5 things you can’t miss In Japanese (To jump two steps)


Teaching in class I have realized one thing: there are a number of common subjects for most students that are difficult to perfect.

There are five themes and they are all basic. But I see that, even at the advanced level, there are many people who have left them unperfected and, therefore, when they make those mistakes, they do not sound smooth or correct, and, what is worse, they do not realize of it.

I can imagine three reasons why you don’t study or memorize much of these topics; One, because you don’t think they are important. Two, because they are different from Spanish or English, so you do not understand how to use them. Or three, that there are simply many details and you are lazy to learn them.

Every time these five topics appear in class, they are either not remembered or not learned, and I have to explain them again saying that “they are very important, please study them again”, almost begging, because I am tired of repeating again and again .

It seems that you have decided yourselves that they do not matter and that they are not necessary, as if you were locked in your own ideas, but guys, actually, these are very important, so get out of there!

So today I am going to talk about these five things that can be a giant change, a make-o-break, that can make your Japanese be natural like a native or, on the contrary, be like a broken-Japanese. Once you start handling them, your Japanese will go to another level.

5 cosas del japonés en que no puedes fallar (y así saltar dos escalones)
with ENGLISH subtitles

1. Particles

The particle is undoubtedly a giant pillar at the center of Japanese grammar. Imagine: the words are pieces and the particles are the glue. Without glue everything falls off, it does not work. If you make mistakes in the particles or if you speak or write without using them at all, Japanese people will not understand you, full-stop.

Sometimes the particles are confusing because you have to change them by marking the word, etc., but you must have clear in your head how they work. Definitely.

If you want to go over the particles, here I have two videos,


therefore I won’t go into details, but I explain a little:

For example, there is a party.


And you want to ask where, but if you say,


Surely this Japanese will stop for a second before answering you. Why? Because he will doubt what you mean, because you do not indicate enough what you mean without a particle.

He would expect you to ask him in this case with the particle で,

どこで  In which place?

And then he will answer you

うちで  in my house.

Another example: he tells you that he is going on a trip and you want to ask him where and when. How would you ask him?

“Where?” would be, どこに

“When?” would be, いつ

Now be careful, in the case of いつ no particles are added. Because the interrogative いつ has no particles. In fact in Spanish or English the same thing happens; Where to?, with preposition and, When?, without it.

It does not matter if it is a long or short sentence, the particles are essential, they must be mastered without question.

2. Counters

You know, in Japanese we don’t have a system for differentiating singular and plural in most countable nouns.

One cat is ねこ, many cats, well ねこ. It does not change. However, when you want to say two cats, you should include the number 2, but with a counter. In the case of small animals, it would be ひき, therefore 2ひき.

2ひきのねこが、います。 ねこが、2ひきいます。

But if you say, 2ねこ nothing is understood. If you say “2のねこ” instead of “2ひきのねこ”, the Japanese will think. “What is Ninoneko? Is it a Mr. Ni’s cat? ”

Maybe you say people could understand by context, but no, if you don’t add its counter, we don’t know what you’re talking about. It is a very small part but it is true, if you say without counters, it is very confusing for us Japanese.

I know there are many, but the counters for date, time, and 10 other basic counters are the least you should learn.

ほん, for long things, 

まい, for flat pieces like towels, plates, sheets, paper, etc., 

さつ, for things that have a book format, 

だい for machines or furniture., 

こ, for small things or ideas, 

にん, for people, 

ひき, for small animals, 

かい, for how many times or floors, 

ど for how many times, degrees or temperature,

and けん for small buildings or apartments.

And the wildcards that you can use when there are things that are not defined by the shape, or form, from one, ひとつ, ふたつ, みっつ, よっつ, いつつ, むっつ, ななつ, やっつ, ここのつ, and ten とお.

3. Katakana-Eigo

Katakana-eigo is something very typical and that is not taken too seriously when studying in class, because you thought that they are from English, and not from Japanese, so it is not necessary to study it much, but when you visit Japan you realize that they are very problematic if you are not clear.

And that is because they are very difficult to catch by the ear since the pronunciation has nothing to do with the original word in English, since they are converted to the Japanese pronunciation, and sometimes the meaning has nothing to do with the supposedly original word.

But Japanese life is full of Katakana eigo. You have to catch it in the ear and you must also reproduce it as the Japanese do because, if you pronounce it with the authentic pronunciation in English, most Japanese will not understand you. Therefore, even native English speakers, in a Japanese conversation, should pronounce the Katakana-eigo, in Japanese-style.

4. Pronunciation of the elongated sound

And this brings us to number four: which many people make unclear, without practicing.

The problem of elongated sound is more evident at the time of writing, although it can be disguised in pronunciation. Many people are not sure where to put the “-“.

Coffee in Japanese is コーヒー, but many times you write like these コヒ or コーヒ, and nether of them is correct. We read all three differently.

サッカー is soccer, but if you don’t put the bar, it would be さっか, he’s a writer.

The same as スキー is skiing, but without the bar it would be すき, which is to like.

If you improvise Katakana combinations when writing Katakana-eigo, that is not the correct way. The spelling is already done, even the Katakana eigo, therefore they must be memorized.

Another similar problem happens with the small “つ”. You have a difficult time differentiating the sound with the little つ and without it.

For example, かっこ(う) and かこ are not the same. The first is appearance or posture, but the second means the past. You also have to practice listening and pronunciation of little つ.

5. Onomatopoeia

The fifth, and the last, are onomatopoeia. Super super super, a thousand times, important. Many of you might think that they are only animal sounds, therefore they are not important, but in fact it’s quite the opposite.

Yes, of course, they come from the sound of animals, nature, human movements, etc., but the use of onomatopoeias in Japanese is much more extensive. We use them as adjectives, adverbs and verbs, and they are very useful because with them, without explaining much, you can make yourself understood.

For example, もちもち. If you have experience in eating Japanese mochi, if someone tells you “this is like もちもち”, you already understand how it is, even if they refer to things that are not food. But without this word, it is not easy to explain how it is.

For example, with the verb walk あるく, we add many onomatopoeias as adverbs to explain how one is walking:

のろのろ あるく walking very slow (imagine yourself as turtles)

よろよろ あるく walking very slow that seems difficult to walk (imagine at the end of climbing a mountain)

ふらふら あるく swinging walk (imagine how a drunk walks)

きびきび あるく walking fast and highly motivated to do something (imagine someone on a mission)

The Japanese use onomatopoeias a lot, especially in conversation.

Onomatopoeia is more than a word, it is a code to communicate or share a feeling that is very difficult to explain in one word. 

So if you know them well, you can expand your Japanese conversation skills and it will also be easier to understand novels and manga.