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.
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.