Thursday, February 16, 2012

Writing in 日本語

Every month the Hippo interns and exchange students write a report sharing about their experiences that month with other Hippo members. This month I decided to challenge myself to write it all in Japanese. It took me two full days to complete, and I'm sure it's far from perfect, but I did it! And what's more, everyone could understand it. :)

A lot of the time I still feel really lost during conversations or presentations in Japanese and I feel like there is so much I can't understand or communicate, but when I look at what I'm able to write four months after arriving in Japan without every having studied the language at all, I realize that I have learned a lot! 

Being able to read and write in Japanese is like unlocking a secret code, which is pretty much how it feels like as I'm trying to figure out what different characters mean and how they go together. It also helps me to understand a lot about grammar and the way that sentences and words are put together, which helps me to be able to better understand and communicate in spoken Japanese as well. For example, the Japanese word "ee-tah" can have three different meanings based on the context. I learned one of them, "went", and always thought that when people said this in conversation they were saying "so and so went", but this same sound can also mean "was" or "were" (referring to people) and "said". When I realized that they are different words, which look different when written, and Sakkun explained to me, it made conversations make a lot more sense, since to have been somewhere, said something, and gone somewhere are very different things.

Being able to understand written symbols also helps to understand the makeup and meaning of words. Just like knowing Latin roots can sometimes help you be able to figure out the meaning of an unfamiliar word in English, being able to understand the kanji and hiragana of Japanese allows me to understand new words in Japanese. For example I learned that the word "otokonoko" means child, but it was really hard for me to remember how to say this, since I would get confused as to the order of the consonant/vowel pairs which all end in "o". "O-to-ko-no-ko" and "o-ko-no-to-ko" sounded the same to me. But when I realized that "otoko-no-ko", which actually means boy, is written as 男の子, it finally made sense to me. 男 means man and is pronounced "otoko". の, pronounced "no", is suffix which means belonging to, -ese, type. And 子 "ko" means child. So 男の子 means man type child. 女 is the kanji for woman, pronounced "onna". So can you guess how to say girl (those who don't already speak Japanese)? 女の子 "onna-no-ko", woman type child. Very good!

Stephanie (すーちゃん)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Hola todos!!!

万事如意  亿心同福!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What's Your Blood Type?

Discovery of the day:

It turns out that having a 'type A personality' or 'type B personality' has an entirely different meaning in Japan than in the U.S.

The other day while having lunch with some co-workers in the office, the main topic of a half-hour long conversation was blood type. Specifically which people had which blood type. I understand enough Japanese to know that this is what was being discussed but not quite enough to understand everything that was being said, and definitely not enough to understand why this was so funny and amusing to everyone.

Someone asked me what my blood type was. "O negative," I replied, which was met with an animated mixed chorus of "Oooooooh," "Mmmmmm" and "Ahhhhh". Well, it is the universal donor type, I thought. I suppose that's relatively impressive? Then they asked what type my family members were. "Uhh...I have no idea." It's not like I've ever had to give one of them a blood transfusion. When asked what type most people in America are I had to reply again that I don't know that either and I'm pretty sure that the majority of people in America don't even know what their own blood type is.

Someone said that most Japanese people have type O, so I thought maybe this was so interesting to them because most people in Japan had the same blood type and it was strange if someone had a different type? Especially type B; that one seemed to get singled out the most. Maybe it's really rare in Japan? Maybe there is just nothing else to talk about?!

So after feeling pretty lost during the whole conversation I Google searched "blood type Japan", to see if there was a common blood type or something. And what I found out is that here and other parts of Asia blood type is thought to be an indicator of your personality. Kind of like astrology in the West, but according to what I read, perhaps even more prevalent.  There is even a Japanese word for harassment due to blood type: "buruhara"(short and Japanese-icized for blood harassment).

This explains so much!!

Here is a link to an interesting article from BBC that I read about it:

This also explains why one day an option to add my blood type to my Facebook profile page mysteriously appeared.  I know they've been updating the format a lot recently, though this seemed like an unnecessary bit of personal medical information to be asking for. But after some comparative analysis I realized that the 'one day' it appeared, not coincidentally, happened to be the very day that I arrived in Japan.

Exhibit A: a Korean romantic comedy called "My Boyfriend is Type-B". Apparently Type B is the wild and irresponsible personality type. Can't say I'm surprised that this film never took off in the U.S. but now I'll have to see if I can find it here!