Summer's here, how about practicing your Japanese?

Just wanted to plug the Japanese section of my blog. It's mostly reblogs of people's posts regarding Japanese language and culture, but there's definitely articles about tips for learning the language. And on the rare blue moon, I'll make a unique post to contribute.

It's summer, why not learn some Japanese?


Our Japanese Culture Forum


Blue fruit, the origins of Ao

So something that’s often mistranslated is Aoi 青い/蒼い. Normally it just means “blue”. But when used to talk about traffic lights, fruit, and grass, it means “green”.

If you look up the kanji in a Chinese dictionary, it’ll mostly say “green” (with some blue?). So it’s easy to think, “Oh, Japanese is derived from Chinese characters, this is probably some lost in translation thing.”

But maybe it’s symptomatic of something bigger than that? So I recently listened to the Radiolab podcast about colorshttp://www.radiolab.org/story/211119-colors/

And there was a whole section devoted to the color bluehttp://www.radiolab.org/story/211213-sky-isnt-blue/
To summarize, Homer from the Odyssey and stuff like that never used the word (or rarely did?). The same could be said about many of his contemporaries. Apparently, in human language, the first colors always tend to be black, white, then red… and blue almost always ended up being the last word form. Why? Were ancient people just colorblind? One theory they proposed was that blue didn’t occur in nature very often. Or that it was a difficult color for humans to make.

But what about the sky, right? So they did this test on some tribe somewhere that didn’t have the word for “blue” in their language. They were tested for color blindness, then shown some green colors and a blue color, and they couldn’t spot the blue. One guy asked his kid what color the sky was, and she’d say stuff like “white”, eventually sorta saying “blue” but only after a few months.




The Wo versus O distinction?

A viewer wrote in an e-mail asking why we tend to use Wo over O in karaoke lyrics.

Here's my response:

I mean, both wo and o are used interchangeably, but if you notice, the Japanese wo is pronounced a more in front part of the mouth. If you say O like in English, that's said more from the throat like "Oh!". That's why it's wo instead of o. As far as I know, Wo isn't used in modern Japanese words? Just people who are intentionally trying to be quirky.

I hope that makes sense. Let me know if it doesn't or if you disagree on any of the points.



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