Experience Japan through the vital influence of its language with Learning Japanese: A Gateway into Culture. In 36 lessons, you will learn not only to speak, read, and write Japanese, but to appreciate the culture as revealed in the language—a culture built on respect for others and the supreme importance of community. Your professor, native Japanese speaker Yuki Sasaki Caldwell, teaches with an energy and enthusiasm for her subject that is contagious and her lessons will open a new world to you through the wonders of language.
Learning Japanese: A Gateway into Culture
Yuki Sasaki Caldwell is an Instructor of Japanese Language in the Department of Comparative Literature and Intercultural Studies at the University of Georgia (UGA), where she also received her Master of Education degree in Foreign Language Education. In her more than 20 years of teaching at UGA, she has instructed every Japanese language course offered, created course materials, and coached prize-winning students in preparing for speech contests. She is from the city of Sayama, located in Saitama prefecture, part of the Greater Tokyo area.
01: Welcome to Japanese! Saying Words You Know
Learn the five vowel and 15 consonant sounds of Japanese, only two of which differ significantly from English. But unlike the English alphabet, each Japanese character can represent a syllable, not just a single sound. Begin to explore the three Japanese writing methods—hiragana, katakana, and kanji.
02: Meeting People; Pronouns; Hiragana Start
As you practice introducing yourself in Japanese using your name and nationality, you will also learn the polite, present, affirmative form of the verb “to be,” and its location within a sentence. While you might also expect to learn all the pronouns, you’ll find that Japanese speakers almost never use second-person pronouns in their conversations. Begin learning to write hiragana.
03: Question Words and Identifying Objects
Get an introduction to the basic interrogatives that will help you when you’re in a new culture, as well as the casual and more polite ways to say, “thank you.” Listen to a conversation in which two people are discussing foods with vocabulary you have just learned. You will also practice writing additional hiragana.
04: Telling Time; Polite Verbs; Kyoto
Learn to count to 99 and develop the vocabulary and sentence construction to speak about time. Your grammar lesson will focus on the dictionary non-past-tense of some ru and irregular verbs—always using the polite form of the verb. And, you’ll listen to a conversation between two people as they take the bullet train to Kyoto.
05: Negatives; wa and o; Invitations; Harajuku
Learn how to ask positive and negative questions, extend an invitation, and identify a direct object in a sentence. As you listen to this lesson’s dialogue, you’ll learn about the famous Tokyo shopping district called Harajuku. You’ll also practice writing new hiragana as you expand your vocabulary.
06: U Verbs; Directions and Getting Around Tokyo
Discover the U-verbs—those that are neither ru-verbs nor irregular—and the patterns used to change them from their dictionary form into the polite form. In the dialogue, you’ll hear two women asking for directions to a “cat café,” which is very popular in Japan. You’ll also learn about the many wards of Tokyo.
07: Shopping; Colors; Big Numbers; Money
You will need this lesson if you plan to do any shopping in Japan! You’ll learn the vocabulary for a variety of stores and restaurants, numbers related to money, and how to speak about animate and inanimate objects—always in the politest forms. You’ll also learn why Japanese school children write their largest numbers like this: 1,0000,0000—with four digits to the right of the comma instead of three.
08: Adjectives and Restaurant Orders
Learn the meaning of numerous Japanese i- and na-adjectives, increasing your vocabulary and ability to describe the people around you—again, always in the politest terms. You’ll also learn the most appropriate ways to eat Japanese food, whether with chopsticks or a renge, and you’ll have your final lesson in hiragana as you learn the double consonants.
09: Suggestions; Appearances; Sakura; Kanji
Discover how to add new endings onto verbs you already know in order to create the polite volitional form—the form used when suggesting that someone take a particular action. Learn about the cultural importance of the cherry blossom, including a Japanese song about the sakura, and begin writing your first kanji characters.
10: Likes and Dislikes; Manga
Explore the additional grammar and vocabulary necessary for you to describe in detail if you like or don’t like a particular object or activity. By learning conjunctions, you’ll be able to create more complicated sentence structures. And with a cultural lesson on manga, you’ll see why these popular books appeal to readers of all ages on a wide variety of topics.
11: Discussing Skills; Contrasts; Sumo
Learn how to give your opinion about an individual’s skill level on a particular task, as well as the polite (always indirect) way to indicate that you personally excel at something. You’ll also learn some vocabulary for baseball, the most popular sport in Japan, and sumo wrestling, the official national sport.
12: The Past; the Week; the Edo Period; Katakana
In this lesson, you’ll engage with some verb forms for speaking about the past—as well as vocabulary related to the weather, days of the week, and months—and then use those tenses to learn about the historic Edo period. With your first lesson in katakana, you’ll be writing and reading some familiar words.
13: Past Activities and Past Adjectives; Sushi
Discover additional ways to speak about the past by using the past-tense forms of i-adjectives, and the aizuchi words that will help your conversation move along more smoothly. You’ll also learn about sushi, from the Edo period up to the present day—and why no one could have eaten the sushi of old with chopsticks.
14: Expressing a Desire; the Seasons
Learn how to express your desires using the tai desu form of the verb. You’ll also learn the indirect way to convey that you don’t agree with someone’s suggestion; in Japanese, it is not acceptable to bluntly say that you disagree. You will also learn vocabulary related to the seasons, and all the remaining katakana.
15: Comparisons; wa versus ga; Mt. Fuji and Hakone
Learn how to change adjectives or adverbs into superlatives, and how to best use wa and ga to emphasize the new information in your sentence, communicating more effectively. In this lesson’s dialogue, you’ll learn about the town of Hakone and its beautiful natural features—especially its view of Mt. Fuji.
16: Giving Detailed Descriptions; Kanazawa
In English, we use the single word “and” to connect many different parts of speech. But in Japanese, you’ll learn the words for connecting nouns and those for connecting adjectives. You’ll also learn the Japanese vocabulary for liking something for the first time versus continuing to like it. You’ll discover the beautiful Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa and begin your writing with kanji.
17: Explaining Procedures; Counting Things; Trains
Become familiar with additional verbs and verb forms you can use for better conversational flow. Learn about Japanese descriptive counter words—words that let the listener know exactly what class of object you’re counting. In the dialogue, you’ll hear more about train stations, lines, and platforms. And you’ll practice writing more words in kanji.
18: Polite Requests; Honorifics; Train Stations
Consider the many different degrees of being polite and gracious in Japanese culture through this vocabulary lesson. While English speakers might use the single word “please,” a Japanese speaker’s choice of polite or honorific words conveys much more information. You’ll also learn more about train stations and you’ll practice writing additional kanji.
19: Describing an Action Sequence; Ryokan
Grasp the important vocabulary you’ll need to express “from” and “to,” as well as the appropriate sentence structure used to express a sequence of actions. Unlike English sentences, which have more flexibility, Japanese sentences always begin with whichever action happens first. Learn about the Japanese ryokan, a traditional-style inn, and continue writing in kanji.
20: Ongoing Actions and a Shopping Street
Explore the differences between English and Japanese present-tense verbs and learn the Japanese progressive form to describe actions that are happening right now. With new dialogue, you’ll learn additional shopping vocabulary. You’ll also practice writing kanji related to numbers, including the more complex form of kanji that is still occasionally used today.
21: Asking Permission and Entering a Home
In Japan, it is appropriate to ask permission to perform many actions that non-Japanese people might take for granted, such as looking closely at an item in a store or even throwing trash in a trash can. Learn the appropriate vocabulary to use each step of the way, so as not to seem pushy or rude. And be sure to use the genkan whenever entering a home; always remove your shoes.
22: Family and Friends; Handling Compliments
Increase your vocabulary related to family, learning the polite and formal, and modest and humble words for parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Given that modesty is valued so highly in Japanese culture, learn how a Japanese person might react to receiving a compliment on their appearance, achievements, or even on their family’s achievements.
23: Keeping Pets; Wearing Clothes; Traffic Lights
Learn the counting words and verbs that apply to keeping small animals to increase your vocabulary when talking about pets. While we use the verb “wear” to describe any clothes or shoes, you’ll learn the specific Japanese verbs that refer to clothes that cover specific parts of the body. You’ll also learn the words for colors—and the special historic relationship between blue and green.
24: Describing Uncompleted Actions; Golden Week
Discover why naming the months is so much easier in Japanese than in English, but why counting the days is so much more complicated. You’ll learn that Japanese verb tenses are not about whether an action takes place in the past or present, but whether the action has been completed. And you’ll discover the joys and challenges of Golden Week.
25: Negative Requests; Casual Speech; Age; a Zoo
Explore the vocabulary and syntax for making polite negative requests, and the difference between the easier ru-verbs and the more difficult u-verbs. You’ll also discover some more casual conversational vocabulary, learning how it differs from the more polite, and the circumstances in which casual use is acceptable. Learn vocabulary related to a person’s age and to the zoo.
26: Casual Plain Forms; Obligations; Matcha
Further explore the casual plain forms of speech and their acceptable usage within family and non-family relationships. While non-native speakers might imagine that casual speech promotes friendliness, in Japanese culture it could be taken as childish or even rude. You’ll also learn plain form vocabulary for expressing obligation, discover the popularity of matcha tea, and practice writing the more formal kanji for “America.”
27: Intentions; Counting People; Shabu-shabu
Although present tense is used when speaking of the future in Japanese, in this lesson, you’ll learn specific vocabulary for speaking about future intentions and plans. Learn the counter words for counting people—both casual and polite. And you’ll increase your vocabulary related to food and restaurants.
28: Talking About Past Experiences; Pachinko
Develop the vocabulary and syntax to enable you to discuss past experiences, starting with the past affirmative plain form of the verbs, and then adding the negative. You’ll also learn about the role pachinko plays in Japanese culture, as well as practice additional kanji.
29: Giving Advice; Anime and Akihabara
Learn an additional plain form that is used when expressing comparisons, either between nouns or action verbs, and for giving advice in either the positive or negative. You will also discover Akihabara—originally known as denki-gai or “electric town”—an area in Tokyo known for selling anything related to anime, manga, and video games.
30: Making Casual Suggestions; Furusato
Learn a new, plain volitional verb form used when making casual suggestions, as well as vocabulary to actively encourage someone to act right now. You’ll also practice the tonal pattern of specific words, when the tone can completely change the meaning of the syllables. And you’ll learn the song Furusato, meaning “old home,” used during the closing ceremony of the Nagano Olympics.
31: Stating Opinions; Kimono and Washoku
Focus on the specific vocabulary and verb forms for asking someone their opinion, and for answering the question when you are asked—whether in the positive or the negative. You’ll review the meaning of kimono, and learn how to describe general Japanese, Eastern, and Western clothing, food, rooms, and even plumbing. And you’ll practice several related kanji.
32: Conveying What Others Say; Tanabata Festival
Learn the correct vocabulary and verb tenses for describing what someone else has said, including Japanese quotation marks. Learn about Tanabata, the Star Festival, and how it has come to be held in either July or August. You’ll learn about how the towns are decorated for the holiday, and the song Tanabata-sama.
33: Explanations with Feeling; New Year’s
It’s not uncommon for two Japanese people in a conversation to be aware of a condition or situation that they do not want to mention directly. Discover the n desu or n da vocabulary and syntax used in that situation. You’ll also learn how to count months, and the many ways the New Year’s holiday is celebrated in Japan—with special foods, decorations, and New Year’s postcards.
34: Weather, Conjectures, and Visiting Places
Learn to use deshou or darou when speaking of something you can’t be 100% sure about—from tomorrow’s weather to the quality of food at tonight’s restaurant—as well as other verbs and adjectives to describe what might happen in the future or what might have happened in the past. Explore many beautiful places you might visit on your trip to Japan.
35: Talking About What You Can Do; Hibachi
Learn the potential forms of verbs, the most common way to express an ability to do something. You’ll learn how to ask the questions of someone else, how to answer when someone asks about your own abilities, and how to work with a few verbs that don’t have a potential form. You’ll also learn a bit about the differences between hibachi and teppan-yaki.
36: A Review; Future Intentions; Liking Someone
Bring your Japanese language experience to an end with the volitional verb form—how to talk about what you intend to do—in addition to reviewing the forms you’ve already learned. Discover the appropriate vocabulary to use when you want to say you like a person, which is different than the terms used to express appreciation for an object or action. Learn to write kanjis for the four seasons—and this course’s final kanji which means “to end.”