The Many Uses of 気

One of the most versatile words in Japanese is the word 気(き・ki)which can roughly be translated to mean “mind”, “soul”, or “mood”, amongst other definitions. It is derived from the Chinese word Qi, which you may be familiar with as the energy that is traditionally considered to flow through all living things.

Over the centuries, 気 has worked itself into dozens of expressions with various meanings, to the point where it can arguably be considered part of the grammar of the language itself. As a result, it is almost impossible to speak Japanese without understanding the word 気. Here is a brief introduction to 5 of its most common uses.

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The JLPT – Pros and Cons

The Japanese Language Proficiency Test, also known as the JLPT and in Japanese as 日本語能力試験 is a standardized test of Japanese language proficiency aimed at non-native speakers. It is broken down into 5 levels, with level N5 being the easiest and level N1 the most difficult. Thousands of Japanese language students around the world take the JLPT every year. If you’re a Japanese language student, you might be wondering whether or not it is worth taking. As someone who’s taken multiple levels of the test throughout the years and who has successfully passed level N1, I’ve learned a few things a long the way…

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Is Japanese the Fastest Spoken Language?

When learning a foreign language, there are four main skill categories: reading, writing, speaking and listening. Of these 4 skills, listening is often considered to be the hardest skill to acquire. This is because it’s the only skill where the learner doesn’t have full control of speed. You can read, write and speak however fast or slowly you are comfortable with. But when it comes to listening, you are subject to the whims of the person you are listening to.

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Kanji and Homophones Part V – Are Homophones Even A Real Problem?

Over the course of this five part series, I’ve been talking at length about homophones in Japanese, how they came to be so numerous and strategies to avoid them. But all of these points have skirted the most important and fundamental question of all, which is, does it even really matter?

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Fun Japanese Words To Know

One of the best parts of learning any foreign language is coming across unique words and phrases that just don’t exist in your native language. This is one of the things that make studying Japanese so interesting, as it is full of these kinds of words. As a result, learning them can really enrich your vocabulary and bring you one step closer to sounding like a native speaker.

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Kanji and Homophones Part III – A Divided Culture

As discussed in the previous segment, many homophones have arisen due to the overuse of on-yomi, which are short and phonetically limited, as well as phonological drift.

To better understand why this phonological drift happened the way it did, we need to understand the state of affairs in Japan before the modern era. Like most places around the word, access to literacy and education was limited to the wealthy, higher classes, and back then, being educated meant knowing Chinese and Chinese culture, in much the same way that in Europe, being educated meant knowing Latin.

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Kanji and Homophones Part II -The Horror of On-Yomi

As we explored in the previous segment, there is nothing inherent to Japanese phonology itself that accounts for the large number of homophones. Given the language’s inventory of phonemes and phonotactics, it is more than capable of coming up with enough unique words to avoid homophones altogether.

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