Much Ado About Dialects in Japan

I quickly threw together this post to answer the question, “What do you find most unusual, crazy or strange about Japan?” for the July Japansoc Blog Matsuri. One thing that comes to mind is the attention given to Japanese dialects.

HIS Kyoto

The relationship of this poster and dialects is in the text, which I’ll explain here as I have explained before on another blog.

「海外行き春? キャンペーン」

「海外」means “overseas” or sometimes could be translated as “abroad.”

「行き」means “to go.”

「春」means “spring.”

You may be wondering, why is 「春」in there? This is a joke, or pun, on Kansai dialect, or more precisely, Kyoto dialect.

Kyoto-ben 「はる」crash course!

In Kyoto-ben, you can put 「はる」(haru) after a verb to make it polite. For example in this case they are making a pun with 「海外に行きはる?」which means, “You’re going overseas?” in polite Kyoto dialect… And replacing the 「はる」with 「春」which means spring and is also pronounced “haru.”

Get it?

There are lots of these puns on Kansai dialect, and other dialects around Japan. The fact that Japanese has so many homonyms makes it easy to come up with these puns, and the attitude towards the dialects make them completely (mostly?) harmless.

Of course we also have a variety of dialects and different ways of speaking in the United States. We have our accent imitations, and our southern drawl jokes and what not, but people would often find them offensive. I have rarely (if ever) seen someone take offense at a dialect joke in Japan. Am I wrong?

Maybe my interest in Japanese has just made me oversensitive.

Check out our Kansai-ben iPhone application to learn more about Kansai-ben. It introduces hundreds of Kansai-ben expressions!

– Harvey

Japanese 101: Kansai-ben App Updated


Just a quick note. I finally got my first app update through the Apple review process. That took forever!

The update is super minor, but it’s free of course, so if you have the Kansai-ben App already see if it updates on your iPhone or iPod Touch. [Direct iTunes Link to Japanese 101: Kansai-ben]

Look forward to bigger badder updates later now that I know what I’m doing!

I’m also working on a new application that probably won’t be around until the end of August. It’ll be a fun one though with lots of memorable Japanese phrases.



Japanese 101 Facebook Page

In my attempt to be “hip” we set up a Japanese 101 Facebook Page where people can complain about, or rave about, our iPhone applications for learning Japanese.

Japanese 101 on Facebook

Check it out!

Got another new app in the works – but it’s still being worked! More news later.

By the way, if you’re one of the hundreds of people who have tried out any of the Japanese 101 iPhone apps, please write a review on the iTunes App Store! It’s lonely over there.

Thanks everyone!

– Harvey

Japanese Audio Books on HearJapan is now offering audio books!

Their first book is 大人のための残酷童話 (Otona no Tameno Zankoku Douwa) by Yumiko Kurahashi. The book title translates into something like, “Fairy Tales for Adults.”

Some of the stories from this book were required reading in my fourth-year Japanese class back in my University days (10, count them, 10! years ago now) and I loved it.

Otona no Tameno Zankoku Douwa is made up of short stories like Snow White (白雪姫) that are familiar enough to make the kanji-filled Japanese medicine go down smoothly… Yet the “adult twist” to the stories makes them just surprising enough to make sure you’re really paying attention to what you’re reading. Seriously, these really are “for adults.”

I just downloaded the 17.8 MB 人魚の涙 Ningyo no Namida story – it cost 299 yen (about $3.00 USD) for the 20 minutes of audio in the story. Great deal if you ask me. Best part is, since I own the actual book I can read along with the audio. If you’re in Japan I’m sure you can find Otona no Tameno Zankoku Douwa in Book-Off or some other used book store for 400 yen or so. Go get it!

The audio quality is great and the performance is completely professional. I think this is actually the audio book that is on sale in Japan, and HearJapan just happened to acquire the rights to sell it.

Great stuff – I’m going to fill my iPod with these things.


Dictionary Discoveries: びんびん

Every now and then I have a fun dictionary discovery that I just have to share.

I was looking up びんびん (bin bin) in my electronic dictionary, and one of the example sentences and its translation… jumped out at me.

“He swallowed some Viagra and was ready to take on a harem.”

I can’t make this stuff up.

「びんびん」is a gitaigo (擬態語), a Japanese word that describes a “state.” In English these are called mimetic words, or a mimesis, but who knows what that means anyway?

I’m a fan of Giongo and Gitaigo! If you are too, be sure to check out the Japanese 101: Giongo and Gitaigo iPhone application.

– Harvey