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Jazz Up Your Japanese with Onomatopoeia: For All Levels Paperback – September 12, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-4770029560 ISBN-10: 477002956X Edition: Bilingual

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 238 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha USA; Bilingual edition (September 12, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 477002956X
  • ISBN-13: 978-4770029560
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.2 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,596,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

This book is an introduction to onomatopoeia and mimesis in Japanese through real-life conversations and examples. While presenting some of the most common sound and action words, I've added several other features to make the book even more useful.

The language in the book is natural spoken Japanese. Many people who study outside of Japan get a rude awakening when they first visit: they donÕt understand what anyone is saying. The reason is that the language they've learned from textbooks is stiff and unnatural, often unlike what is heard in everyday life. As a countermeasure of sorts, the conversations and examples given here are all in an informal spoken style, with a balance between women's and men's language. When you read this book, I hope you will feel as though you're having a nice friendly chat in Japanese, the way it would be done if you were talking to an actual person.

The topics show the real Japan. Contrary to popular belief, few Japanese have much to do with geisha, trade negotiations, or Mt. Fuji during their daily lives. The subject matter taken up in this book show what people actually talk about at home, at work, and at play.

Each of the main vocabulary items is marked G, N, or B (Good, Neutral, or Bad, to show if its sense is positive, neutral, or negative). After all, nothing is more embarrassing than to use a word that has the right meaning but the wrong connotation.

Brief notes provide information on cultural background. Every language is an essential part of the culture of the people who speak it, a window on the country's history and ways of thinking. That's why every language is different and difficult and fascinating. Learning another language is worthwhile because it gives you a link to other people, both as a vehicle for sharing ideas and as a practical tool for everyday life. But to master a language, you need more than grammar and vocabulary, so I've scattered notes throughout this book to provide some basic information about Japanese life and customs.

Typical Japanese names are used in the examples. It's hard to remember unfamiliar names in a foreign language. To help you out in this regard, I've made a point of using the ten most common surnames and a variety of common given names.

Illustrations show the settings of each conversation. If you've never visited Japan, these drawings should help you visualize the speakers and their surroundings.

You can read the book in any order. Some people always start on the first page of a book and read straight through to the last. If you prefer to skip around, though, go right ahead. Read the dialogues first or save them for later. Or use the index to look up particular words of interest.

Finally, I would like to express my appreciation to Kodansha International editors Michael Brase and Shigeyoshi Suzuki, who encouraged me to write this unwritable book, and to Tom Gally, who not only translated the book but also wrote the Introduction. I would also like to thank Joe D. Betts and Robert J. Betts for their timely advice.

About the Author


HIROKO FUKUDA, born in Tokyo, graduated from Keio University with a major in Japanese literature, after which she studied the teaching of Japanese as a foreign language in the International Division of Aoyama Gakuin University. After working as an editor, Japanese teacher, translation coordinator, and program director of language courses, she undertook the study of Applied Linguistics and Communication at the Graduate School of Aoyama Gakuin University. She is a frequent contributor to magazines and journals and has published several books on language, culture, and communication, including T-Shirt Japanese Versus Necktie Japanese: Two Levels of Politeness. She is currently Associate Professor at the College of Humanities of Ibaraki University and also teaches at Aoyama Gakuin University.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Michael Callaghan VINE VOICE on May 13, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is really a very good supplement to more traditional studies. The onomatopoeia here I have used with native Japanese speakers and all are understood and expressive.

I study Japanese to talk to my peers, to go out drinking, to watch and understand television, to tell jokes and offer conjecture. I don't study the language in order to make hotel reservations or constantly conjugate in an unnaturally polite fashion. Likewise, I spend time in Osaka and Nara, where people say "okini" and "nanbo", so the occasional kansai-ben is welcome.

Just this week I memorized casual sentances like "You don't look so hot", "When I got up this morning i felt a little woozy", "yeah, it's the pits all right" and "It's not like I drank too much last night - maybe I'm getting old". Do these really NOT sound useful? Do you never hear this sort of language in English?

These dialogues are AUTHENTICALLY casual, and they alternate between male and female. As a supplement that absolutely ROCKS - after all, 99% of Japanese-language learning material is polite and contrived... great for learning grammar and basic structure, but once you get to Japan you realize you can't understand anyone.

I was in New York and I used the phrase "shimijimi" with a Japanese woman and she smiled and asked - "How do know THAT? I don't even know how to say that in English." The sentence I used translated as "I was getting a little sentimental..."

This is a SUPPLEMENT, not a textbook, and a fairly advanced one, but emminently usable. It takes work to memorize and put into practice, but when I used 'berobero' and 'gongon' in conversations my friends unanimously agreed that Japanese folks use these phrases all the time. What else could you want?
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By P. Beech on November 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
Originally published by Kodansha as Flip, Slither and Bang: Japanese Sound and Action Words as part of their Power Japanese series, this volume has undergone a makeover for the 21st century. Fukuda has added a useful overview introduction, and revision quizzes, both of which should help key Japanese onomatopoeia stick in your head.
And there's a lot to remember. While Japanese has appropriated Chinese script for most of its conceptual words, and promiscuously borrowed from English and other languages for more recent phenomena such as computers, it can be proud of the homegrown nature of its pervasive onomatopoeia - not to mention their expressive `punch'. While in English, such words are often associated with animal noises and children's tales, Japanese uses onomatopoeia widely, in anything from literature to everyday adult conversations, and to express everything from a simple sound to a complex emotional state. What English often uses metaphor to express, Japanese gets across with onomatopoeia. Wanwan may indeed be the sound of a Japanese doggy, but mukamuka means seriously cheesed off, gennari means worn out, and sesseto means as regular as clockwork. Adult enough for you?
Fukuda's introduction helps the learner contextualise the different forms and uses of Japanese onomatopoeia. This, along with an overall book structure based around situational dialogues, creates a fairly structured learning approach. As usual with a book focusing on one aspect of language, there is the temptation to pack in as many target expressions as possible until the dialogues become a bit buyobuyo (bloated). But apart from this, the language is very natural (in fact, `too' natural for the beginner, who should first be learning standard Japanese verb forms, for instance).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By omar on October 10, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is good book for Japanese language learners. It shows you the rules for Onomatopoeia and gives you real life examples which is something most language learning books fail to do.
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By Cattifer on July 24, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When I lived in Japan, the one thing that irked me most was not knowing any onomatopoeia. That is one thing I didn't learn while taking classes, and it turns out that most everyday Japanese conversations are FILLED with them. This book covers pretty much everything you need to know, and then some, and is formatted for easy learning. After reading only one chapter I was able to learn some words that I found uses for right away, and was able to surprise my colleagues.

The book claims to be for all levels, but I would have found the sentence patterns and grammar daunting as a beginner student. The sentences are definitely formatted with everyday, natural-sounding Japanese. However, if you're feeling up for a challenge, all the dialogue in this book is also written in romanji, so anyone could pick it up and learn something.

This book also contains many interesting cultural notes, which I love!
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