Japanese/Discussion/Archives:December, 2005



The mailing list is the first place issues should be discussed. This place is for recording decisions, and for showing which issues still need to be resolved. If you want to discuss an issue, we would urge you to join the mailing list.

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Thanks. GoodStuff 08:14, 8 Nov 2004 (UTC)



Every now and again we archive old discussions to keep this Discussion page clean. Here are those archives.

Mailing list


We have a Yahoo mailinglist at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/japanese-wiki/

To join the mailing list, you have two choices:

To post messages to the mailinglist, mail your message to: japanese-wiki@yahoogroups.com

The webpage will allow you to search the archives to see previous messages and view current ones. All discussion and debating should be conducted on the mailinglist, not on this page.

Thanks GoodStuff 10:03, 4 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Also, please join the irc channel #Japanese on irc.freenode.net.

To Do List


This is our to do list. These are tasks that we need doing.

  1. Think of and write suitable mnemonics for the kana.
    1. Mkn is supplying the images, and I just put in the outlines for the kana lessons. GoodStuff
    2. Put in examples for those kana.
  1. Format the JLPT 4 vocabulary lists and add English definitions.
    1. Here's another JLPT 4 wordlist for download: http://www.thbz.org/kanjimots/jlpt-voc-4-extra.euc
  2. Grouping the JLPT 4 vocabulary lists into related vocabulary lists. (Body parts, time words, house words, colors, etc tc.)
    1. Create new vocabulary lists, don't destroy or re-arrange the JLPT 4 lists.
  3. Design lesson plans

Issues under discussion


Goals of book


The primary purpose of the book is to develop proficiency in the Japanese language, specifically:

  • speaking
  • listening
  • reading
  • writing
  • cultural accustomization

This book is written for the student who either lives in Japan, or plans to do so at some point in the not too distant future. Nevertheless, the lessons and study methods are specifically designed to be effective for someone studying outside Japan, and a number of resources will be provided which will allow the student to maximize Japanese exposure at a minimal cost.

The goals for each section are broken down into both long-term goals (a level of proficiency approximating fluency) for each category as well as narrower, specific goals for each level. Currently only the basic goals have any sort of discussion backing.



The ultimate goal of the course is to have the student conversing fluently in Japanese on any subject they are interested in. Each lesson will introduce a number of functions and tasks and provide sample dialogue, as well as vocabulary, grammar, sentence patterns, and cultural information pertaining to each. Finally, links, suggestions, and resources will be provided to allow students to practice speaking to natives in the real world.

  • basic: the goal of the basic course is to have the student able to appropriately perform basic conversational functions in Japanese (such as making requests or expressing refusal), as well as to accomplish tasks common to foreigners residing in Japan (such as making friends or going shopping).



Because speaking and listening are related functions, the functions and tasks above will also include practice which will aid the student in listening to Japanese. Additionally, resource links will be provided which will allow the student to practice their listening skills in the real world.

  • basic: the student's listening skill will be adequate to perform the tasks and functions listed in the speaking goals. The student will be able to understand the gist of simple but natural Japanese.



Japanese is a particularly challenging language because of its extensive and often ambiguous use of kanji (Chinese characters). The lessons will contain snippets of authentic sources (literature, news articles, etc.) for reading purposes, which will allow the student to not only practice identifying kanji in a natural context, but also allow for practice and discussion of grammar, usage, and discourse patterns common in the written language. To support this goal, written grammar will be explained and kanji will be taught progressively, with practice questions provided to allow students to sharpen their skills. Resources and complete external sources (literature, etc.) at the appropriate level will be provided to allow students to practice reading authentic written Japanese.

  • basic: the student will be able to read at a second-grade level, although the student's vocabulary will still be insufficient to read many authentic Japanese sources unaided. The student will be able to read kana and the first- and second-grade kanji (approximately 80-100 characters). Kana will be taught initially and then kanji will be introduced progressively.
  • intermediate: the student will develop an appreciation for discourse and stylistic conventions (e.g., newspaper Japanese).



Writing is arguably the most challenging aspect of Japanese as conversational slip-ups are often overlooked, but written language is more heavily scrutinized. Students will be provided with practice and resources which will allow them to write notes, e-mails, and short letters.

  • basic: the student will be able to write kana and the first- and second-grade kanji (80-100 characters). Focus will be put on short writing forms (notes, short expositions, etc.).
  • intermediate: the student's writing capabilities will be expanded to include essays, research papers, and creative writing.



At each level of the course, the student will have an understanding of Japanese culture sufficient to appropriately use the language learned. Cultural information will be included as part of the lesson, not as a sidebar, inasmuch as it is relevant to the way language is used. This is particularly important when learning polite and honorific speech. Other cultural information may also be introduced, and the use of authentic sources is encouraged when possible.

  • basic: the student will be introduced to the different in politeness levels as it relates to conjugations of verbs and adjectives. Additionally, they will understand the cultural meaning behind common Japanese rituals such as exchanging meishi, avoiding direct "no" responses in polite conversation, and other situations that are likely to come up in day-to-day life.

Underlying Fundamentals


To support the above goals, we will supplement the lessons with explanations of vocabulary, grammar, and kanji. These will be taught in a progressive and comprehensive fashion. Although this book is not intended to be a dictionary, grammar reference, or character book, it can and should be used along with such books to provide practice and usage examples of those concepts in a progressive fashion. All vocabulary, grammar principles, and kanji used in lessons will be explained; later lessons will build on what has been learned in previous lessons.

  • basic the sudent should have a solid understanding of basic grammar, a moderate vocabularly base, and the ability to understand and communicate with approximately a hundred kanji. The student's understanding of the fundamentals will be sufficient to pass Level 4 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.
  • advanced: the student should be able to function smoothly in Japan's academic, business, and other environments, pass certification tests such as the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, and have a solid linguistic foundation in the structure of the Japanese language.

Textbook Standards


Wikibooks suggests that we adopt an external set of standards to which our book should conform. This will add credibility and usability of the textbook. The following link is an example of such a set of standards.

In terms of this set of standards, I would suggest the competencies described in Stages I and II be the goal of the Beginner course, Stage III for Intermediate, Stage IV for Advanced, and Stage V for Expert.

Aaronsama 16:51, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

--- To see previous discussion of this topic, contributed by individuals who, as of this writing had not posted here for over 8 months, please see the page history prior to 9/19/2005. --Aaronsama 13:46, 19 September 2005 (UTC)

I merged the previous Goals of the Basic Course section with the above. There was a lot of content overlap previously that I've tried to alleviate. I don't think the new organization is any more difficult to read or understand. --Telamon 02:30, 23 September 2005 (UTC)

Lessons arrangement

We have four sections. Lessons, Vocabulary, Phrases and Grammar. Each of these sections appear on the main page instead of the appendix. Lessons are not numbered so that anyone can add a lesson of whatever difficulty. The lessons link to the Vocab and Grammar pages that the specific lesson uses, so that the person can read the grammar and vocab, THEN do the lesson to see how it comes together.
I think we can put the JLPT stuff in an apendix page. I want vocab and gramar on the main page so that it's easily referenced. We keep this book as shallowly linked as possible. With that I mean, no vocab page in the apendix. The vocab page is a section on the front page. GoodStuff 12:37, 10 Nov 2004 (UTC)

how about organization of a specific lesson? I was typing up one, and thought up this style -

  1. overview/summary - introduction
  2. structures - key phrases/points to be discussed
  3. examples - bunch of examples of sentences using the structures with English equivalents
  4. explanation - English dissection of the structures
  5. practice - problems the reader can try out (no English here)
  6. answers - answers to the problems -- whited out such that the reader must highlight them to view (w/ English)

not sure if examples should be before explanations or not. that's sort of how children learn, but maybe it's not the best method adults .. examples after explanations? of course the explanation section would have its own short set of examples as well as it's explaining various points


-- Antimobius 13:22, 17 Nov 2004 (UTC)

I think we should all read up a bit on language study techniques. But "Examples before explanation" works really well. You should think in terms of "dialogue" not just "examples". Also, where do you put the vocabulary, or do you just link to appendix for vocab and grammar? GoodStuff 10:29, 18 Nov 2004 (UTC)

definitely. maybe looking at some ESL pages wouldn't be a bad idea, either .. as for the vocab, I hadn't actually thought about that. I think it'd be good to have the vocab immediately available on the page, then refer the reader to the any relevant appendices
-- Antimobius 15:45, 18 Nov 2004 (UTC)

I guess the vocab depends on how much we want to force them to learn. I guess we can put the dialogue vocab on the page, with links to similar vocab collections. For example, we use the word "today", put that on the page, and link to "time and day words".

Okay, I looked around for some language study links, and I've added the good ones to the mailinglist bookmarks. You can find them here: Mailinglist Language Study Bookmarks I hope you find them interesting. I've only had time to skim them, but I'll read them when I get time. GoodStuff 07:44, 19 Nov 2004 (UTC)

I'm the guy who put the Exercises in. I hope you don't mind. Firstakir 19:30, 22 May 2005 (UTC)

Pitch Accent

As for pitch accent, I personally think that it would be nice if we put in pitch accents for all of our new vocabulary. That would certainly give us an edge over most textbooks out there. :) -- Ran 16:32, 2 Nov 2004 (UTC)
How will you apply the pitch marks? o-san (although my dictionary uses o-tóusàn). — Mkn 18:46, 2 Nov 2004 (UTC)
o-san looks good to me. Similarly we can have:
  • watashi
  • kazoku
  • kokoro
  • otoko
-- Ran 21:07, 2 Nov 2004 (UTC)

another way pitch could be approximated that I've seen is something like this -


meaning, the pitch is raised on the な and immediately lowers. however, a word's pitch can affect subsequent particles/words as well. I guess that could be shown by 「」 marks after or before the word, but that may be getting a bit overly complicated. if we show pitch at all, the one of the above methods may be a good enough approximation. it may not be 100% accurate in all cases, but it's better than not having any pitch information at all, for sure

  • this guy has a pretty long list of vocabulary words marked using this system that's compatible with JWPce

(as a side note, 私 has pitch -- the た is higher) -- Antimobius 10:24, 11 Nov 2004 (UTC)

That's why it's indicated that way, with no markings... basically watashi is unmarked because there is no "last high pitch" syllable.
If you marked high pitches instead, then you'd have:
  • watashi
  • kazoku
  • kokoro
  • otoko
But we won't be able to tell the difference between watashi and otoko. -- Ran 06:50, 12 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Nonono, you guys got it all WRONG. When indicating pitch accent, one indicated the high to low TONE FALL. Depending on which syllable the tone fall is, the pitch can easily be figured out. The difference between a word that drops it's tone after the last syllable, or one that doesn't is clear.
Example (drop indicated with \ and tone indicated by boldness):
wa\-ta-shi wa fall on first syllable
wa-ta-shi\ wa fall on last syllable
wa-ta-shi wa No drop
For the first few times we can indicate tone with color if needs be, but what we should really do from the beginning is to indicate the tone fall in some manner. If you don't understand my explanation, then read this link, from section 1.2.4 http://www.sf.airnet.ne.jp/~ts/japanese/phoneme.html GoodStuff 09:54, 12 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Isn't that what I just said?! I said that there is no last high pitch on "watashi". Which means that there is no tone drop on "watashi". Which is why it's not indicated. What else could I possibly have meant?! -- Ran 16:10, 12 Nov 2004 (UTC)
so if we show pitch drop and pitch rise (say, in different colors/whatever), it would be kosher, eh? how would someone know that the pitch drops on the わ in わたし and rises on た if it just appears to be mono-pitched? and how do we denote words whose pitch bleeds to the next word from the last mora, vs. words that drop pitch on the last mora?
-- Antimobius 11:52, 13 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Using the numbering scheme, it indicates where the last high pitch (or, if you like, the pitch drop) is. The scheme is already explained in the pronunciation page. It would mean a bit of memorization for the learner, but nothing too difficult.
The "wa" in "watashi" isn't a fall in pitch, by the way. There's a rise in pitch between "wa" and "ta". And by indicating "watashi" with a zero, or with no bolded mora, we show that there is never any fall in pitch, which means that the word predictably bleeds its pitch onto the particle that follows. On the other hand, "otoko", which can either be indicated with a bold on "ko" or a numeral "3", shows that there is a pitch drop after "ko", which means any particle that comes after is low. The rise from "o" to "to" is not indicated because it can be predicted, same goes for the rise from "wa" to "ta" in "watashi". -- Ran 14:46, 13 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Okay, what you are saying makes sense. I agree we should indicate the last high tone, rather than show what the tone of each syllable is. Bolding the last high tone could work, but I'm not sure how it would look in hiragana. I think a down slash like I used could also work. It would emphasize that the tone drop happens AFTER a mora not ON a mora.

Okay bolding does not work well on some hiragana. Here are examples:

  • おと
  • ぞく

I suggest this:

  • おとこ\
  • か\ぞく
  • ここ\ろ

It's not too pretty, but it will work. GoodStuff 11:09, 14 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Kana stroke order


Thanks to Mkn for the hard work that you put in here. :D I think though that you need a few extra steps... for example, for hiragana "su", I'm almost certain that someone is look at the diagram, and then decide to draw the downstroke through and add the circle after (GARRGH!), and for hiragana "e", I think people are going to be really puzzled about how to do the second stroke.

Also, how about more crosslinking with CJK? CJK is going to cover all the groundworks of actually writing nice (how to make the dot, how to make the horizontal stroke, how to make a square, how to make a "hito/jin" shape, etc...).

-- Ran 03:54, 19 Nov 2004 (UTC)

I dunno, the only way to accomplish what I think you want is to make animated gif images. I would be happy with small arrows just showing where each stroke starts, or an arrow head on the end of a stroke. It's up to Mkn I guess. I've got no graphics programs or skills. GoodStuff 06:40, 19 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Believe me I have thought about using arrows, but it's difficult to make it look professional when using MS Paint so I didn't include it. I welcome anyone who's good with GIMP, Photoshop, etc to add the arrows.

I used a trial software of AdGif before and it's great but the only problem is the trial version adds a watermark. See the attached example:


If anyone knows of a freeware gif animator, please let me know.

Alternatively, we can just add a description of how to write the strokes. With this description, we can mention common mistakes to avoid. An example is ホ is not written like 木 -- [[User:Mkn|Mkn (Talk)]] 15:26, 19 Nov 2004 (UTC)

not sure about freeware, but I have access to ImageReady, Adobe's gif animator. let me know if that helps. I am fairly certain it doesn't insert a watermark =)
-- Antimobius 17:23, 19 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Oh Antimobius, lol, I was about to delete my comment. I feel really baka these days writing comments. It doesn't do anything. Like the saying goes: "actions speak louder than words". I found http://www.gifworks.com. It's free online gif compiler. I think I already deleted the PNG files I used to make that animation above, ZANNEN NA!! -- [[User:Mkn|Mkn (Talk)]] 17:58, 19 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Use the GIMP-GAP. It always worked for me. --Akir

Soundfiles on Kana


Tomos has been so kind as to offer to record soundfiles for us. I asked him to record clips for the kana so far, but he is eager to do aditional recording as well. Put on your thinking caps for good ways to apply this valuable new resource we have. Check the mailinglist for the details of his offer. GoodStuff 06:56, 22 Nov 2004 (UTC)



A big problem with writing a Japanese textbook (as opposed to a Spanish one) is that there are so many ways to explain and talk about Japanese that as of yet there is not one widely accepted standard for issues like romanization, verb conjugation, nomenclature, etc. Indeed, each new up-an-coming Japanese linguist tries to do it in a different way. If we go with the native Japanese way of explaining things, it may get unnecessarily complex and counter-intuitive to the foreign learner, but if we do anything else we'll have to pick and choose what we deem to be the msot effective / consistent / correct way to teach.

Conventions already decided:

Some conventions still to be decided:

  • nomenclature for parts of speech
  • how to teach particles, particularly wa, ga
  • how to teach pronouns (do we even call them pronouns?)
  • how to teach inflection of doushi, keiyoushi, and keiyoudoushi
My textbook files あなた under "pronouns" and この/あそこ under "demonstrative words". I'm not even sure if the latter is a part of speech, but there it is all the same. --Telamon 05:52, 21 September 2005 (UTC)
What I mean with pronouns is that it can be argued (very well) that Japanese has no pronouns in the sense that Western languages do. In fact, Japanese daimeishi are indistinguishable from nouns from a purely syntactic point of view. But since Japanese do recognize daimeishi and apply that name to our pronouns when studying English, the blanket statement "there are no pronouns in Japanese" is contestible. I guess what I'm getting at is, we don't want students translating "I lent my book to my friend" as watashi wa watashi no hon wo watashi no tomodachi ni kashite ageta, so in that sense, it is useful to state that there are no "true pronouns" in Japanese, that pronouns in English usually translate as nothing in Japanese, and that Japanese daimeishi should be used only as a last resort in situations where clarification is impossible from context. As to "demonstrative words," I think they follow roughly the same set of rules, e.g. translate them into nothing unless that destroys the sentence. For example, kore wa pen desu does not sound natural unless you are trying to emphasize the pen, e.g. "No, no, no, this is a 'pen', not a mechanical pencil." ----Aaronsama 17:41, 28 September 2005 (UTC)