The onomatopoeia, オノマトペ in Japanese, is one of the most fun and characteristic of the Japanese language.
It is not just for children, something that many students think at first, but they all use it and it is very useful to explain the state, emotion and sensation. And using it can bring a text or conversation to life.
For example, you can say:
彼女の目は輝いています。 (かのじょのめはかがやいています) Her eyes are shining.
But if you say:
Adding キラキラ would make the listener or reader more impressed because with the onomatopoeia キラキラpeople would imagine something like stars or light reflections.
When translating the Japanese onomatopoeia, you have to think carefully about how to do it to avoid that idea of something “lost in translation”. Because you have to capture the feeling of the sounds they produce and there is no clear “translation” in another language.
Therefore, in the accompanied video I present the words with images. I have put the “translation” of each word, but memorizing it is not enough, you must try it yourself and feel it first hand because there is no other way to really understand these words.
擬音語 (Giongo) & 擬態語 (Gitaigo)
They say there are around 4,500 Japanese onomatopoeias. And besides, some new ones are always invented, so I can say that onomatopoeia is the most active part of the Japanese language.
Onomatopoeia can be divided into two parts: one, which is called Giongo 擬音語, are words that come from the sounds of animals (including humans) and nature.
For example, a person’s scream of terror would be キャー. The sound that the wind makes when it gently moves the leaves of the trees would be さわさわ。
The other type of onomatopoeia is called Gitaigo 擬態語, and they are words to express emotion, state or sensation using the form of a “sound” that does not really exist.
For example, when you feel nervous, that state is expressed with ドキドキ, which mimics the heartbeat.
Another example, you touch the surface of something and it is sticky, it would be ベトベト.
How to use onomatopoeia
Now we look at how to use them in sentences.
The use of onomatopoeia in Japanese is much broader than you imagine. We use it as an adjective, adverb or verb.
To explain how things are done or how they happen, we use the onomatopoeia as an adverb.
In this case, when we treat it as “sounds”, we must put the particle “と” although there are cases that we do not put it.
A woman screamed hysterically.
風がさわさわ(と) 吹く。 (かぜがさわさわとふく)
The wind blows moving the leaves gently.
In this case, you can say with and without “と”.
When you express a state, sensation, or emotion, we use it as a verb with する.
私 (わたし) はドキドキする。 It makes me nervous.
Or it can also be in the form-Te with iru.
私 (わたし) はドキドキしている。 I’m nervous.
ここは 、ベトベトする。 ここは 、ベトベトしている。 Here’s sticky.
In the case of a state of things, there is no difference in meaning between these two sentences.
In the case of number 2, some of them can also be used, not all of them, as an adjective-na, but generally in a colloquial conversation.
私 (わたし) は今 (いま) ドキドキです 。I’m nervous.
ここは 、ベトベトです。 Here’s sticky.
And if they are adjectives-na, not all, but some of them, can become adverbs, as in the adverb rule.
So for adjective-na you need to add the particle “に” to make it an adverb.
ベトベトになる. It gets sticky.
ハチミツをこぼして 、床 (ゆか) がベトベトになった。 I have thrown honey on the floor and the floor is now very sticky.
List of Onomatopoeias
[音] (おと) sound ポキっと折る (おる) fold something long in two clearly バリバリと噛む(かむ) bite something dry and hard グツグツ (と) 煮る (にる) boil food at high temperature コンコン (と) 叩く (たたく) knock on the door lightly ドンドンと叩く (たたく) knock on the door loudly ガリガリ(と) 削る (けずる) grinding things モグモク(と) 食べる (たべる) eat with energy ゴクゴク(と) 飲む (のむ) drink with energy チンする heating things in the microwave ミシミシ (と) 鳴る (なる) the wooden floor sounds at every step water comes out ... ザーザー (と) 出る (で る) - very strong チョロチョロ (と) 出る - a little ポタポタ (と) 出る - drop by drop バシッと殴る (なぐる) hit hard ガーンとする receives a strong shock [状態 、 感触] (じょうたい、しょっかん) state, touch, mouthfeel Foods パリパリする - thin and crisp コリコリする - a little hard to bite パサパサする - dry フワフワする - fluffy surface ツルツルする - smooth ザラザラする - rough ボコボコする - very rough ・ レタス lettuce シャキッとする - crisp and alive しなしなする - very soft and lifeless ・ 皮膚 (ひふ) skin スベスベする smooth skin ・ お 腹 (おなか) stomach ペコペコだ I'm hungry. Only with the use of the adjective-na. * Be careful, ペコペコする as a verb means, "always obey the superior". [心の動き] (こころのうごき) The emotion イライラする to be irritated ワクワクする feel illusion ドキドキする be nervous ビックリする be very surprised ウルウルする get emotional until you almost have tears まったりする being relaxed doing nothing and enjoying it キュンとする have "spark joy" ジーンとする deeply moved [行動] (こうどう) As a form of action プンプンする get very angry カチンとくる irritates me ガッカリする disappointed ニコニコする always be smiling ハラハラする feel worried or scared when you follow the unstable movement of a person or things. ペコペコする always obey the superior 見る (みる) See じっと見る - observe ジロジロ(と) 見る - see all sides チラチラ(と) 見る - seeing something or someone from time to time hiding interest in him, her, things, or actions.