Those Pesky Particles!

As a non-native English speaker, my biggest foe is the article (冠詞 kanshi). Yes, those “a” and “the” devils. When you ask native English speakers, they always say – if you refer to an item the first time, use “a” and after that “the”. Well, life is not that simple especially in English that is full of exceptions (例外reigai). I did learn about the articles in middle school (中学 chugaku)– there were many uses, but real life is more complicated (ややっこしい、複雑な yayakkoshii, fukuzauna).

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

And I learned that we, the Japanese, have the equivalent to (〜に相当する〜ni sotosuru) these pesky (厄介な yakkaina) articles. Allow me to introduce PARTICLES (助詞 joshi)! We, the native speakers, have no trouble but we have trouble explaining them. That is because we learn them in everyday life as we grow up and not by rules and formulas. Yes, we do learn them at school, but we perfect them outside the school without trying.

So what are the particles?They are short words that indicate relations of words within a sentence. Thanks to particles, Japanese sentence structures can be very flexible (自由に変えられる、フレキシブル、jiyu ni kaerareru). Look at the sentences below for an example. Particles are shown in RED.

Sunny and Paige watched a movie together in Shibuya on Sunday.

サニーさんペイジさん 日曜日 渋谷 映画 見ました。

(Sunny-san to Paige-san wa nichiyoubini Shibuyade eigawo mimashita)

日曜日に サニーさんとペイジさんは 映画を 渋谷で 見ました。

渋谷で 日曜日に 映画を サニーさんとペイジさんは 見ました。

映画を 日曜日に 渋谷で サニーさんとペイジさんは 見ました。

サニーさんとペイジさんは 渋谷で 映画を 日曜日に 見ました。

日曜日に サニーさんとペイジさんは 映画を 渋谷で 見ました。

As you can see, an order of the words does not matter in Japanese as long as appropriate particles are used (of course, some word orders are more natural than others.) Thus, learning the particles is extremely important.

In any culture or country, comedians use stereotypes (ステレオタイプ). Non-Japanese comedians often use our inability to distinguish R and L sounds, and the nervous mysterious laughs to mimic …continue reading