Mind your language!

 I  really must improve my Japanese conversational skills. I probably spend at least a couple of hours a day trying to do just that. I’ve pretty much got the Kana (two of the three alphabets or, more accurately, syllabary)  down cold but find the Kanji (the complicated symbols “borrowed” from the Chinese) pretty intimidating. To be considered “moderately proficient” in the language, one is expected to master slightly fewer than two thousand Kanji – any other country of course, would simply round the figure off to two thousand – the Japanese though, have determined that it is a specific number, something like 1984, (I deliberately chose that number and it is not accurate). Sadly, it seems unlikely the Japanese have any intention of “returning” Kanji to the Chinese. On the plus side however, knowing the Kana enables me, albeit painstakingly, to translate any non-Kanji sentence into English. Interestingly enough, any sentence can be written in Kana without using Kanji characters at all. But no – “THAT’S JUST WHAT THEY’D EXPECT!” In fact, (seriously folks!)  I’ve read that a possible reason for the intermingling of Hiragana, Katakana (collectively known as Kana) and Kanji is that, because there is no spacing between words in Japanese, the continuous stream of uninterrupted similar characters simply becomes just too daunting to follow. The intermingling of different  syllabary characters seem to serve as natural “breaks” in the sentence, or exclamation points. I hasten to add that people far more erudite than myself might say this is completely untrue or just a gross over-simplification, and I would be the first to defer to their better judgment. I’m big enough to admit I might be completely wrong on this. Oh yes, Japanese is also written vertically as well as horizontally, reading from the back of the book towards the front. Are we clear? Good!
In any case, with regard to Katakana, I should add that it is relatively easy easy to learn because, for the most part, the words are derived from English. We can infer that:
Ka.na.ta is: Canada
O.ta.wa is: Ottawa
A.mu.su.de.ru.da.m is: Amsterdam
Ko.hi is: coffee
Ke.ke is: cake
Oh yes: The characters I have used (Ka.na.ta for example) are Romaji: Roman equivalents of phonetic Japanese sounds (think of it as cheating for the purpose of easy pronunciation). Again; are we clear? Without a Japanese keyboard on my laptop I cannot show you the hiragana characters but I’m assuming that’s OK.
Although I’ve poked a little fun at the Japanese language in this post, I should also make it very clear that, in many ways, Japanese is far more sensible than English. English, for example has an almost infinite combination of vowel sounds or diphthongs that are almost incomprehensible to foreign speakers.Think of the various ways in which various vowel combinations make differing sounds in English: In Japanese, the pronunciations are far more limited and very clear. In addition, there are no articles. Forget words like a, an and the. When you really think of it, they are unnecessary words in any case. In correcting the English lessons of Japanese students, probably the most common errors they make are to omit articles and misunderstand tenses.  Understandably, articles baffle them. “I store go”, when you think of it, has an appealing brevity and makes far more sense than “I go to the store”. Japanese assumes that you are smart enough to infer certain things.
Are we clear? Ta for now;
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