152 - Home

Hey there fellow netizens!

So I decided to go home for the weekend, which is English for 実家に帰る(じっか に かえる/ lit: home + in + return).

I ended up taking a trip down memory lane while looking at the stuff I used to play with as a child. At this point, I remembered some difficulties I used to have with the Japanese language.

After I became able to speak and understand a fair amount of Japanese, I could hold decent conversations on various subjects, but I realized that I still didn't know how you say common words like 'ladder', 'seedling', or 'chicken'. These are the kind of words that you 'skip' learning when you pick up Japanese from an adult age. They're words you'd usually learn as a child, while exploring nature and the world around you.

Surprisingly enough, after finding out their names in Japanese, they were very easy to remember. I'll let you know why at the end of the lesson :)

So, having returned to my childhood place, let me show you around for a bit.

This was my favorite hiding place as a child:

The attic over our garage.

ガレージ の やねうら に かくれていた。
(I) was hiding in the attic over our garage.
Literally: 'Garage + の + attic + in + was hiding.'

This seemingly complicated word 屋根裏 (やねうら) can be broken down into '屋根/やね', which stands for 'roof', and '裏/うら' which stands for 'inside'. So you get attic = 'the inside of the roof'.

Then I decided to climb up the ladder:

はしご を のぼって うえ から にわ を みていた。
(I) climbed up the ladder and looked at the garden from above.
Literally: 'Ladder + に + climbed (verb with て form) + above + from + garden + を + looked.'

On the right side you can see freshly planted flower seedlings.

はは は はな の なえ を うえた。
My mother planted flower seedlings.
Literally: 'Mother + has + flower + の + seedlings + を + planted.'

On the upper right side of the picture you can see the chicken coop.

まえ に にわとりごや が みえる。
In front you can see the chicken coop.
Literally: 'Front + に + chicken coop + が + can see.'

This long word for 'chicken coop' might scare you, but this can be broken down also:

You take the word for 'chicken':

Literally: 'garden (にわ) + bird (とり)'

to which you add
shed / cabin / animal pen
Literally: 'little(小) + house (屋)'

So you get:
The little house for the garden bird(s) = chicken coop.
Literally: 'garden + bird + little + house'
Note: The pronunciation of 小屋(こや) changes to ごや.

And it's full of angry birds!

にわとり は おこっている ような 目 を している。
The chicken is making angry-looking eyes.
Literally: 'Chicken + は + is angry + as if + eyes + を + making.'

*For those of you who want a more lengthy explanation for this expression, I will be adding it in a future lesson, as it's quite extensive.

Next I went in the garden and visited an old friend, the nettle.

A wise old man once taught me that if you stroke it gently, it never stings. To this day this makes me go "awww" on the inside.

いらくさ の とげ に さされない よう に やさしく さわる。
In order to not get stung by the nettle, (I/you/we) touch it gently.
Literally: 'Nettle + の + needles + に + not get stung + in order to + gently + touch.'
Note: When it comes to plants, in Japanese we always use "とげ" to describe either their needles or their thorns.

Something(X) + ように + verb/predicate(Y):
This expression translates as:
In order to X, do Y

As a good example, if you've ever been on the train in Japan then you have definitely heard the following announcement:

わすれもの が ない ように ごちゅうい ください。
Please be careful not to forget any of your belongings.
Literally: 'Forgotten belonging + が + not have + in order to + attention + please.'

So a more literal, easy-to-digest translation would be:
"In order to not forget anything, be careful please"

Then the clouds gathered and:

あめ が ふりはじめた。
It started to rain.
Literally: 'Rain + は + falling-started.'
Note: This is a common expression, and you use it when talking about rain or snow:

to start to fall
Literally: 'fall-start'

So I paid one last visit to my pal who always helped me sneak out the window and onto it's branches, my buddy the cherry tree:

この さくらのき の さくらんぼ は おいしい。
The cherries from this cherry tree are delicious.
Literally: 'This + cherry tree + の + cherries + は + delicious.'

Note: Just as in English, most trees in Japanese are named after the fruit they bear.

So you get:

さくら の き
Cherry tree
Literally: 'Cherry + の + tree'
Note: This is the real name, but people are unlikely to picture a tree with actual cherries on it, since 桜(さくら) is used to refer to the flowering cherry trees all over Japan. You can also get away with saying サクランボの木(サクランボのき), which makes it clear that you're talking about the fruit tree.

もも の き
Peach tree
Literally: 'Peach + の + tree'

りんご の き
Apple tree
Literally: 'Apple + の + tree'

くり の き
Chestnut tree
Literally: 'Chestnut + の + tree'

I remembered words like these very easily, and after some thought I realized why: It's because they were connected to fond memories. It's much easier to remember something to which you have an emotional connection. I recommend you try the following experiment:

Bring up a fond memory from your childhood and try to remember what objects/plants/animals etc. were around at that time. Then look up that word in Japanese. Repeat the word a few times in your mind while reminiscing about the happy memory, and it's very likely it will stick in your brain.

Inversely, if you have trouble remembering a certain common word, see if it pops up in any fond memory, and then try the same method above.

Have fun experimenting, and see you next time :)

This lesson was written by Adriana, a guest contributor.

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