Hello, Japanese learners all over the world! I am a Japanese living in Tokyo. I'm not such a fluent English speaker, so my English must include a lot of errors. But, I think that comments from a real Japanese may help when you study Japanese, and then I decided to start writing this series of blog, in which I will review a famous textbook for Japanese learners, ''GENKI an integratede course in elementary Japanese (third edition).'' I would like to comment about whatever I feel when reading this book as one of typical Japanese people. In this article, I am going to deal with mainly ''Introduction'' etc. and Lesson 1, which I have read just now. Then, let's go!
First of all, I felt that it is too urgent for begginers people to study hiragana in Lesson 1, katakana in Lesson 2, and kanji afterward. I was a little bit surprised at the curriculum shown on page 17 that says so. If you have plenty of time, it might be an easy & pleasant way to spend one month to master pronunciation and listening. Japanese phonetics is very simple! This is one of the most different points from English, phonetics of which seems to have no end. There may be some who have browsed page 22 & 23 at bookstore and judged that Japanese has complicated phonetics. But, please believe me that until kanji you can acquire Japanese with ease, because the number of sounds used in Japanese is very few. Fundamentally, all kinds are on page 20, 21, and 22, so no more numerous than 200. What is more, almost all sounds can be classified into one of five vowel groups, ''a, i, u, e, o.'' In order to master Japanese phonetics beforehand, I think that maybe you need other recording data which contains many words, read out in Japanese only. Such materials allow you to repeat various Japanese sounds for a long time, that would build your mouth up ready to speak Japanese.
Now I go back to textbook. On page 41, the expression ''XはYです(X wa Y desu)'' is explained. This Japanese phrase is translated as ''X is Y. As for X, it is Y.'' I partly agree with it. I think Japanese has no concept of subject, so the translation ''X is Y.'' looks not so appropriate. Then, when Japanese people say ''X wa Y desu'', what do they mean? In my viewpoint, ''Xは'' makes a kind of field. So, if permitted to translate it, I would say ''Regarding X, it is Y.'' ''せんこう は にほんご です。Senkou wa nihongo desu.'' is translated in English as ''My major is the Japanese language.'' on GENKI. But in my opinion, this Japanese phrase just says ''Regarding my major, the Japanese language.'' No subject. Japanese lets speakers think what is the subject, maybe partly because the keigo (honorific words) system makes it easier to judge who or what is the subject.
As far as vocabulary is concerned, I took notice of ''Korea'' which was translated as ''かんこく Kankoku.'' The reason I watched the word is that North Korea has completely different name in Japanese, ''きたちょうせん Kitachousen.'' ''Kita'' means north. For your reference, Korean peninsula is ''ちょうせんはんとう Chousen hantou'' in Japanese, in which the counterpart of peninsula is ''hantou.'' So when considering by the process of elimination, the translation of Korea turns into ''Chousen.'' According to my not so large stock of knowledge, ''Chousen'' is the word older than ''Kankoku.'' The choice of the words includes complicated affairs, and I cannot help but hope that you will put some importance on these words.
Finally, here is another rather soft topic. On page 25 & 26, the long vowels are written with ''ー'' when only using katakana according to this textbook. But, I often come across hiragana using ''ー,'' yet only in casual situations. The usage of ''ー'' in hiragana seems unofficial, so grants the whole sentences a kind of humor. Furthermore, there is a more humorous tool, ''〜.'' This indicates the long vowels with rolling pronunciation. Speaking of 〜, I would like to illustrate the word ''あ〜ちゃん aachan''. This is the name of a singer & dancer in a trio techno-pop unit, Perfume. By introduced as ''あ〜ちゃん'' rather than ''あーちゃん'', people can identify easily the entertainments she produces. Do you know ''きゃりーぱみゅぱみゅ Kyary Pamyu Pamyu''? It is the same producer, 中田ヤスタカ Nakata Yasutaka, who has composed all songs of both Perfume and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. So, if you like Kyary, it is possible that you like songs of Perfume, which are good at not only melody but also choreography. My recommendations are ''Night Flight'', ''Ceramic Girl'', and ''Zero Gravity'' for now. In a live tour video, あ〜ちゃん singing Zero Gravity controled the audience completely. Youtube would provide you with the video.
That's all for this article. See you on next one.