on 17 May 2013
Tan tan tanuki, no kintama wa,
Kaze mo nai noni yura yura,
Sore o miteita oya danuki,
Hara o kakaete wa hha hha,
Choshi o awasete yura yura!
(Japanese drinking song, translation at the bottom.)
My boyfriend and I are currently both learning Japanese, using the Rosetta Stone programme. Whilst it's an excellent system, we couldn't help but feel that , whilst it was teaching us an awful lot, certainly enough to communicate politely, it probably wasn't teaching us much in the way of slang or informal speech.
I found this book on Amazon, and it was about a fiver at the time. It's a small, quite thin book, easily small enough to pop into a handbag to use as a quick reference. The book begins with a quick section on how to read the book - a useful section that explains pronunciation, the different styles of Japanese writing, and the fact that the language and phrases in the book are intended for informal conversations with friends, rather than strangers.
After this, the book is broken down into 8 chapters : Howdy, friendly, party, body, horny, angry, poppy, sporty and hungry. These are all pretty self explanatory - 'poppy' for example deals with music, hobbies, television, whilst 'body' deals with peeing, pooing, and farting.
The book is very light hearted and humorous, and incredibly easy to understand, with each phrase written first in English, then in Romanji, and then in Japanese (either Hiragana, Kanji or Katakana ) Dot's (...) either before or after the words help to indicate where the words should be placed to make a correct sentence.
A lot of the phrases are very useful - for example, there are plenty of informal greetings, some handy references to various ailments, descriptions, and ways to ask for seconds of dessert. I particularly found some of the stereotypes interesting - there are words in here for all sections of society, from skaters punks and rockers tight up to a Japanese word to describe those Wag-wannabe blonde , fake nailed, 'Ooompa Loompa' orange kind of girls (Gyaru).
I also found the explanation of the literal meaning of certain phrases incredibly amusing. For example, the Japanese phrase 'ari no towatari' for your notyer (the bit of skin that's notyer bum, but notyer vagina either) is apparently a description of ants crawling out of one hole, across a small patch of earth, and into another hole apparently!
I used Notyer as an example above, because I think it best illustrates the informality of the book- whilst I might use the proper word, Perineum, whilst talking to my doctor about a health issue, I would sound funny being so formal with friends. In the same way that if I had piles, I'd say anus to the doctor but bumhole to my mates.
However, there are some that, whilst highly amusing, I'll probably never use. I'll probably never need to describe the exact sound, smell and feel of my own farts for example, and I very much hope I never have to explain that a sex-predator has felt me up on the subway, or that I want some cheap, greasy sex!
Overall, I think this is a highly amusing book that would make a wonderful gift for anybody 18+ that is studying Japanese and wants to learn some of the more informal phrases.
I would say about 80 per cent of the phrases included are things I would use myself, whilst the other 20 percent are amusing to know, but perhaps not particularly useful for me. Despite that, I have to give it the full five stars, as I've simply never laughed so much whilst learning before.
Ra-ra-raccoon balls, see them sway,
Even on a windless day,
And when Papa raccoon spied
Those balls he laughed until he cried,
And his own balls swung side to side!