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Japanese Plus: Japanese Dialects


Participants of this term’s Japanese Plus course for advanced Japanese language learners will no doubt understand the above sentence, which means “You can’t go out because you have a test tomorrow” in Kansai-ben , the form of Japanese spoken in and around Osaka. Kansai-ben was one of many different variants of the Japanese language studied at Japanese Plus, which ran from June 8th – 29th 2012, and took the theme of hougen – Japanese dialects.

The course leader Hiroko Tanaka (Japanese language advisor at the Japan Foundation) introduced the different regions in Japan, their characteristics and their dialects. This included a detailed grammatical explanation of how standard Japanese changes in regional dialects.  Using a variety of media, such as passages from famous Japanese novels, Japanese songs and manzai (Japanese double-act comedy), participants had the opportunity to speak, listen, read and write in different dialects.  During the interval each week, samples of different kinds of sake (Japanese alcohol) from around Japan were served, giving participants a real “flavour” of each Japanese region!

In the final week, participants were treated to a special guest appearance from three Japanese nationals from different regions of Japan – Aichi, Tokushima and Saga. These guest speakers, from the Japan Local Government Centre (CLAIR London), not only gave participants the chance to hear Japanese regional dialects as spoken by their locals, but also to see more about these regions through the eyes of the inhabitants.

In total, 45 people attended the course across the four weeks, and all participants gave positive feedback. Andrew Niewiarowski, a Japanese Plus veteran, commented:

Lectures were very well prepared. I learned a lot of new Japanese. Very good series! I enjoyed it very much. I appreciate the effort put into the classes. Learning about dialects made me enthusiastic to learn more Japanese!

Emma Gallagher, a recent participant of Japanese Plus, said:

Really enjoyed the course and can’t wait for the next! Thank you Tanaka-sensei, it was excellent. Thanks also for the sake – it was a nice way to learn about Japan – regional food and drinks is such an important part of the culture.”

We would like to thank the guest speakers and all participants for their hard work throughout this course, and look forward to seeing them again!

If you are Japanese learner of approximately JLPT Level 2/N2 or above and are interested in taking part in the next Japanese Plus, please click here to sign up to our monthly e-bulletin to receive notifications of this and other Japan Foundation events.

Click here to read more about Japanese Plus and view reports of previous workshops.

The Japanese Local Government Centre has also featured this event on their news page; click here to view (Japanese only).