Now, we’ve been in Japan for two months. We’ve had rather intensive Japanese classes, and they start to pay off a little. But we are still far from being able to communicate. What made a big difference was being able to read Hiragana and Katakana. Especially Katakana is useful, as all foreign words are written with those. Many brand names, too, so it is useful when shopping. Buttons on electric appliances are often in Katakana. Also with the Kanji it is going better. I can recognize the most common characters (say, I can tell milk from soy milk), the days of the week, the names of train and subway stops we see most, etc. In general, we learned quite well to extract information from something written in Japanese. Say you get a bill. You first look for the numbers. Dates you can recognize easily. Or numbers in addresses. You see that it’s your gas bill, because gas is spelled in Katakana. You see for which period it is and when it is due. By looking for a number before m^3, you even figure out how much gas you used. And the meaning of the number before the Yen sign is also quite clear….
There are also a number of nice tools available online that help to make sense of the jumble of characters. There is a nice online dictionary where you can look up Kanji by the radicals they are made of. And if you want to read a Japanese web page, you can use Popjisyo, a site that displays the dictionary entry for each word in a pop-up window if you hover above it with the mouse. It may take a long time, but you can make sense of it. Of course, one can also make use of google translate or something similar to translate entire web pages. But the results are more often amusing than useful. The following is an excerpt from the IPMU semi-official blog about our employment ceremony, translated with google translate:
The two of you, I’m all married couples!
Germany and Italy who is a couple of people.
In this way, researchers at the couple to adopt together is rare.
Those two were both capable of course is not adopted,
They also flexibility for the adoption, IPMU chosen to be one of the reasons for it.
I joined a press conference and the anniversary, with lots of events such as seminars or think hard, but suddenly the atmosphere’ll have a taste.
We will continue to work hard together.