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.

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