Now Featuring 1級 Grammar, Everyday Japanese That You Won't Find in the Book, and Language and Cultural Trivia!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


いく どうおん
iku douon

Today's yo-ji jukugo is so straightforward and easy to understand that the only thing I can possibly do to make it more interesting/challenging is throw a bunch of synonymous 四字熟語 at you. Different phrases, but they're saying the same thing. How appropriate.

Before that though, while I'm still basking in how clever I am, let's check the definition.

1. In unison
2. Unanimously

The kanji make this one clear enough: different mouths, same sound.


異口同声 (いくどうせい;ikudousei) and 異口同辞 (いくどうじ; ikudouji) get away with just switching out the last kanji, to become "different mouths, same voice" and "different mouths, same language" respectively. But if you're a Rikai-chan user, you'll notice that these don't enjoy the same recognition that 異口同音 does, so don't expect them to work well in conversation.

Then there's 衆目一致 (しゅうもくいっち; shuumokuicchi) which is used to mean a consensus of opinion, or something widely agreed upon, or widely admitted.

And we'll finish out with 満場一致 (まんじょういっち;manjyouicchi) which also means "unanimous."

Things that I'm paying close attention to:

  • The reading of , which features in a handful of 1級 熟語.
  • , which also is important for 1級, in that it gets used a lot for things that are in the public arena, like politics and business, in which direction 1級 content tends to lean (you know, when they're not focused on video games).
  • 一致, appearing in two of the synonymous yo-ji, used to mean "agreement," or "union." And coincidence. Not the 偶然 style coincidence, but an act of coinciding.


Easily-fooled teacher: I thought you had homework to hand in, but if EVERYONE in class is saying that there wasn't any, I guess I forgot to assign it!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

表現 Break: 二足のわらじを履く

So every once in a while, the 1級 book will throw an expression at us that we ought to be aware of.

This is one of those.

Can you guess which grammar point it complements?

にそく の わらじ を はく

To wear two different pairs of straw sandals.

Now... I was initially confused about why you would ever wear sandals, or any shoes for that matter, on only ONE of your feet, but then someone pointed out that 足 is actually the counter for PAIRS of legs. 靴一足 is one pair of shoes, which makes much more sense.

My book explains that this is used for someone who's working two jobs at the same time, and gives the example, 「姉は日本人に英語を教えるかたわら、外国人に日本語を教える仕事もしている。」

But, when I looked into the origins of this weird little phrase, I found that it is actually should be used in cases where those two different occupations should be incompatible. 「二足に草鞋を履く」 was coined during the Edo Era, to talk about constables (捕吏) who moonlighted as professional gamblers or vice versa.
Click the pic on the right for some 江戸時代博打.

While it seems like this information might limit the ways that you can use this phrase, remember that Japanese society generally does not condone holding more than one job, so while being an eikaiwa teacher for two different companies probably wouldn't earn you a 「二足に草鞋」 admonition, being a teacher by day and a bartender by night would definitely qualify.

Teacher and a porn star? (Despite what the vast quantities of video evidence seem to suggest...) FROWNED UPON.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

1級 Grammar 6-10

We're doing our best to prepare for, and hopefully, to help you prepare for the 日本語能力試験1級, but please remember: 1級, by its very nature, consists of grammar that is difficult, highly nuanced, and most of the time, rarely used in regular conversations. That's why it's important that you use our posts as references, to be compared with other study sources. Before you leave a comment, please check the message posted here.

Thanks, and 頑張って!

1級 Grammar 6-10:

6. ~かぎりだ
Very ~
Extremely ~
非常に~だ と感じる

Well, well, well, かぎり... we meet again. This time, though, we find it in probably its simplest form yet - tack it onto an い-type adjective (one that describes your emotions), and voila! While it's not a very common usage, it is very easy to use. There's nothing else to it.

Ex. 彼のお嫁さんはモデルとして、大成功して、お金持ちになりました。羨ましい限りです。

7. ~が最後...
If A happens, then B will definitely happen.

Even though you're literally saying "A is last," A actually starts things off in this chain of events. And once A's gotten rolling, B can't be stopped... and B is going to be something bad. While degrees of "badness" are relative (this expression works for "Once he starts talking about movies, he won't stop," as well as "Once I push this button, the lethal injection procedure will commence."), it's generally used for special emphasis. It gets tacked onto a verb in the past tense.

Ex. ダイエットしつつ、彼女は我慢強くなってきましたが、甘いものを食べだしたが最後、一日中食べ続けるから、最初から食べさせないほうがいい。

8. ~かたがた
while in the process of ~,

A very formal phrase used in letter writing or the most formal greetings. It's not that hard to understand in terms of usage, but everywhere you see it, it's bound to be surrounded by 敬語: 御 honorifics, like お世話、 ご相談、お礼、お詫び、and formal verbs like 伺う、参る、and 致す。 We're going to post book examples on this one, because, well... I'm not capable of coming up with one that's as good as the book's on my own. :(

かたがた follows a noun.

Ex. 先日はたいへん失礼いたしました。今日はお詫びかたがたご相談に伺いました。
Ex. この度はたいへんお世話になりました。来週にでもお礼かたがたご報告ぶまいります。

9. ~かたわら...
doing ... in addition to ~
doing ... while doing ~

Whatever you list first is the main activity, and the second part is...secondary. But in spite of that, BOTH things are done continuously - ie jobs, volunteering, studying, etc. You would not use this phrase to say "I bought some ice cream while walking around the park."

Use with a verb in the dictionary form, or with a noun and の, like so:

Ex. 日本で就職のかたわら、日本語を勉強しています。

10. ~がてら
While A, B.
When A, B.

One of many expressions that can be essentially boiled down to しながら, but here's are the elements that set this apart:
  • ~がてら is used for trivial things that are over and done with quickly, so it's the perfect choice for buying ice cream while walking around the park. You wouldn't use it for anything big or permanent.
  • It's used when the situation in A presents the opportunity for B, like watching a movie with subtitles is a chance to learn some new vocab, or going for a jog is a chance to remember the way to the post office...
  • Most of the time, A involves moving around: coming or going.

Ex. 今朝、会社に通いがてら、携帯でお母さんに誕生日のメールを入れました。

There's 5 more down. See you next time.

Friday, December 4, 2009

1級 Grammar 1-5:

We're doing our best to prepare for, and hopefully, to help you prepare for the 日本語能力試験1級, but please remember: 1級, by its very nature, consists of grammar that is difficult, highly nuanced, and most of the time, rarely used in regular conversations. That's why it's important that you use our posts as references, to be compared with other study sources. Before you leave a comment, please check the message posted here.

Thanks, and 頑張って!

1級 Grammar 1-5:

Technically we already posted 35 1級 grammar points a while ago, but we were kind of half-assing them. Now that we've got about another year of Japanese experience under our belts, and actually intend to take 1級 next year, we're going to start fresh. Bear with us while we get back up to speed.

1. ~あっての
... It's thanks to ~ that ... exists.
... would not be without ~.
... is nothing without ~.

This would be an excellent bit of grammar to incorporate into your going away speech since it is most commonly used in indicating appreciation or a indelible relationship between people or groups. "It's thanks to my family that I'm here today, I would be nothing without all of you helping me, etc." In AあってのB, B could not exist if A was removed from the equation.

Most of the examples I've come across use this to end sentences: 

The book does include one example where it's used to modify a subject, like so:

Ex. 読者の皆さんあってのデーリー四字である。ありがとうございます!また一緒に文法を勉強しましょう!

2. ~いかんだ ・ ~いかんによっては
based on ~,
depending on ~,
is up to ~ ~次第だ

You should recognize ~次第だ from 2級, and while these two points are very close in meaning, I think you use ~いかんだ to talk about specific results, not decisions. "Depending on the boss's evaluation, we may or may not adopt this policy." 'Depending on your test results, you may admitted to the hospital immediately." While it might be cool to use 次第 to say "Whether or not we go on a picnic next week depends on the weather," I don't think いかんだ or いかんによっては could be used there.

The book explains: in BはAいかんだ or AいかんによってはB sentences, B is a result that changes in accordance with the conditions of A.

In the picnic example, a picnic depends on the weather, but it's not a result of the weather. It's an independent entity. Adoption of a policy however, could not be done without the boss, or his or her evaluation. Admission to the hospital is one possible result of the medical test.

Ex. 面接の結果いかんによっては、転職はできるかもしれません。

3. ~いかんによらず ・ ~いかんにかかわらず
Regardless of ~,

This one is made a lot easier if you happen to remember that にかかわらず is a grammar point all by itself. See if you can remember what it means. If not, just click the link and browse around, but it should shed some light on this usage - in this case, it reverses いかん by itself. Also, as I imagine will be the case for a lot of 1級 grammar, it falls on the formal side of Japanese.

This was a grammar point I was told is so old and formal that today, it's pretty much only used used in a phrase that means "No refunds: 理由のいかんによらず、返金されない。" 

Ex. お父様の許可いかんによらず、結婚します。

4. ~うが ・ ~うが~まいが ・ ~うと~まいと
Even if A~, ...
Whether A or not A, ....

The ~う in the following few points means that you're using the volitional form of a verb there. In the case of ~うが, it means "Even if A happens," as in "Even if I get home late, I always pack my lunch for the next day before going to bed."
Whip out ~うが~まいが when the occurence or non-occurence of A is irrelevant to what comes next in the sentence. You can use it to say "We're gonna go to the movies, whether or not you come," but you can also use it to say things like "Whether you come or not, it doesn't matter to me."
What's tough about this point is the nuances of the construction: In the case of AうがAまいが, the first occurence of verb A will be the volitional form, whereas the second occurence will just be plain old dictionary form (like 行こうが行くまいが).

Also, do not confuse this with the extremely similar ~うか~まいか of 2級 past. The か one is used when you're wondering about whether A should or should not be done, whereas using が or と means that neither option is changes things.

Ex. どんなに遅くまで働こうが、部長は気づいてくれない。
Ex. 2 君は私のこと、愛してくれようがくれまいが、私は君のこと、ずっと愛する。

5. ~うにも~ない
can't do A even if you tried/wanted to do A.

For when there is something one would like to do, but can't since something is interfering. It has a pretty strong meaning, but seeing as one of the example sentences reflects on how a book is so difficult, you couldn't read it even if you tried, I'd say you can be a bit relaxed with it. Another note that Nirav reminded us of, the second occurence of the verb in this phrase should be in the potential form ( 食べられる、読める and the like).
FINALLY, it should be an external force that is preventing you from doing the thing you want to do.

Ex. (courtesy of Nirav!) 毎日新しい四字が書きたいけど、仕事やら学校やらで忙しいから書こうにも書けない。

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Message to Yoji Readers, Re: JLPT 1級

Hey everyone,

Thanks for always reading and checking out the site.

Starting soon, well be updating the site with new JLPT1級 Grammar Posts.

Sorry to have kept you waiting for so long.

Just like in the past, we'll be using the "日本語能力試験実力アップ" series as our textbook, and the grammar that we learn there, we'll turn into posts.

We're always excited to have your cooperation and your kind comments or correction, but when it comes to commenting on the 1級 grammar posts, we have a request.

We take our studies very seriously, so we will try as hard as we can to make sure we don't post any mistaken or misleading examples or explanations.

1級 grammar though, consists largely of expressions that the average person does not use. So if you're not a Japanese teacher or someone with special knowledge of either Japanese grammar or the format/contents of the JLPT, please refrain from offering corrections.

It's a common phenomenon, but to cite a specific example, some time ago, when Daily Yoji contributor Brett wrote a post about the word "かぎり," as used to mean "very; extremely" he posted the example sentence "嬉しいかぎりだ."

In response to that, we received a comment explaining that かぎり doesn't mean "very" it means "during."

However, for the purpose of studying 1級, we are required to learn かぎり as "very" (かぎり as "during" is a usage covered in 2級), so I hate to say it but that comment, well-intentioned though it was, was actually counter-productive for us as well as our readership.

Along the same lines, the other day I was trying to make an example sentence using the point "いかんによらず" but when I consulted my Japanese friend studying at the desk next to me, I was told that "いかんによらず" is too old, and not commonly used, so I shouldn't try to use it in a sentence.

When dealing with those kinds of comments, you get confused, frustrated, and it's in no way encouraging. It actually has a negative effect on motivation.

Because of this, we hope that you'll recognize that we're trying to remember these grammar points, and even if there's something slightly awkward about our examples, if the meaning and the usage of the grammar point is not mistaken, we ask for your understanding, and your leniency.

Sincere apologies for going on at such length.

We look forward to our continued relations.