Hakata-ben kouza: negative forms

Posted on October 28, 2006 | evankirby


Today's feature of Hakata-ben is not unique to Fukuoka, but is still recognized as one of the characteristics of Hakata-ben. It is the method of saying the negative verb - "to not do something".
In standard Japanese, the negative form of verbs is made in one of two ways, depending on the verb group.
- For group 2 verbs (basically, verbs ending in "-ru"), the negative form is made by dropping 「ます」 ("masu") from the polite form of the verb, and adding 「ない」 ("nai"), or 「ません」 ("masen") for polite negatives. For example:
Dictionary form -> Polite form -> Negative form
食べる (taberu, to eat) -> 食べます -> 食べない / 食べません
見る (miru, to see) > 見ます -> 見ない / 見ません

- For group 1 verbs (verbs not ending in "-ru", and a few "-ru" verbs too), drop ます
from the polite form, change the last vowel sound to "a", and then add ない. For polite form, just drop the ます and add ません, as with group 2 verbs. For example:
泳ぐ (oyogu, to swim) -> 泳ぎます -> 泳がない / 泳ぎません
読む (yomu, to read) -> 読みます -> 読まない / 読みません
遊ぶ (asobu, to play) -> 遊びます -> 遊ばない / 遊びません

So, the above is a quick explanation of the standard Japanese negative form. Changing this to the Hakata-ben negative form is easy! Just drop the ない, and add 「ん」 in its place!
So, some examples:
食べない -> 食べん
泳がない -> 泳がん
読まない -> 読まん
遊ばない -> 遊ばん

Notice that 見ない is not included in the above list. This is because the shortened version of it would be just 見ん (min), which is so short that it's hard to recognize as a verb! For this reason, most people would say 見ない instead, even in Fukuoka.

Finally, as we said, this special negative form is not only used in Fukuoka. It's also quite common in older men around Japan. However, when combined with some of the other Hakata-ben we've taught in previous chapters, this will definitely make you sound like a native Fukuokan!

Katakana Pronunciation better than English?

Posted on October 27, 2006 | evankirby

Many many moons ago, we had a "discussion" with a native speaker of English who was upset that the Japanese mangle the pronunciation of "coffee" as 「コーヒー」, among many other words. However, we pointed out that coffee isn't an English word in the first place. This source traces it from the Arabic qahwah. This is one example of a word whose pronunciation in English is at least as bad as the katakana version of that same word.
As Japanese has such a limited syllabary, it's inevitable that some words can't be faithfully transliterated into Japanese, one of the most famous being McDonalds, or マクドナルド (makudonarudo) as it's known here. However, in many cases Japanese does a much better job of keeping words imported from other languages close to the root word than English! Partly this is because those words were imported into Japanese much more recently, meaning there has been less time for the pronunciation to be corrupted. But partly it's also because effort is made to represent the sound as faithfully as possible, unlike the common habit in English of anglicizing words. This is very obvious in place names.
So, for example, the country we call Switzerland is called 「スイス」 (Suisu) in Japanese, which is much closer to the original Suisse. Likewise, the recent Steven Spielberg film about the Munich Olympics scandal was called 「ミュンヘン」 (Myunhen) in Japan. Paris becomes パリ (Pari), and Germany ドイツ (Doitsu), Italy is イタリア (Itaria) and Turkey トルコ (Toruko). Interestingly, Spain stays as スペイン (Supein), for some reason, and Sweden is スウェーデン (Sueeden) rather than Suverijji.

GenkiJACS on tha Intarweb

Posted on October 26, 2006 | evankirby

We know it's hard to decide to pay the money and fly around the world to study at a school you can't even be sure exists. That's why we offer several services to give you all the information you need from impartial sources who don't, you know, own and operate the school itself.
- Our testimonials page includes a whole lotta quotes (albeit cherry-picked) from past students
- Just ask, and we'll be happy to give you the contact info of former students from your area who can answer any questions you might have
- There are reviews of the school by former students on several other websites:
- A blog review of the school
- An article for a university newspaper
- An endorsement and apology in one! And one more entry from the same blog.
- A review of the school in German
- A former student's extensive blog about Fukuoka. There's not so much about the school, but lots and lots of beautiful photos of the surrounding area, and some good info on cultural differences, etc.
- The MySpace blog of a former student (contains lots of information, much of it not about the school, but also a lot of details about what school life is like, etc.)

We should mention, somewhat proudly, that we haven't cherry-picked these reviews at all - these are all of the independent reviews of the school that we know of that currently exist on the Internet. If you find more, or write one yourself, please do tell us about it, and we'll add it to this list! We believe in making sure you know everything before you come, so the truth is our best marketing tool...

One way to tell if a school is worth going to or not is to ask former students if they would consider going again. So, that's exactly what we do, and 94% of former students say they would definitely consider coming again! Another indicator is the number of students who do actually come back: in our case, this number approaches 10% of our student body, which is a remarkably high number. Finally, one can look at how many students come as referrals from former students. At present, more than 30% of the GenkiJACS student body is made up of people recommended to come by a former student. We're very proud of the level of service we provide here, and we hope you'll be a happy customer one day too!

GenkiJACS Owner Interviewed on LoveFM

Posted on October 24, 2006 | evankirby

LoveFM logo

LoveFM, Fukuoka's international radio station, was kind enough to offer our owner an interview today on the "The Link" section of their Around the Globe show, with Susan Annoura. Audio of the 10-minute interview is available here. We talked about the kind of courses and classes offered, what makes the school special, and a lot more. If you have 10 minutes to spare, give it a listen!

Japanese mnemonics

Posted on October 23, 2006 | evankirby

As promised, here is a longer post on using mnemonics to study Japanese.
As we mentioned previously, it's quite easy to come up with mnemonics for Japanese because the number of sounds is limited. We're going to look at two types of mnemonics here:
1) Relating Japanese words to similar-sounding English words
2) Learning Japanese homonyms (words with the same sound) together

Before we start, there are a couple of other sites that include some useful mnemonics to help you remember a few Japanese words. It's all kind of random, but it's good to look at what other people use to help you in coming up with ideas of your own. Here are the sites:
1. Edochan's famous mnemonics - very whimsical and fun
2. Blog on Japanese mnemonics - exactly what we will talk about today!

First of all, what are mnemonics? Basically, a mnemonic is a trick or shortcut that you use to help you remember something. For example, many people use "Never Eat Shredded Wheat" to remember the order of compass points, which must upset the fine folks at Post Cereals no end. This is a prime example of a mnemonic - it's easier to remember a sentence of words that follow grammatically from each other than to remember four unconnected nouns, and the order of words in that sentence gives you the order of the directions.

An example of a mnemonic to memorize the Japanese word 揺らす (yurasu, to shake something) would be the English phrase "shake your ass" (because "your ass" sounds a lot like "yurasu").

Because this is already an English phrase, those words are already related in your mind. It is far far easier to remember related information together than to remember unrelated information together. When you make a mnemonic, you are just using the already-present links between things in your head to convey new information - sort of a mental shortcut.

GenkiJACS Summer Evaluation Results, part 2!

Posted on October 19, 2006 | evankirby

Now for part 2 of the summer GenkiJACS evaluations! If you haven't read it yet, we recommend you start with part 1, here.

4. Textbook
No specific complaint about the textbooks was made by more than one person, so it's hard to pick the most important. However, we are always evaluating new materials for use in class, and are happy to hear from you with your recommendations!

5. Accommodation
- Too far from school
Both the dormitory we used this summer, and several of the host families, are quite far from school. This is mostly because the school itself is in a great location, right in the middle of the central downtown district of a major city, which is not where most people who have a spare room live. We do not accept host families who are more than one hour from the school by public transport, and in many cases people are a lot closer.
We are currently in talks to change the dormitory we use to one that is located on or near the subway line, making it much easier to get to and from school.
Regarding host families, there is very little we can do, unfortunately. For people who hate a long commute, we recommend a shared apartment as a closer alternative, although without a lot of the community feeling.
- Didn't like the dormitory
We take great care in choosing locations for our students to stay. Unfortunately, some students did not like the dormitory we used at all. We should mention that it is standard by Japanese norms for university students, but foreigners may see it as a little bare. As we mentioned above, we will shortly have a new dormitory for use, which should be a lot nicer.

GenkiJACS Summer Evaluation Results

Posted on October 18, 2006 | evankirby

As another step in our own little freedom of information campaign, we'd like to publish the results of our school evaluations.
First, a little explanation: We are always interested in improving the school experience, so we conduct weekly one-to-one counselling sessions with students, to discuss any issues they might be having related to school, classes, accommodation or just life in Fukuoka. At the end of a student's stay with us, we also have them fill out a more comprehensive evaluation form, to get their input on all aspects of the school and how to improve it. We recently collected all of the evaluation forms filled out since we moved to our new location in May this year, and analysed them all to determine what we can improve for next year.
Here, for your delectation, is a lengthy overview of the results. We've split it into two parts, half today and half tomorrow.

The categories:
Values are the average score for that category from all students who answered the question. Maximum score was 10.
1. Pre-arrival support: 9.1
2. Lesson/class schedule: 8.15
3. Content of classes: 9.02
4. Textbook: 8.37
5. Accommodation: 8.68

Even our lowest-scoring category, lesson/class schedule, was more than 8/10 on average, which we are quite proud of. However, there is still some room for improvement here.

Here are the most common comments/concerns we received for each topic, in order of popularity, with comment about how we will address that concern:

New NHK Japanese study TV show!

Posted on October 16, 2006 | evankirby


We were surprised to see a new Japanese language learning TV program from NHK starting a couple of weeks ago in the Friday 11-11:20am slot formerly occupied by 新日本語で暮らそう (ShinNihongo de Kurasou)!
The new show is 「エリンが挑戦!日本語できます」 ("Erin ga chousen! Nihongo dekimasu", or "Erin's Trying! You can learn Japanese"), and it follows the adventures of Erin, an ostensible exchange student studying at a Japanese high school. The first couple of episodes had her giving a short self-introduction to her classmates and taking a tour of the school.
While it may be early for first impressions, the show seems a little disappointing so far. 新日本語で暮らそう was cursed with the fastest-speaking human being outside of an auction hall, Rumi Sei, as a teacher, but it had really believable situations and roleplays, and made an effort to be all-inclusive by translating important points into five (5!) different languages on air. It also covered a good deal of material in a clear and concise way.
エリンが挑戦!, however, picks one or two simple phrases from a convoluted skit that doesn't apply to 90% of the potential viewing audience, and explains them badly and only in Japanese. It manages to stretch a little material over 20 minutes quite easily. And the actress playing the exchange student, Erin, was born and grew up in Japan, thus speaking perfect Japanese!
There is one redeeming factor we should mention: after the introduction of this week's phrase or grammar point, there is a montage of that phrase being used in a variety of real life situations. For example, the second episode included the phrase 「て下さい」 ("~te kudasai", or "please do x"). The montage after included people asking for a haircut, asking for a demonstration of toys in a toy store, and more. These little clips were done very realistically and naturally, and really help to show the way that a phrase is used in normal life. It's a very nice piece in an otherwise slightly disappointing series, that seems aimed at only a tiny part of the potential viewing audience.

Music City Tenjin

Posted on October 09, 2006 | evankirby

Music City Tenjin

You'll hear nothing but music in Tenjin for 2 days! The biggest music festival in Fukuoka is coming soon...
"Music City Tenjin (MCT)" is held on the 14th and 15th of October, and about 300 professional and amateur musicians perform at various places in Tenjin.

Events for the festival will be held in about 40 places, but one of the most remarkable events is the one called "Street Stage". You can see performances of 40 select professional musicians FREE! A main stage will be located in front of Fukuoka City Hall.

There's one other event we'd like to mention, called "Floor Circuit". Once you buy a ticket (Adv: 1500 yen, Day: 2000yen), you can make the rounds of 8 concert venues. Not bar hopping this time but live house hopping!
Besides these, many places have free performances by lots of local musicians. You may find artists from famous bands performing solo, so it's a great chance to catch the other sides of them!

Concert sites included unique places such as 博多百年蔵 (Hakata Hyakunen Gura, a famous sake brewery) and a famous live music house 照和 (Shoowa) which has turned out many great musicians.

It is a good chance to get to know or explore the Japanese music scene.
Why don't you drown yourself in pleasant autumn music waves?

For more info: MCT official website

(This blog entry by Mika-sensei, our resident music expert.)

Music City

The New York Times on Fukuoka

Posted on October 06, 2006 | evankirby

Nexus World, Fukuoka

We're a little late to the party, but it seems the New York Times published an article last week about architecture in Fukuoka! While we often bemoan the fact that there are few truly magnificent antique buildings in the city (apart from the 赤煉瓦文化会館 (Aka renga bunka kaikain, red brick culture hall)), it is true that Fukuoka has some very spectacular modern architecture.
Our own particular favorite is the ACROS Building in Tenjin, which is a kind of hanging gardens, totally covering one stepped side of the building.
ACROS building

There's also the Canal City shopping complex, which has some incredible if schizoprenic parts. (That last link is worth clicking just for the amazing photograph there.)

Finally, the article also mentions the Nexus World housing development in Momochi, which we hadn't heard of before, but which was designed in part by Rem Koolhaas, and does look quite amazing. Now we know where we want to live next...

The Japan Forum: Free trip to Japan!

Posted on October 05, 2006 | evankirby

An associate informs us that The Japan Forum is running a competition open to all high school students in the US, offering 8 students the chance to come to Japan for 9 days to make a photo essay of Japanese culture in conjunction with Japanese high school students. If studying with GenkiJACS is still a little out of your reach, this might be a great way to get to Japan easily! Unfortunately, Fukuoka isn't in the 4 locations students will be sent to...
The deadline for applications is the 1st of February, 2007, so you've got a while to apply yet. Applications can be found here:
Good luck!

This way, that way and the other way? こう、そう、ああ

Posted on October 04, 2006 | evankirby

Beginner students of Japanese often struggle with the three words used as relative pronouns in Japanese, これ (kore, this), それ (sore, that) and あれ (are, that over there). The reason it's difficult, of course, is that English only really has two: this, and that, so the difference between それ (meaning, something closer to the listener than the speaker) and あれ (something not close to either the listener or the speaker) can be quite difficult to grasp.

Along the same lines, a student in our Japanese for Exams course had some questions about the other forms of these words, こう (kou, this way/like this), そう (sou, that way/like that), and ああ (aa, the other way), and こんな (konna, this kind), そんな (sonna, that kind), and あんな (anna, the other kind). In the interests of furthering the knowledge of the world at large (or at least, that small portion of it that reads this blog), here is an explanation of the difference.

So, to the questions. These questions are taken from study materials for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, level 3. We'll leave the answers till later, to give you the chance to figure them out for yourself:
1.こう 2.こんな 3.そんな 4.あんな

1.こんな 2.あんな 3.そんな 4.そう

1.あんな 2.こう 3.どんな 4.ああ

1.こんな 2.あんな 3.どう 4.こう

1.ああ 2.どう 3.そう 4.こう

1.そう 2.あんな 3.ああ 4.どう

Hakata-ben: "けん"

Posted on October 03, 2006 | evankirby

Hakata-ben kouza

It's a slow news week, so here's the second part of our 博多弁講座 (hakataben kouza).
This time, we look at the word "けん" (ken).
This word is the Hakata-ben equivalent of the word から (kara) or ので (node), meaning "so" or "therefore". Of course, as it's 方言 (hougen, or regional dialect), it's a lot less formal than "therefore".
An example:
Standard Japanese: 5年も仕事をしていないので、雇ってくれませんか?
go-nen mo shigoto o shiteinai node, yatotte kuremasen ka?
I haven't had a job in 5 years, so would you hire me?

In Hakata ben, this becomes:
Go-nen mo shigoto shite nai ken, yatotte kuren to?

In this example, "ので" is simply replaced with "けん".

"けん" is also often used together with the verb "だ" (sometimes changed to "や"), as "だけん" or "やけん". This takes the place of the standard "だから" (dakara). "やけん" is more informal than "だけん".

Standard Japanese: ズボンは黒ですから、シャツはどの色でも合うよ。
Zubon wa kuro desu kara, shatsu wa dono iro demo au yo.
It's a black shirt, so any color of pants will match.

In Hakata ben, this becomes:
Zubon wa kuro yaken, shatsu wa dono iro demo au ttai.

Finally, "やけん" or "だけん" can also be used to replace "だから" in it's other meaning: when someone misunderstands you, and you want to sound exasperated when you correct them:


A-san: Kinyoubi ga san-jussai no tanjoubi ttai.
B-san: Ee, mou yon-jussai to?
A-san: Daken san-jussai tte yutteru yarou ga!

A: It's my 30th birthday this Friday.
B: Wow, you're 40 already?
A: I said 30, dumbass!

Notice that there isn't really a direct translation for the Japanese "だけん" or "だから" in the last sentence - in English, it would most likely be conveyed just through tone of voice, or of course the word dumbass...

The strange customs of Japan - student collection

Posted on October 03, 2006 | evankirby

Strange Japanese customs
We put a blank piece of paper up on the wall in the student area at school, for students to write the weird cultural things they noticed about Japan. Well, they've built up a nice number already, so it's time to paste them onto the Internet for everyone to see!

Clicking the picture above will take you to a larger version on our photo gallery, but if you'd rather read neat machine-typed text, here's the list (with comments as necessary):

1. Special slippers just for the toilet.
2. Shop staff who follow you out of the store and bow to you as you walk away.
3. The streets aren't named, just occasionally the intersections! (Even taxi drivers have problems finding their way around!)
4. No paper towels anywhere, and some restrooms don't even have soap!
5. Women-only wagons on the train.
6. In most department stores, it is forbidden to drink or eat.
7. Store staff shout "irasshaimase!" even when nobody is around. (いらっしゃいませ! is the equivalent of the English word "welcome!", and traditionally in Japan store staff say it to customers entering a store. However, they also shout it at random intervals too, for some reason.)
8. EXPENSIVE PUBLIC TRANSPORT! (Yes, Fukuoka is quite bad for this, although recently 100-yen tickets on the bus and subway have been increasing.)
9. Where are the trashcans??? (For a very clean country, there are extremely few trashcans around. Part of this is that people don't eat on the streets, of course...)
10. "Condoms" for wet umbrellas... (In most larger stores, a dispenser by the door gives out umbrella-shaped bags to make sure your umbrella doesn't drip everywhere.)
11. Where is all the litter, since there are no trashcans??? (Somebody found a theme, I think.)
12. People in clothing stores insist you take your shoes off before fitting, and want you to put your shirt over your current one...
13. Timed parking meters for bicycles ... Funny! (Fukuoka ranked number one in Japan for the number of abandoned bicycles a few years ago, so there is now a big effort to improve bicycle parking in the city center. The main thrust of this is installing parking meters, at 100 yen a time.
14. Filling out questionnaires after a punk show. (Doesn't sound very punk...)
15. Wiping of dog after it eats, pees or poos.
16. Sales person made us stay for tea, cookie, and then kneeled for my $ (¥).
17. All the plastic food displayed in the windows of restaurants.
18. Women are doing their make-up while riding a bike, or shaving eyebrows on the train.
19.Actually, the friendliness of shop staff, waiters, etc. Try to find this in Europe or the US.
20. Women in beautiful high heeled shoes but actually dragging them with every step, totally taking away the effect.