Here are some of the Japanese names for the characters in The Game Master
Roger = ロジャー = Rojaa
Micky = ミッキー = Mikii
Colin = コリン = Corin
Lizzie = リジー = Rijii
Rachel = レイチェル = Raychyeru
Alya = アリア = Aria
Where you see a line after the name it extends the sound. Sometimes English words pronounced in Japanese are different because Japanese doesn’t have the same sounds as in English – but that happens when pronouncing a Japanese word in English too.
For example, in the name “Rachel” there is no equal sound for R or L but if you put your tongue lightly behind your teeth and try and say L or R you will be able to learn how to use that sound. Also, in Rachel, because in Japanese there must be a vowel after a consonant, “L” becomes “ru”
Ask Hiro-san to translate your name into Japanese!
When foreigners move to Japan the first alphabets they learn is normally Katakana – the alphabet for foreign words. Each character is given a sound and this will never change. It is a “phonetic” language that means when you see these you know what to say. It’s not like English where the vowels can change in different words. For example:
Hold ‘o’ is pronounced as expected – as in “or”
Woman ‘o’ is pronounced ‘oo’
Women ‘o’ is pronounced ‘i’
London ‘o’ is pronounced ‘uh’
Katakana will always have the same sound which makes it easier to read words. Another difference between English and Katakana is that in Japanese words, only one consonant can end a word. That is the equivalent of ‘n’. All other words will end with what we call a vowel – a, i , e, o, u but will have another sound in front of it. You can see this is the chart. Look at the top line after the first symbol – ア you can see ‘ka’ ‘sa’ ‘ta’ etc.
So let’s look at some names. Last week I gave you the katakana names for the two main characters in The Game Master, Josh and Alex. See if you can find the right symbols to make their names in Katakana.
Josh: Well, we have Jo and sh. Because Katakana does not have a “jo” sound the ‘yo’ symbol is added after ‘jo’ to make it ‘jyo.’ The same thing happens with ‘sh’ by adding ‘yu’. See if you can find these symbols.
Alex: This is a little easier – but there is a small addition because in Japanese there is a short ‘e’ sound, when in a name it has to be slightly shorter so a small “tsu” (ッ) is placed in the middle to shorten the sound.
See if you can find them in the chart above. It can take a little time to get used to the Japanese symbols but most foreigners in Japan quickly learn how to read katakana. If you want to know how your name is written in Japanese, type your name in the comments box and I’ll convert it into katakana…
Mount Fuji is one of Hiro-san’s favourite places to visit. It is one of Japan’s “Three Holy Mountains” because of its symmetrical cone, which is snow-capped several months a year. It is also an active volcano but last erupted in 1707–08. It is the most well-known symbol of Japan and it is frequently depicted in art and photographs, as well as visited by sightseers, climbers and, of course, the Japanese people.
Sometimes Mount Fuji is called “Fujisan.” This is not the same “san” as in Hiro-san. Using the word “san” after someone’s name means “Mr” or “Mrs” – a formal way of addressing each other in Japan. For Mount Fuji we should look at the Japanese characters – Kanji. It is written:
富士山 – the first two Kanji, 富士, means wealth and abundance with great status. 山 means mountain and can be pronounced “san” or “yama.”
富士山 is a volcano. The word for volcano has two Kanji – 火山. We already know the second Kanji means mountain. The first Kanji – 火 – means “fire.” So in other words it is a “fire mountain.”
Did you know that in Japanese there are three ways to write words? The first is Kanji which originally came from China. The second is Hiragana which is a phonetic alphabet for Japanese words. The third is Katakana which is a phonetic alphabet for foreign words.
So volcano – 火山 – can be written in hiragana as かざん. か = ka and ざん – zan. So the word for a volcano is “kazan.”
So what about Katakana? Well, let’s take the names of Hiro-san (ひろ) and his young friends Josh and Alex. In Japanese Josh would be written ジョシュ and Alex would be written アレックス.
Later I shall introduce you to other words in Japanese so that you can begin to learn some words!