New font incorporates English pronunciations into Japanese katakana


A U.K. company named Johnson Banks has come with an ingenious way to include English pronunciation in Japanese katakana characters. The company has dubbed this new font cleverly as “Phonetikana,” where each katakana character featured a few English letters to help English speakers say the word properly.

The company started incorporating the new font in simple words like “banana” and “tomato” but also showed what longer phrases such as the “sound of something spinning” would look like. The first simple example that company showed is the katakana characters for Uniqlo versus the new Phonetikana.

It’s a really brilliant idea, and I’m sure it will be incredibly helpful for so many people who are trying to learn Japanese.

The name Michael


Uniqlo in Phonetikana

Niko Niko=smile

 ˜Doki Doki =the sound of my heart beating

Kuru Kuru=˜sound of something spinning

Cheese=Group Photo


Toppu banana=top banana

Biggu Appuru=big apple

Study reveals Chinese speakers use more of their brain than English speakers



A study has found that people who speak tonal languages such as Mandarin or Cantonese use both hemispheres of their brain rather than just the left hemisphere, which researchers have long emphasized as being the primary processing center for languages.

Quartz sorts out the report, which was recently published in the in the Proceedings for the National Academy of Science:

After analyzing brain imaging data from Mandarin and English speakers listening their respective languages, researchers from Peking University and other universities found that native Mandarin speakers and native English speakers both showed evidence of activity in the brain’s left hemisphere. But Mandarin speakers also saw activation in the right hemisphere, specifically in a region important for processing music, via pitch and tone, that has long been seen as largely unrelated to language comprehension.

Since at least the 1950s, researchers in the field of neurolinguistics have been questioning how languages influence perception, and physiological behavior. This latest study supports one emerging theory, connectionism, that maintains that some languages require interactions across the entire brain. The findings are important for better protecting language-related regions during brain surgery as well as understanding the “constitution of knowledge of language, as well as how it is acquired,” according to the study.


It can be reasonably concluded then that all native speakers of tonal languages, including Vietnamese, Cantonese and Thai, use more of their brain than non-tonal language speakers, Gang Peng, a co-author of the study, told Quartz. Bonus: these speakers are more likely to have perfect pitch.

Struggling with Japanese? Let Tako lend you a hand… or tentacle.

RocketNews 24:

Yes, I know octopi have eight tentacles not six, but Tako of Takos Japanese has five. It’s the same cartoon logic that makes the Simpson family all have eight fingers. And yes, I know the name should probably read “Tako’s Japanese.” Really though, let’s not get bogged down in talk of appendages and apostrophes right now.

Today we’re here to look at a new Japanese study app released by Spain-based Giant Soul Interactive. A lot of Japanese study apps found online are either fun but limited in content or deep but boring and stodgy. Learn Japanese with Tako (recently changed from “Takos Japanese”) aims to strike a happy balance of a fun way to learn the language that’s also rich in content. Let’s find out if they succeed.

■ Brings the cute

In Learn Japanese with Tako you assume the role of the titular Tako, a young octopus studying the ways of reading and writing Japanese. You are aided by a wise old octopus in the ways of properly writing in the three language sets hiragana, katakana, and kanji.

The animated menus and practice areas are all brightly colored and downright cute, which really goes a long way to help you forget that you’re essentially doing handwriting and reading drills. More than just an added frill, the entertaining style of it helps keep you focused on the task at hand.

■ Handwriting Practice

It starts by teaching the hiragana alphabet and uses Latin characters as references. First, Sensei demonstrates the proper stroke order and direction of the characters on a white board which you can follow along.

A common weakness of these kinds of apps is in the handwriting recognition. In an old kanji study app I would sometimes have to write something as simple as the number “2” 20 times before it could register as anything other than “N.” Learn Japanese with Tako, however, seems to understand our handwriting with a good degree of leniency.

It’s not too loose though. I got marked down as not learning my あs (Japanese equivalent of the letter “A”) because my loop at the bottom right was hanging a little too low and it pissed-off Sensei octopus. However, rather than the confusing mess of the “2=N” fiasco, this app let me understand what it was about my あ that led to the problem and allowed me to correct it accordingly. As a result I’d like to think my handwriting is now just a little bit prettier.

■ Mini-Games

After learning the basic writing and reading of the characters you are given a mini-game to review. They all focus on memorizing the characters in different ways. For example, my weak point has always been remembering the correct pronunciation of kanji despite knowing the meanings. This means I’d benefit from the Izakaya mini-game the most.

In this game we have to serve the various sea creatures their order label in kanji as they call out for them phonetically. Like all the games it’s timed which adds a good level of challenge and pressure. There’s also a whack-a-mole game requiring even faster matching of character and pronunciations. Even more advanced students of Japanese might find themselves scrambling with basic words on this one.

Other games include an arcade machine where you have to memorize the order of flashing kanji with their English meanings. There’s also a baseball game which requires speedy handwriting skills. They’re all pretty fun and simple games that you can play whenever you have a minute or two.

■ Room for more

Learn Japanese with Tako starts with hiragana then moves into katakana and beginner kanji. As of this writing it offered up to the Japanese Language Proficiency Test N5 level but they plan to roll out N4 in the coming months. That should be more than enough content for those just starting out learning the language but for people further along it only serves as a nice brush-up program for the moment.

Also, although the games are fun and well designed, it remains to be seen what replay value they have, especially for people just starting out. Learning Japanese can be a long haul and the games will have to be addictive enough to sustain that journey. To address this concern, Giant Soul say there are currently working on expanding the types of mini-games based on user-feedback.

Overall though, Takos Japanese is a very well designed study app both in terms of presentation and educational value, and it has a solid, sleek interface. Another great feature is that in addition to English,the app is available in Spanish, Korean, French, Portuguese, Italian, and German.

▼ Why not switch the language setting and learn two languages at once!

For anyone starting out in Japanese it would be a great tool well worth its 400-yen (US$3.40) asking price the Japanese app store (prices may vary according to region). For those further along, you might want to wait until if they add the higher level kanji. Hopefully they can soon!

Takos Japanese is available from

Google Play

The science behind why English speakers can’t pronounce the Japanese “fu”


Learning a foreign language is hard. Even if you master all the vocabulary and grammar, there’s still no guarantee that you’ll ever achieve a native-like accent. For Japanese learners of English, differentiating between the “l” and “r” sounds and pronouncing the “th” sound correctly can be tricky them no matter how many years they’ve been practicing.

But have you ever wondered what it’s like the other way around? What sounds do we English speakers make that sound strange when we speak Japanese? Well it turns out the sound that we mess up the most is one you might not have expected: “fu”.

Now you might be thinking: The “fu” sound? What’s so hard about that? I pronounce it fine all the time. Like when I slept on a futon at Mt. Fuji in fuyu (winter) and woke up feeling futsukayoi (hungover).

Well if you’re pronouncing those words with an “f” sound like we have in English, thenyou’re actually saying them all wrong. To find out the reason why, we have to have a quick linguistics lesson.

▼ Yes there will be a test. No you haven’t studied. You haven’t even shown up to class all semester. Also you’re in your underwear and falling from a skyscraper.


The English “f” sound is, in phonetic terms, a “voiceless labiodental fricative.” Don’t worry, by the end of this article you’ll be a master of that phrase and more and will totally impress all of your friends, I swear.

Basically what that long phrase means is, the “f” sound, like most sounds humans can make, has three components that come together to make it up. First, it’s “voiceless.”That means it doesn’t vibrate your vocal cords when you say it. To feel what a “voicedlabiodental fricative” feels like, hold your fingers to your throat and make the “v” sound. You should feel a lot of vibration, but nothing when you make the “f” sound.

Second, it’s a “labiodental.” That means it’s pronounced using your lips (labio) andteeth (dental). There’s a bunch of different places sounds can be made: your lips (“p”), your teeth (“t”), at different points on your tongue (“l”), in your throat (“h”), or a combination of them.

Lastly, it’s a “fricative.” This means the sound is made by the “friction” of air coming through a gap, in this case the small opening between your lips and teeth. Some other fricatives are the “s” sound, a fricative between your teeth, and the “th” sound, a fricative between your teeth and tongue.

Putting it all together, we now know that the English “f” sound is a “voiceless labiodental fricative,” meaning your vocal cords don’t vibrate, it’s pronounced using your lips and teeth, and by pushing air through the gap they make.

the more you know

So what does this have to do with Japanese pronunciation? Well now we have thetools to clearly see where the pronunciation has gone wrong. The English “f” may be a “voiceless labiodental fricative” but the Japanese “f” is a “voiceless bilabial fricative” – one component different.

Since the Japanese “f” is a “bilabial” instead of a “labiodental,” that means it’s pronounced using both your lips, no teeth necessary. Instead of touching your teeth to your lip and spitting out air like you just slammed your finger with a hammer, instead bring your lips together like you’re blowing out a candle (no need to stick them out like you’re kissing), then try to say “fu” without moving your lips or teeth or anything at all.

▼ I’m learning Japanese!

Mike Sherin's 80th Birthday

If you did it correctly, then you should have made a beautiful “fu” sound. If you’re still having trouble though, then let the knowledgeable Sayuri-san guide you to enlightenment.

If you’ve seen a Japanese syllabary chart like one below, you may well have noticed that ha, hi, he, and ho are all written with an “h”. Weirdly, though, only “fu” – despite being in the same column as the characters beginning with “h” – is written with an “f” when Roman characters are used.

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 11.25.53 PM

Weird, right? So if the Japanese “f” sound is different from the English “f” sound, why do we even use the letter “f” to write it in the first place? Well the answer is: because it’s close enough. It could be written with the letter “h” too (a “voiceless glottal fricative” – only one component different just like “f”), and sometimes it is. Just be thankful it’s not written with the technically correct International Phonetic Alphabet symbol: ɸ. You’d have to copy/paste that badboy into your textbox every time you want to write about how you ate fugu (blowfish) and feel perfectly futsuu (normal).

▼ You also might inadvertently open a gate to Phyrexia if you use that symbol, so stick with the “f.”


Since the Japanese “voiceless bilabial fricative” (see, I told you that you’d get these by the end!) is actually quite rare among languages, the “f” pronunciation problem unfortunately goes both ways – it hinders Japanese speakers trying to learn English too, and so “f” can come out sounding more like “h”, leading to mix-ups between words like “food” and “hood,” “furry” and “hurry,” or the ever-dangerous “heart and “fart.”

Of course, in the end, perfect pronunciation isn’t what’s important about speaking a language. It’s about having a solid vocabulary, a good grasp of the grammar, cultural knowledge, and most importantly the confidence to actually speak, even if you have a horribly broken accent.

Is an entirely English-speaking village coming to Tokyo?

english village 1

RocketNews 24:

What is the best way to learn a language? Many foreign people in Japan will tell you living here and being immersed in Japanese is a pretty good way to pick up the lingo. When you realize you have to be able to speak and understand the language in order to live your daily life, it certainly becomes a huge motivation to make the Japanese language your own.

Do you know what isn’t a particularly good method of learning a language? Four classes a week of language learning taught in your native language with little to no chances to utilize what you’ve learned.

As the whole world knows, the Olympic Games will be held in Tokyo in 2020, and Tokyo wants to be as prepared as possible. The city is trying to do everything it can to improve its citizens’ grasp of English, and there is now talk of plans to create an “English Village” where everything will be conducted in the language so many Japanese wish they were fluent in.

Total English immersion. Foreign English teachers in public schools have been begging to hear those words for years. Many happy polyglots will tell you that it’s an excellent way to learn any language.

In preparation for the Olympics, Tokyo announced some of the “Long Term Visions” for English in preparation for the 2020 Games, and through 2024. This plan is geared to help Tokyo become the “best city in the world.” Besides encouraging and supporting students to take part in foreign exchange programs and helping Japanese people be better English teachers, they also want to give elementary, junior high and high school students the chance to spend time in an “English Village” where the only language of communication allowed is English.

▼“English Village” it appears, is the temporary name. 

english village 2

This isn’t a weekend trip to fun English land, this will be a fully functional town that will use English as its official language. It’s bound to be tough to pull off, but it takes big ideas and motivation to make it to the top. Some of the features of the village are to have restaurants, shops and sports centers; typical buildings that can be found in any city. The staff would be foreigners who have the support from the Japan International Cooperation Agency and also the JET Programme, which already assists in bringing thousands of English speakers to Japan each and every year. The details of the plan will be finalized within the next three years with plans to open it to every citizen also in the plans.

Learning a language isn’t difficult but it does require time and effort! Here’s hoping this unusual plan is a success, and that the village will be open to not just Japan’s most privileged language learners.


Japanese Language School in Japan with Christina

Dreaming about moving to Japan? For Christina, Japanese language school – and a school-sponsored visa – was the perfect first step!

Christina grew up in Quebec, Canada. She moved to Japan after graduating from McGill university. She is now a third year student at Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo, the top ranked fashion school in Japan.

In this second episode of “My Fashion School in Japan Story”, Christina shares her experiences with finding a Japanese language school (in Japan) while still living in Canada. She also explains how a language school-sponsored visa is a great way to try life in Japan on for size before committing to a full multi-year university. Dorms, guest houses, and apartments in Japan are also discussed briefly.

Christina also answers some of your questions about the costs of language schools and how she was able to afford going to school and living in Japan.


Eight Japanese words we’d love to import into English

RocketNews 24:


UJ 8

Japanese, while a tough language to learn, isn’t quite as difficult as some horror stories make it out to be. Still, if English is your native language, certain Japanese grammar rules, like saying “wa” and “o” to mark the subject and object of your sentences, can seem like a major hassle.

With practice, though, these things start to become automatic. Even better, the Japanese language is filled with incredibly handy phrases that we’d love to import into English.


1. Doumo – Hello, thanks, and hello and thanks

UJ 1

The extremely convenient domo manages to do the job of both “hello” and “thank you,”as it’s the first component of both doumo konnichiwa (good afternoon) and domo arigato gozaimasu (thank you very much).

Aside from being shorter than the two phrases it can replace (which are both a bit of a mouthful even by Japanese standards), doumo can also be used to combine the two sentiments. Did someone invite you to their house? A warm “Domo!” with a smile as they open the front door works as both a friendly greeting and a heartfelt thanks for opening their home to you.


2. Ozappa – Working in broad strokes

UJ 2

Ozappa is often used to describe a type of personality, and while it directly translates to “rough” or “broad,” it doesn’t mean the person in question is abrasive, nor does it indicate someone who’s broad-minded in the sense of being open to new ideas. Rather, someone who’s ozappa doesn’t really sweat the details, whether for better or worse.

Your friend who planned the barbeque, said he’d buy the beer and stick it in the cooler, but didn’t think to buy ice? He’s ozappa, but so is your other pal who doesn’t get worked up when you hand him a lukewarm brew.


3. Bimyou – Subtly…not right

UJ 5

Although it literally means “subtle,” bimyou usually implies that something is a little off, and that maybe it’d be better to just do without it altogether. The dash of red wine that pork cutlet sauce really doesn’t need, the clunky metaphors in the love letter your wrote to your junior high crush, and the tasteful nose piercing you picked out for your job interview could all be described as bimyou.


4. Irusu – The “the lights are on but nobody’s home” fake-out

This is one many foreign residents in Japan do without even realizing there’s a term for it. Imagine it’s a nice Sunday afternoon. You’re lounging at home, enjoying your day off and browsing the Internet, when all of a sudden, there’s a knock at the door. Staring out the peephole, you spot someone dressed in clothing that could only be described as “missionary casual.”

Since you’ve already discovered your own personal guiding light, you slink quietly back from the door, fooling the solicitor into thinking you’re out so that he goes and bothers your neighbors instead. Congratulations, you just pulled off a successful irusu (pretending to be out when someone comes by) operation.


5. Chu to hampa – Not quite one thing, but not quite the other, either

UJ 7

Say you’re waiting to meet up with your friend, and he calls to say he’ll be five minutes late. No big deal, right? You can hold out that long.

Likewise, if he’s going to be two hours late, this doesn’t put you in such a big bind, since you can go do something else while you’re waiting. You could get something to eat, do some shopping, or grab a couple cups of coffee (or glasses of bourbon, neat, if it’s late enough in the day and/or you’re an alcoholic).

But what if your friend is going to be 20 minutes late? Now that’s a pain, since it’s way too long to sit around twiddling your thumbs, but not enough time to actually do anything with.

This kind of situation is what the Japanese call chu to hampahalfway and some fragments. It’s used whenever you’ve got something that would be fine if it was just a few steps in either direction on whichever scale you’re measuring it with, but like some Opposite Day-version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, it’s just wrong. The car that’s too big and bulky to be fun to drive but also doesn’t have enough trunk space to be practical? The girl you have too much chemistry with to be “just friends,” but don’t get along with well enough to want to see more than once a month? Chu to hampa, chu to hampa.


6. Majime – Earnestness for the 21st Century

UJ 3

Majime is usually listed in textbooks as “serious,” and you could translate it that way. However, saying a person is majime doesn’t mean they’re somber, since even people with professional-caliber senses of humor can be majime.

Majime is actually a little closer to “earnest,” but it doesn’t have the same nuance of ineffectualness associated with “earnest efforts,” nor the Victorian ring of calling someone “an earnest young man.” Majime indicates the personality possessed by people who are reliable, responsible, and can simply get things done without causing drama or problems for others. Not surprisingly, this is seen as an extremely desirable mindset in industrious Japan, and calling someone majime neither labels them as uptight or old-fashioned, but rather respectable and admirable.


7. Otsukaresama desu – You’re probably tired, and I think that’s great

UJ 9

Coming from tsukareru (to be tired), otsukaresama desu is one of the most useful phrases in Japanese business. Although it literally means, “You’re tired,” it’s not used to point out someone’s lack of pep, but to thank them for exhausting their energies to do something you, or the team you’re part of, benefitted from.

While the meaning is akin to “I appreciate your hard work,” otsukaresama desu has a couple distinct advantages over its English equivalent. For starters, it doesn’t sound nearly as stiff and impersonal. It can also be used when speaking up or down the chain of command. Managers can say it to their subordinates, and you can even say the phrase to your boss if he’s heading out of the office before you.

Otsukaresama desu is even a common greeting is business correspondence, especially among employees of the same company. Even if you don’t work side-by-side with him, it’s polite to give Tanaka in accounting the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s been busting his butt at work just like you have. So when you call him up to ask for the quarterly revenue figures, it’s common courtesy to start off your request with otsukaresama desu.


8. Yoroshiku onegai shimasu – I hope things go well, even if I’m not exactly sure what those things are

UJ 4

Fittingly, we finish with a phrase that’s often used to express an abstract yet genuine hope for good things to come, yoroshiku onegai shimasu. While onegai shimasu is pretty much just a polite way of saying “please,” yoroshiku means “well” or “favorably,” so the whole thing together is essentially a way of making the request, “Favorably, please.”

“Umm…favorably what?” is the reaction most English speakers initially have to this. Sure, Japanese can be a vague language at times, but this is a little much, isn’t it? If someone just says to you, “Favorably please,” what exactly are you supposed to do?

And therein lies the beauty of yoroshiku onegai shimasu: The exact thing you do doesn’t matter. As a matter of fact, the person who says yoroshiku onegai shimasu likely doesn’t have any concrete idea either. All they know is that somehow the two of you are connected, whether socially or professionally, and they hope that the relationship will be a mutually happy one.


▼ There’s an unspoken understanding that while you’ll work out the details later, the ultimate goal is this.

UJ 6

Did your boss just hand you an important project? He’ll probably give you a yoroshiku onegai shimasu, or at least its informal variant, yoroshiku, before you get started on it, since you may run into some problems that take extra time and effort to resolve. Hopping in a friend’s car for a trip to the beach? Give him a yoroshiku, since he’ll be driving safely, even if he’d rather be sitting in the back joking and fooling around with everyone else. Meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time? You’d better believe that’s ayoroshiku onegai shimasu, since if things progress to marriage and babies, you’ve just linked two families who are going to be connected for generations to come.

And of course, this phrase gets used all the time with businesses and organizations who hope their patrons keep coming back for years to come. So thanks for reading, and to all of you, yoroshiku onegai shimasu!


Check out this link:

Eight Japanese words we’d love to import into English


Quirky English language instructional book, even my Japanese standards

This is certainly one of the Internet’s finer gems, hilarious pages from an instructional book to help Japanese people with English words. Maybe you’ll even learn something too. I mean, I had no idea that “boarding the train with a half smile is very creepy” so now I’ll definitely be trying to curb that behaviour.
Let’s be real though, dirty jokes will never ruin a night so don’t believe everything you read.
Check out this link:
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