Nihomophones: Same But Different
Japanese contains fewer phonemes than almost any other major language. For native English speakers, this makes the pronunciation of the basic sounds relatively straightforward (and, conversely, pronunciation of most foreign languages relatively nightmarish for native Japanese). As there are many short words, this also means that there are necessarily a lot of homophones.
A commonly cited example would be あめ, either ‘rain’ or ‘candy’, with a slight variation of intonation. しんかん, in contrast, has eleven meanings: ‘new book’, ‘annex’, ‘Shinto priest’, ‘shake’, ‘fuse’, ‘silence’, ‘still’, ‘heart’, ‘new patient’, ‘Imperial letter’ and ‘new members’. Of course, you can’t learn them all, nor do you need to. Nevertheless, this is can be overwhelming and confusing.
But what if we could turn this overwhelming, confusing reality into a shortcut to vocabulary memorization? What if there were a tool that could help us group homophones together and memorize them as sets?
Nihomophones: supplying a mental image in order to link disparate ideas. This makes for less brain-work, as if you can remember the pronunciation for one of the words, the rest might just fall into place.
Episode 1: きんし
Episode 2: たいか
Episode 3: きしゃ
Episode 4: かくとう
Episode 5: かける
The Nihomophones series has concluded. If you enjoyed it, leave your comments below!
Loving Japanese homonyms with a passion.
Neat concept, akin to the story-based learning of characters that Heisig promotes. I wonder if drilling in Anki could be incorporated as: front: きんし; back: 禁止 近視 菌糸 金糸、等。Pure vocabulary drilling goes against the sentence-based method, but would かな→漢字 work best?
Good luck with this method, it could be quite helpful as I improve.
The kind of card you describe sounds pretty awful for reviewing (and just bad for this purpose, really). You would basically have to remember how many homophones there are of a certain type whenever you reviewed anything, and while maybe this is useful knowledge for researchers in homophonology, I think the rest of us can do without it…
If you’d really like to use something like this maybe a better idea is to find short sentences for all the variants and have them all at the front of the card (except those homophones would all appear as きんし). Then in the back you would have an indication of which きんし belongs to each sentence. This way you could actually test yourself in recognizing the right “きんし” from context, which sounds a lot more productive to me.
As a follow up to my idea above, what should make a great Anki card would be for someone (capable of confidently producing properly grammatical Japanese, i.e., not me, yet) to package the mnemonic in the cartoon into a single Japanese sentence. That would likely be one of the best possible ways to combine this post with the Anki methods in the site.
Hey Andy, you rock! I really liked this article．I don’t think I can forget those words even if
I wanted to and I certainly am glad for it. :D
Ember_seed, thanks a lot!
Ichabod, I did indeed get the idea from the Heisig…but I never saw it as something that would fit into a systematic methodology. It is best seen as a supplementary, one-shot kind of thing. If you were reviewing 禁止 in a sentence deck, I’d hope that (if you had seen the comic) 近視 would pop into your head as well and thus both would be reinforced.
Near-sighted means that you can see objects clearly when they’re close to the eye, but objects in the distance are blurred…
I think you may be underestimating how nearsighted some people are. I would assume the mistake happened in picking out the material, and while he is working he isn’t necessarily holding the material up close to his eyes like he would a book.
COMIC SAAAAAAAA– wait. The really sloppy drawing style makes me think it’s more of an ironic use of the SBaHJ font. [/distaction]
Anyway, interesting new series idea… At some point, are you going to do a thing about words that are the reading for a zillion kanji, like かん?
ALL your problems are gone good sir:
This completely makes the difference in my kanji learning, I was able to read all the most common yon-yumi of each kanji after finishing RTK spending the same amount of time and energy of someone doing the “tradicional” readingless RTK, this makes me learning any compound word instantanealy. Just imagine how happy I was when I just started and despite doesn’t even knowing how to say “HI” I was able to read out loud words that even the most “veterans” japanese learners can’t and look up several words from mangas and images without furigana with ease. Still today I wonder why practically no major japanese-learning blog posted about it, maybe they are all to used to the tradicional “readings and meanings can’t be learned at the same time in the memnicas and must be learned by the “context” ” -mindset to try something better.
And if you ask me, my favorite group is こう
Oh my god!
I read this article yesterday and just now while reading a Murakami book, I stumble upon the word 病原菌. I started reading びょうげん… and then laughed when I saw the fungus kanji. Because of this comic I was able to read that this compound was びょうげんきん. Wow. Thanks! (I guess. :P)
Great installement. Though I’m unsure whether the moral of the story is meant to be “don’t trust a 大家 using a dunce cap” or instead “exploit any you find in order to get a massive 対価” （笑）.
Thanks for some new great words! Keep them coming.
Something similar to this that I just realized I do is to make puns out of words with the same reading.
Then I envision a piece of raw (生) meat being wrapped (包装) up on some cooking show that is playing live (生包装).
Another great installment thanks! I went to a 騎射 not too long ago and this brings back good memories, so cheers.
lol… see, this is why I love the Japanese language!
I was looking up the word 加減 but only typed the hiragana かげん and noticed it has a lot of homophones. It’d be great to see you tackle かげん.
It’s crazy that it has so many different meanings! Makes you wonder how that came to be. Why not just use some other combination of syllables for some of these verbs?
I love this series! Please make more!!! :D
Some homophones seem completely unnecessary in my opinion and only speak of a forced sinification of Japanese when Japanese lacks the fetures that the Chinese language possesses. For example しんかん (新刊); 新しい本 and one less troubling homophone. When Chinese say something like 新刊 they understand both sounds by ear because they are independent words in Chinese. In Japanese, however you just pile up too many concepts with the same sound.