: さば って?saba tteh

    You said, “Saba”?

    Daisuke: はい、魚です。(approximate pronunciation) hai saw kaw naw dess

    Yes, it’s a fish.


    Of course the conversation would go on but John could quickly, naturally and easily get at least some idea of what Daisuke was talking about.

    Where the rubber meets the road

    So learning those phrases aren’t a bad thing, but most of the time they will not bring about the desired result, even when talking with your Japanese friends. As I listened to Japanese people talk to each other, I picked up on this gem, and it has helped me ever since.

    Why You Need a Passport Card

    May 12, 2015:  You may have heard about the passport card that the United States Department of State now issues. Of course, in theory it’s only officially “valid for international land or sea travel between the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda.”

    The Department of State charges extra for a passport card, and you still must have a passport book if you are going to fly to an international destination, so you might think that you don’t need the passport card. Trust me, get one anyway.


    Golden Week

    5 day weekend!


    One of the many things that surprised me after coming to Japan was the large number of national holidays. Like most Americans, I had a very strong stereotypical image of Japanese people. Work was everything and your own pursuits don’t matter. To be honest, that is true to a certain extent.

    The good ole days

    When I was a student, I eagerly waited for holidays. I didn’t care about the celebrations, I just didn’t want to go to school. I wanted to play! But, holidays were a rare thing, kind of like Bigfoot sightings. But here in Japan it’s a different story.

    What holiday is it?

    almost every month there is a national holiday. (I know, right?) From what I understand, they are the birthdays of former emperors. (The current emperor’s birthday is a national holiday.) When the emperor dies, of course the new emperoror’s birthday is celebrated. However, the previous emperor’s birthday is changed to a national holiday of another name. Because of Japan’s long history, that’s a lot of Emperors’ birthdays!

    In fact, there are so many holidays that many people can’t remember what they are. I only remember a few like, Sea day, Respect for the Aged day, Green Day, Children’s day, etc. I must admit, though that I don’t know if all of them were actually an emperor’s birthday or not. I know that Constitution day wasn’t.

    The perfect storm

    There is one week in May where 3 or more holidays line up. Japanese people have named this Golden Week. I guess having that many days off is golden. I agree! In fact, this post was finished after the fact. Many Japanese people travel during this time. In fact it’s the third most expensive time to travel in Japan. I enjoyed my Golden week with shopping and yard work. Oh yeah, and that day that I did nothing.