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Lesson Transcript

Jessi: Welcome to the All About Japanese series at JapanesePod101.com, where you’ll learn all about Japanese in Japan, such as the writing system, grammar and pronunciation as well as Japanese traditions, culture, and society in a fun and educational format.
Introduction to Japanese and Top 5 Reasons to Study
Peter: Konnichiwa! My name is Peter Galante, and I’ll be your friendly neighborhood non-Japanese guide to everything Japanese…
Naomi: And I’m Naomi! Here as the Japanese native to help along the way.
Peter: That’s right, this lesson is all about your home and native land.
Naomi: Yes, and yours too, Peter!
Peter: Well, kind of, I’ve been living here for 11 years, so it really has started to feel like home to me. So, we’re here to teach you the ins-and-outs of the wonderful Japanese language.
Naomi: Yes, Japanese is a really unique language in a lot of ways. From the writing system…
Peter: to the grammar…
Naomi: to the slang…
Peter: everything! It’s truly a beautiful language., with a rich history and intriguing culture to match.
[Linguistics section]
Peter: So Naomi-sensei, I have some questions for you.
Naomi: What is it?
Peter: All right, first question. What language family does Japanese belong to?
Naomi: That’s actually a really good question, because it’s something that linguists have been arguing over for a long time!
Peter: Yeah, I think some say it’s a language isolate, basically, its own language, and some say it belongs to the Altaic language family… so it’s something that’s really hard to pinpoint the origins of. So if you know somebody who’s into linguistics, you can impress them with “Altaic language.” For most of us, including me, this is probably the first and last time I’ll come across this.
Naomi: Right. These days, there are around 130 million speakers of Japanese!
Peter: That’s a huge number! Apparently, that puts it in the Top 10 list of languages based on a number of native speakers. Japanese also boasts a really unique writing system. Naomi-sensei, can you tell us more about that?
Naomi: Sure – basically, there are three different alphabets… I guess we can call them that.
Peter: Count them, three. But don’t let that scare you off! Two of them are very easy. It’s the last one that takes a little bit more… how can we say… dedication.
Naomi: Yeah. The Chinese characters, right?
Peter: Right. The two native Japanese alphabets are:
Naomi: Hiragana and katakana.
Peter: Japanese has also borrowed thousands of characters from the Chinese language and adopted them as their own.
Naomi: And each Chinese character has its own meaning.
Peter: This is a really fascinating topic, but we’ll cover the writing system more in-depth in the next lesson.
Naomi: Okay! Now let’s talk about pronunciation for a moment.
Peter: Ah yes, pronunciation. I’ll tell you right now that Japanese pronunciation is actually not that difficult... at first.
Naomi: At first, right. And Japanese vowels are really simple! Not like English - you have so many different ways to say one vowel, right?
Peter: Yeah, with Japanese, there’s only one pronunciation. You just say it as you see it. Now, I’ve heard that the vowels in Japanese are comparable to those found in Spanish or Italian in this sense.
Naomi: Oh, interesting!
Peter: We’ll actually have a series for Japanese pronunciation. In those lessons, you’ll learn more about Japanese pronunciation. At first, you’ll get the hang of it – I think relatively quick. But actually, to get your pronunciation perfected - like that of a Japanese person – that’s a little bit tricky.
Naomi: I agree.
About the Motherland
Peter: Naomi-sensei, we’re going to be talking about your motherland.
Naomi: Oh yeah.
Peter: So how about going over a bit more about Japan itself. Naomi-sensei, Japan, and the Japanese language have a long history behind them, right?
Naomi: Yes, and at the same time it’s one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world.
Peter: There’s a great mix of traditional culture and cutting-edge technology. Interesting combination. In Japan, that’s often talked about. They way they co-exist is really interesting.
Naomi: Yeah, preserving culture is really important to Japanese people.
Peter: Next, let's look at the name Japan in Japanese.
Naomi: Okay. Japan is known as Nihon, or sometimes Nippon, but Nihon is more commonly used in conversation.
Peter: It’s written with two Chinese characters meaning: “sun” and “origin”. That’s why it’s often referred to as the “Land of the Rising Sun”.
Naomi: Right. I’ve heard it’s because Japan is located to the East of China. And the sun rises in…
Peter: the East.
Naomi: Right. As you may probably know, the relationship between Japan and China goes back many years. When Japan officially sent envoys to China, Japan referred to oneself as the “Land of the Rising Sun”. That’s the beginning of the name.
Peter: See, that makes perfect sense!
Peter: Naomi-sensei, who can resist the lure of Japanese? Are you ready?
Naomi: Okay!
Peter: We’re going to give you the top five reasons why you should study Japanese.
Naomi: Starting with number 5:
Peter: To communicate with Japanese people. Whether it’s with Japanese friends, family members, people you meet when traveling… it doesn’t matter. Japan is one of the Top 10 languages in the world based on a number of speakers. That’s over 130 million people. So, that’s a lot of people to converse with!
Naomi: Okay, number 4!
Peter: Japanese pronunciation is easy! *At first*. Japanese is pronounced just the way it looks, so you can start speaking right away.
Naomi: Okay. How about number 3?
Peter: Learn more than just a language. Learning Japanese will give you great insight into the world of Japanese culture that you just can’t get any other way. By learning how the language works, you’ll learn more about how the culture works.
Naomi: How about Number 2?
Peter: Japanese is fun! Japan has a lot to offer in the way of pop culture – fun and interesting movies, music, TV shows, comics, anime, manga, games – you name it! Learning Japanese will give you even greater access to the rich world of Japanese pop culture.
Naomi: And the number one reason you should learn Japanese is...
Peter: Studying Japanese is healthy and it makes you smarter.
Naomi: Healthy and makes you smarter, what does it mean?
Peter: Naomi-sensei, it’s unbelievable. Recent scientific data actually shows that a second language prevents or holds off Alzheimer's disease.
Naomi: Ahh! I’ve heard about it!
Peter: Right? Also, other age-related diseases. At the same time, it increases your memory, which helps you stay sharper and actually increases your attention span, so that’s the healthy part.
Naomi: Okay.
Peter: It makes you smarter by increasing your critical thinking skills.
Naomi: What do you mean?
Peter: Well, when you do critical thinking, you approach different problems; so when you study Japanese you learn to think in a different way, this helps you think of different approaches.
Naomi: Okay.
Peter: And this will actually increase creativity.
Naomi: Wow, that's good news!
Peter: Right? So makes you healthy, keeps you healthy, and makes you smarter, so a couple more reasons.
Naomi: That’s really amazing!
Peter: That's why you have to study Japanese.
Naomi: Yeah!
Peter: OK everybody, so, are you ready? Get out your pen and notebook,
Naomi: grab your iPod…
Peter: fire up your computer…
Naomi: whatever you use to study…
Peter: …and get ready for some Japanese lessons straight from the heart of Tokyo, Japan…
Naomi: …from JapanesePod101.com!