The Laramee Filter: pseudorandom thoughts, subsequently put on the Internet.
Tom Laramee
Date Published:
February 19th, 2022
Word Count:
1,738 (12:30 read time)
Filed Under:

A Brief Inventory of Japanese Before Our Sensai Returns

Alina and I are entering our fifth month of Japanese language study. We had a sensei for about half of that time before he took a planned trip to Tokyo for a couple of months, and so we've been on our own for the latter half. Because our sensei is coming back, we need to make a list of things we've learned since he's been gone, to catch him up to speed.

1. Hiragana

We've done a ton of hiragana, going both from romaji to hiragana and from hiragana to romaji. We've studied long consonants, long vowels, and contracted sounds.

E.g.: gakkō ( がっこう )
E.g: otōsan ( おとうさん )
E.g: kya: ( きゃ )

We made a ton of practice worksheets and have been using them to practice. Here's a recent sample of Alina's hiragana. She's getting pretty close to fluency.

Hiragana to Romanji #1
Hiragana to Romanji #2
Hiragana Exercise #1
Hiragana Exercise #2
Dates and Days of the Week

Days of the week, days of the month, and months of the year. The days of the month involves a set of counters, like so:

tsuitachi (1st day of month)
futsuka (2nd...)
mikka (3rd...)
yōkka (4th)

...whereas the "generic" counters are:

shitotsu / hitotsu
futatsu / hutatsu

And the fact that gold and silver ("gin'iro / kin'iro") cannot be used as adjectives, only as nouns, whereas most other colors can go back and forth (which has fairly big implications for how you join multiple colors together).


Numbers, their "generic counter form" and the counters for age (and cows).

Here's how you count animals (and insects):

ippiki ushi   ("one cow")
nihiki tanuki   ("two squirrels")
sanbiki buta   ("three pigs")
yonhiki inu   ("four dogs")
gohiki neko   ("five cats")
roppiki ...   ("six")
nanahiki ...   ("seven")
happiki ...   ("eight")
kyūhiki ...   ("nine")
juppiki ...   ("ten")

Specifying an age necessitates a counter.

san juu ha sai   ("38 years old")
go juu i sai   ("51 years old")
i sai   ("1 year old")

Koto can be used to noun-ify a verb. This is key when constructing sentences in which you're describing an action (a verb) as an object.

Watashi-wa hashiru koto ga sukides       (“I like to run”)
Ke-ki o tsukuru koto ga dekimasen       (“I can’t make cakes”)
Sushi o tabeta koto ga arimasen       ("I have never eaten sushi")
Amerika ni itta koto ga arimasu       ("I have been to America")
The Use of "Ga" vs "Wa"

These are two of the most important particles in Japanese. Use of “ga” implies it's the subject, as it is introduced for the first time. The “wa” is the topic, for something already introduced. "Ga" can also be used for emphasis.

Ocha wa nomimasu ga, ko-hi wa nomimasen.
(“I drink tea, but I don't drink coffee.”)
Maimichi, ushi ga mimas. Ushi wa totemo ookii desu.
(“Every day I see a cow. It is very big.”)
Kaze ga tsuyoi desu.
("The wind is strong.")

We've recently begun exploring "katta" as a conjugation (I'm not even sure that's the right word). It transforms the "i-" version of an adjective or a dictionary verb to the past tense.

The correct construct for describing something in the past is to use "katta" along with the adjective. The conjugation of the adjective to it's "katta" form puts the description in the past.

Suugaku no sensei wa waka-kute yasashikatta.
("The math teacher was young and kind.")
Ano hoteru wa furu-kute, kura-kute, kitanakatta.
("That hotel was old, dark, and dirty.")
Ushi ga inakatta.
("There was no cow.")
Multiple Predicates

Multiple predicates in a rows must be in their te- form, save for the last one, and it's the last one that indicates the tense of all of the previous predicates.

Asa de pan wo tabe-te, ko-hi- wo non-de, gakkou ni ikimasu
(“In the morning, I eat bread, drink coffee and go to the school”)
(ikimasu = present tense of "to go")
Asa de pan wo tabe-te, ko-hi- wo non-de, gakkou ni ikimashita
(“In the morning, I ate bread, drank coffee and went to school”)
(ikimashita = past tense of "to go")

Some more great examples (dashes are for me, not for you):

omoshiroi hon kai-te-imasu       (“I am writing an interesting book.”)
skoshi pan wo tabe-te-imasu       (“I am eating a little bread.”)
totemo futoi ushi kat-te-imasu       (“I am buying a very fat cow.”)
kii-te-kudasai. hanashi-te-imasu       (“Please listen. I am speaking.”)
oyshi bubble tea wo non-de-imasu       (“I am drinking a delicious bubble tea.”)
gozen yo-ji sanjup-pun / gozen yo-ji han ("4:30 am")
ku-ji (“9 o'clock” / not “kyuu-ji”)
gogo jūni-ji / hiru ("12 noon")
gozen rē-ji ("12 midnight")
5-ji ni ("at 5 o'clock")
gogo go-ji goro ni ("at around 5 o'clock PM”)
5-fun mae ("“5 minutes before”)
5-fun go (after) (“after 5 minutes”)
10-fun naka ("in 10 minutes”)
ima, nan-ji desuka? (“What time is it now?”)
Tadaima       ("I'm back [home]")
Ja, mata       ("See you / till next time")
Itte rasshai       ("See you when you get back")
Ki o tsukete       ("Safe trip, take care")
Okaeri nasai       ("Welcome back")
Ganbarimasu       ("I'll do my best")
Ganbatte kudasai       ("Good luck")
Shitsurei shimasu       ("Excuse me / it's rude of me")
O hisashiburi desu ne       ("I haven't seen you in a long time")
To Exist

A study sheet wholly devoted to the verb "imasu" (to exist").

Inu ga iru.      ("There is a dog.")
Otoko ga imasu.      ("There is a man.")
Neko ga inai.      ("There is no cat.")
Onna ga imasen.      ("There is no woman.")
Uma ga ita.      ("There was a horse.")
Shōnen ga imashita.      ("There was a boy.")
Ushi ga inakatta.      ("There was no cow.")
Onna no ko ga imasen deshita.      ("There was no girl.")
"yo" and "ne"

We touched on the use of both "yo" and "ne". "Yo" is loosely translated as "I tell you" or "you know" and is used to indicate the conveyance of new information to the listener, e.g.:

"Kiite-imasu ka?"      ("Are you listening?")
"Hai, kiite-imasu yo"      ("Yes, I am listening")

Whereas "ne" (loosely translated as "right?" or "isn't it?") is used when you're inviting someone to agree with you, e.g.:

"ii tenki desu ka?"      ("Is it nice out?")
"Hai, ii tenki desu"      ("Yes, it's nice out")
"ii tenki desu ne"      ("Is it nice out, right?")
"Hai, ii tenki desu"      ("Yes, it's nice out")
Dekimasu and Araimasu

Use of "dekimasu" and "araimasu" in conjunction with "koto" to complete more complex sentences:

Ke-ki o tsukuru koto ga dekimasu.      ("I can make cakes”)
Ke-ki o tsukuru koto ga dekimasen.      ("I can’t make cakes”)
Amerika ni itta koto ga arimasu      ("I have been to America")
Sushi o tabeta koto ga arimasen      ("I have never eaten sushi”)
New Verbs

We're learned a whole bunch of new verbs as a consequence of learning other conjunctions, phrases, etc. I haven't looked these up yet, so I'm not completely sure on their meaning/spelling/etc.

kaerimashita: came back
sukimashita: to become empty
kawakimashita: to become dry
dekimasu: can do [it]
arimasu: have [done it]
matte imasu: to wait / present
kikoemasu: can hear
ganbarimasu: do your best
New Nouns / Adjectives

We've also learned a fair number of nouns and adjectives (though not as many as I would have liked to).

tabi: trip
kazoku: family
ureshii: happy
yawarakai: soft
karui: light (weight)
tsuyoi: strong