Blog 006. (English version)
I mentioned in the last (1st) issue of “Eigo-jiru” that I had discovered something really interesting which could lead you to improve your English pronunciation, while I was teaching my children to write some Japanese words in “Katakana”.
Therefore, I am going to start introducing it piece by piece in one of the sections of each “Eigo-jiru” blog post from now on!
A small “ツ”(tsu) in Katakana does not exist in English pronunciation???
One of the Japanese’s “Hiragana” characters, a small “tsu” (つ),
(ex. “ゆっくり”= “slow“, ”ちょっと” = “a little” or “a few”, ”葉っぱ” = “leaf”)
…is also used in “Katakana” character / as “tsu” (ツ)
(ex. “カップ” = “cup”, ”ラケット” = “racket”, ”セット” = “set”)
*”Katakana” character is applied to loan words in Japan.
However, this small “ツ” (tsu) does not exist in English pronunciation!
I am going to give focus to
this small “ツ” (tsu) in Katakana, this time…
I have got a 10-year-old boy, and 8-year-old daughter,
and basically the daily conversations are exchanged in English,
hence when it comes to speaking in Japanese, it’s not as good as speaking in English for them.
Speaking in Japanese is not too bad actually, but, for them, the problem is “reading” and “writing”!
We used to send them to Japanese class called “bokokugo-kyoushitsu” to learn Japanese every weekend,
however, it has been suspended due to the arrival of pandemic situation.
Therefore, since then I have been giving them some tasks, which are mostly “writing in Japanese”.
And while I was giving this particular task which is…
Think about Japanese words which you think should be written in Katakana-character and then choose 20 – 30 of them and write them down on the paper!
there came a result with lots of discoveries in it!
To reveal what the discovery was in brief, it was like…
✨I have found an opposite version of the procedure which is usually seen while we Japanese make an effort and struggle to convert our Katakana-English pronunciation into proper English pronunciation.✨
In other words…
I have found certain formulas in how they fail to convert their English into Katakana in writing!
This must be a great discovery for those who study English pronunciation, if nobody has ever looked at the matter this way.
If you compare the process of these two procedures of converting…
Katakana ➡︎ English pronunciation
English pronunciation ➡︎ Katakana
you will be able to see the very same thing with both perspectives…
There were several discoveries, but as I had mentioned earlier,
let’s look at a small “ツ” (tsu) in Katakana in particular here…
Right, first, please have a look at the following images of what my kids wrote in Katakana?
Can you figure out what they are???
From the left (…or from the top if you are with your mobile phone?),
they are meant to be…
ベッドルーム (bedroom)、フィッシュ (fish)、& ショップ (shop).
However, a little “ツ” (tsu) doesn’t seem to exist in their head…
Have a look at another examples…
パロット (parrot)、 レッドパンダ (red panda)、 & チョップスティック (chopstick),
but again, the small “ツ” (tsu) is missing in each word…
There are lots more such as
アップル ➡︎ アプル、
フロッグ ➡︎ フログ、
オリンピック ➡︎ オリンピク、
and so on,
but with no exception, you will see the small “ツ” (tsu) missing in each word.
✨Isn’t it a discovery!!?✨
This actually means that…
If you consciously take this small “ツ” (tsu) out of any words (which are meant to be written with small “ツ” (tsu) in Katakana) when you try to pronounce them,
they will automatically sound closer to English pronunciation!
Let’s carefully listen to native speakers having conversations in the movie or whatever, and focus on those words that usually contains small “ツ” (tsu) in Katakana….
✨You will see what I meant, innit! ✨
This small “ツ” (tsu) might be only a small part of a big whole issue of Japanese people’s Katakana pronunciation , however the big improvement often happens as a result of an accumulation of small improvements.
✨So, why don’t we try this and keep it up!✨
Don’t be afraid of using new vocabularies!
Something you cannot avoid while you are learning English or any other languages is the acquisition of vocabularies.
And… having said that, I guess you will say
“what the hell are you talking about at this stage?’
But I would like to ask you….
Do you dare use your newly memorised vocabularies as soon as you spot the opportunity to put them in during the conversation?
Aside from whether the vocabularies are used in an only specific genre or not, or whether the opportunities to use them arise shortly or not,
in my case…
I was never courageous enough to use / pronounce newly memorised vocabularies, until I have heard somebody is actually using them!
(or even after hearing them from somebody’s mouth, it took some time for me to try to use them, to be honest…)
The reason for this was because…
I knew there were two types of vocabularies (one is used in a formal occasion and the other one is for an informal situation such as chatting with your friends.)
and I had thought that it would be embarrassing to misuse them…
(Besides, it’s difficult to draw the line between formal and informal sometimes…)
But I found out that this was simply nothing but missing an opportunity for yourself to paste your newly memorised vocabularies onto your brain which would fade away in due course if you do not use them…
While your English conversation skill is low,
you are likely to put yourself in a group of people whose level of English-speaking skill is similar to yours. (ex. you and others are both foreigners).
So, naturally, you won’t bother to use difficult vocabularies which are not commonly used in your group.
And even though your English-speaking skill has gone up a bit higher and you have started going out with native speakers,
they know that you are a foreigner, so they often make efforts to use easier words (if they are really your friends) so that what they say can be easily understood by you.
Hence, even though you have learned a new vocabulary which has got a same meaning as the word you have been using,
You will be thinking like…
Hey, I’ve learned this new word, but at the end of the day, I don’t hear anybody actually using the word… so, what’s the point of memorising it?
(And since you don’t use it, it will be pushed into the corner of your brain, and eventually it will fade away…)
But listen carefully while your friend of native speaker is talking to other native speaker(s).
The conversation’s speed must go faster, but the thing is that you might find him/her having conversations by using different vocabularies from what they normally use when they speak to you.
So, the fact that you don’t hear the word you have learned being used by other people around you, does not mean the word is rarely used.
You are only judging it by the information you could gather from your limited circle of friends.
As you go on further and meet more and more people, you will realise at some point that everyone has got their own way of expressing the things and uses different vocabularies to describe the same matter.
(The easiest example could be… some uses “fantastic!”, and others use “terrific!”, while others stick to “groovy!”)
So, each person is unique and sometimes even their characters seem to have been created by the vocabularies they use!
So, that means you should not be worried about anything, and it’s worth giving it a try to use the word that is not familiar within your friend’s circle.
Even if you have ended up causing an awkward situation, there is nothing for you to lose, anyway.
On the contrary, having had the situation, it might lead you to memorise a tricky word that will stick to your brain forever!
And if you have come to like the word or the expression as a result, you can simply add it as your regular one to use!
I have encountered so many occasions that I could not grab a word out of my head, even though the situation is telling me which exact word to use, and you know you had come across the word in the past…
And I am sure that the result would have been different, if only I had dared to output the word on the spot when the situation arrived.
So, don’t be hesitant.
Let’s prepare to output new vocabularies whenever there comes a chance.
Today’s Q. How do you say “Atama ga agaranai” in English?
Since I did not learn much about anything in my youth apart from playing the guitar, listen to great music and having beers, etc.
I am ashamed to tell this, but my general knowledge is appallingly low…
Therefore, I have ended up being in the position where I need to ask people lots of questions (about basic things for normal people!) to catch up with them.
I always thank my generous friends including my wife, but sometimes I feel just saying “Thank you!” doesn’t seem to be good enough…
In Japan, there is this phrase “Atama ga agaranai”,
you bow to the person, but you can’t raise your head back, because what you owe to him or her is a lot to you.
This custom of bowing might not be applied to modern generations, but we Japanese generally do this to the person when we show our respect.
And if you have got somebody to whom you owe a lot, you can use this expression “Atama ga agaranai” to the person.
I tried to think of the equivalent phrase in English to this, and they can be…
“I don’t know if the gratitude I am showing will be good enough for what you have actually done to me!”
“I want to say ”thank you!” but this won’t sound sufficient considering what you are (you have been) doing to me.”
“What you have done to me is too enormous to pay you back…”
I think they are kind of OK, but I somehow thought that they sounded a bit clumsy,
therefore, I researched further…
✨And finally I have found the one, which sounds equivalent to “Atama ga agaranai”✨,
“I feel so indebted to you…”
The phrase is much simpler and seems to be used quite commonly.
So, this is it!
Anyway, thank you very much for reading through and let’s keep it up!