Posts Tagged ‘Fujimoto Miki’

For your ear’s pleasure: japanesepod101.com

2008 April 30

The useless background narrative

I’m 3 years late, but here it is…

There are indeed chance meetings that are just wonderful. Meetings which upon reflection would make you think, “I couldn’t imagine how things would work out without it!”. A perfect example is when I was hotspotting in Puskom UGM with Karnan and met Adit there. Adit is a fellow Ilkomer, and I had chatted with him through IM about studying kanji. I had told him that I want to copy his study materials some time.

And what a time indeed! After copying the kanji-related files, I was shown quite a lot of mp3s on his Nihongo folder. Not anime soundtracks or jpop whatnots, mind you, but Japanese language lessons! Adit said that you can turn it on and enjoy it while having your Morning Coffee. (or was it another drink?)

My focus was, and probably still, on reading. Therefore I thought some audio learning materials would be a great boon to enhance one of my weakest Japanese skills, listening. I happily copied it.

Most of them were japanesepod101.com podcasts and some nihongojuku. I listened to some of them, and indeed thought it was very great. However, in the end I didn’t have enough yaruki to do a full-fledged and regular listening of it. Probably because a lot of the episodes are missing. I like to study a certain thing thoroughly, from back to back, so those podcasts look like a book with lots of torn and missing pages. Not very appetizing.

Until one day I stayed at a relative’s house in Jakarta with ultra-blazing Internet connection. I wisely utilized it to download jpod101’s audio files (nihongojuku was dead). Collecting all the links and feeding it to Flashget took me well beyond midnight.

The first episode was in 2005. So yes, I was years late and was faced with a 4 GiB pile of digitalized sinusoidal waves. But no worry! They release like 1 episode per day, so one can definitely catch up just by listening to 31 podcasts a month.

About the podcast itself

The essence is simple: The free podcast teaches you Japanese using English. The teachers are Peter-san who is a native English speaker and at least a native Japanese speaker. After a short intro, you will be given a short dialog, then that dialog again in slo-mo, and finally the dialog with the English translation inserted in-between. Vocabulary is given after that dialog parade. Then finally the grammar points.

What’s so captivating about it? Probably because Peter-san is such a skillful and mesmerizing teacher. He gives lots of insights, interesting anecdotes, and Peter-style jokes in the explanation. Or maybe it’s because of the many nihonjin casts with their unique personality. From Yoshi the cool guy to Takase the tough girl. Or is it because the stories are genuinely interesting and most of the time hilarious?

No matter what your level is, if you’re learning Japanese then you should try to tune in to japanesepod101.com. They have a fine gradation of level ranging from newbie to upper intermediate. For those interested in the Japanese culture, they also have weekly Japanese Culture Class podcasts with topics from superstitions to marriage. Advanced students can even enjoy Miki-sama‘s full-Japanese audio blog. (the link points to the wrong person, but their nickname are actually same) And if that isn’t enough to assure you, they even have 1 lesson with Morning Musume as the topic!

Currently I try to listen to 2 podcasts per day. I’ve covered 300+ lessons so now my ears can even differentiate the voices of Yoshi, Jun, Natsuko, Sakura, Hatsumi, Naomi, Takase, Chigusa, and others. I’m quite surprised that I found lots of new words even in the Survival and Newbie series because I was well beyond my 3rd year of studying Japanese.

It certainly increased my listening comprehension significantly. Probably my speaking skill too, because I often repeated after the dialogs. At any rate, I’m looking forward for the day I can catch up with the latest episodes.

Closing words

I probably should send Adit a DVD as my gratitude. Oh, and anyway, upon leaving Puskom that day I carelessly left my student card and had to travel all the way from Milan

And lastly, are you a japanesepod101 listener too?

Am I learning Japanese or Biology?

2007 March 25

One essential aspect of learning a language is learning its vocabulary. In my Japanese study, this tranlates into learning kanji which are the building block of many words.

Most kanji are for things I am familiar with. Some examples are 人 (hito, person), 玉 (tama, ball), and 火 (hi, fire). Many are for common animals like 虫 (mushi, insect), 亀 (kame, turtle), and 猫 (neko, cat). Unexpectedly, I quite oftenly encounter kanji for an animal or plant that I have no knowledge about.

An example is 藤 (fuji, tou) which is the kanji for the plant genus Wisteria. It is found on many people’s name, such as 藤本美貴 (Fujimoto Miki), 後藤真希 (Gotou Maki), and 工藤新一 (Kudou Shin’ichi).

Using KANJIDIC or EDICT, I only get a brief description like “wisteria”. That is useless for someone with a shallow knowledge such as me, but enough as a pointer to get more information elsewhere. If I’m not online, my next stop is Stardict, which gives more detail such as “a climbing plant with purple or white flowers”. At least I could know that “Wisteria” is a plant, not something else like “hysteria”. My final stop is of course Wikipedia, which gives detailed descriptions and more importantly, images!

I’ll share some of the new living things I’ve discovered… Do you know them?

Wisteria

Wisteria

In Japanese, it is フジ (藤, fuji). And no, Mount Fuji is written differently. It is native to Japan and other countries including eastern US. It can climb by twisting itself along any available support. As I have written above, it is used on many people’s name. Anyone knows its Indonesian name?


Cicada

Cicada

In Japanese, it is セミ (蝉, semi). I found it on Berryz Koubou‘s song titled “Semi”. It is a family of insect that makes a lot of noise (but it’s different from Cricket). According to Wikipedia Indonesia, the Indonesian name is Tonggeret (never heard it before).


Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum

In Japanese, it is キク (菊, kiku). I found it on an author’s name (菊池, Kikuchi) at the digital library Aozora Bunko. In Japan, this plant is a symbol of death and are only used for funerals (which means, don’t give it to your Japanese girlfriend). 菊花紋章 (kikukamonshou) is the name given to the position of Japanese emperor. By the way, I recently went to Moro department store and found a Chrysanthemum product. It is a Chinese product and how happy I was to see the character 菊 written on the box :). The Indonesian name is Seruni (never heard it before too).


Manchurian Violet

Manchurian Violet, Viola mandshurica

In Japanese, it is スミレ (菫, sumire). I also found it on a writer’s name (薄田泣菫, Sasakida Kyuukin, and please don’t ask me what “sasaki” means). Is it also “Violet” in Indonesia?


Japanese Royal Fern

Japanese Royal Fern, Osmunda japonica

In Japanese, it is ゼンマイ (薇, zenmai). I knew what a fern is, but I was curious whether this fern has a striking difference (nothing striking to a layman like me). Strangely, it is the kanji used in Rose (薔薇, bara), which is where I found it. In Indonesia, ferns are called paku or pakis.


If you want to be able to read people’s name, you’ll be sure to encounter lots of these exotic kanji. It’s almost like they’re forcing us to be a botanist or zoologist. You’ll also find these kanji in songs and literatures (e.g., novels), because writers want to look cool by using obscure characters.

As a closing, note that I use katakana to write the name of the plants and animal above. This is a modern practice, which originates from the scientific community. Even in the Japanese Wikipedia, the article for dog is titled イヌ (inu) despite its kanji 犬 being taught in grade 1 elementary school. It is probably a sensible decision, considering that there are countless living things on Earth.