Similarities between the Japanese and Bantu languages

By Jodie Kaberia

When I first started learning Japanese, I was very excited to hear the similarities when listening to spoken Japanese to how my dad talks on the phone to his family. Because of him, I’ve learned some Kiswahili, possibly with Meru influence, because his family is Meru. When taking heard Japanese onto writing in the Roman alphabet, spelling was quite easy because Bantu languages and Japanese can be very phonetically similar. Even with sounds that are less common in Japanese, like the “L” sound, similarities are still there in my mother’s heritage of Chilenge and Zambia’s Chichewa.

Pronunciation and Spelling

Immediately the similarities between the two can be seen in people’s names, how the names are spelled and how they’re pronounced. For example, my last name, Kaberia, the way my name is said is based off Meru language rules, that are very close to Kiswahili language rules, because my Dad is Kenyan. A lot of English speakers tend to struggle with saying it right, usually on the letter “e.” In English the letter “e” is mostly silent or pronounced as /ee/ like “each.” Also the letter “a” isn’t read by many as “ah,” but rather “uh” in American-English. So, a lot of people end up saying “Ka(bee)riuh” instead of “Kah-beh-ri-ah” how it’s supposed to be pronounced. In Swahili, the majority of the time vowels are consistent, A=ah E=eh I=ee O=oh U=oo(uu), rather than having many different pronunciations. With Japanese katakana the consistency is there and the pronunciations are similar, ア=ah エ=eh イ=ee オ=oh ウ=oo(uu), which also remains the same when you add a consonant before them.

Now with my mother’s last name, she has stories of people saying they thought she was Japanese based off her name. Her name is Zambian(Chilenge), Lusaka, which does follow the Chichewa/Nyanja rules for vowel pronunciation, that are the exact same as the ones for Swahili and Japanese katakana. When I learned to write my name in katakana it was very simple because the spelling and pronunciation of my last names lined up with the katakana.

Reduplication

Reduplication refers to words formed through repetition of sounds or entire words. Examples in English include okey-dokey, flim-flam, and pitter-patter. In Japanese the word “tsugi/つぎ” means next, and “tsugi-tsugi/つぎつぎ” means in succession. The word is repeated to mean an extension of that original word in this case. This can be compared to two different examples in Chichewa and Swahili. “Piga” meaning to strike, becomes “Pigapiga” to strike repeatedly in Swahili. In Chichewa “tambalalá” means to stretch one’s legs, “tambalalá- tambalalá” means to stretch one’s legs repeatedly.

Connection

Both Japanese and many Bantu languages share phonetic and grammatical similarities. The languages may not be directly related but they do share these similarities.

Images above from Wikipedia

Sources

History and Culture of the Ainu

By Penelope Morris

One common misconception many people have about Japan is that the majority of its culture consists of anime and other pop culture trends; however, with even a small amount of further research, one can see that one of the most beautiful things about Japan is its juxtaposition of old and new, of traditional and modern, of secluded temples and bustling cities. While these two elements seem to coexist peacefully, there is one part of Japan that has been somewhat left out of the balance: the Ainu. 

During class in Japanese Tamago, we have been learning about different regions of Japan and their subcultures, and recently we “travelled” to the land of the indigenous Ainu people. The Ainu are descendants of migrants from what is now Mongolia and are the original inhabitants of Hokkaido, the northernmost of the major Japanese islands. Similarly to Native Americans’ experience in the United States, they have gone through harsh discrimination from the government: after the Jomon period, Japanese began to expand their territory northward from western Japan, and the Ainu were forced to either assimilate or be displaced to Hokkaido. More recently, during the Meiji period, they were granted the status of “former aboriginals,” but were still not treated equally. In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, a series of progressive steps have been made, including a 1997 law for the provision of funds to promote and research Ainu culture, a 2014 manga featuring Ainu characters, and finally in 2019, the formal recognition of the Ainu as an indigenous people of Japan.

Although the Ainu have been discriminated against, they have maintained a unique culture. To start, their language is quite different from Japanese, and is classified as “nearly extinct” by the UN. Additionally, Ainu craftsmen are known for their beautiful wood carvings and traditional robes, which are made from the inner bark of elm trees. 

One aspect of Ainu culture that I found particularly interesting was the practice of women tattooing their lips. The marks, called shinue, are started when a girl is young with just a small spot on the upper lip and are added to with age. While the reason women began applying shinue is unknown, some theories include that they are viewed as a symbol of beauty, a means of protecting the body after death, or even a way to prevent being kidnapped by Japanese. Unlike modern tattoos, they are created by rubbing soot of burnt tree bark into an incision in the skin. During the Meiji era, the practice was banned, and though it never recovered its former popularity among the Ainu, some modern women like Ainu artist Mayunkiki (see first link below) wear shinue to show and connect to their cultural heritage.

An Ainu woman wearing shinue and traditional clothing. Image credit to Sora News.

Despite the many struggles they have gone through, the Ainu still fight today to be acknowledged for the recognition that their unique and endangered culture deserves. If you’d like to learn more about the Ainu, here are some articles and videos:

https://dajf.org.uk/event/the-meaning-of-tattoos-for-ainu-women

https://www.tofugu.com/japan/ainu-japan/

https://soranews24.com/2016/02/23/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-the-ainu-with-photos-and-video

Introducing Tamawan

Program Director’s Note: Working collectively, reflecting on the personalities and values of the group, our Japanese Tamago students have thoughtfully designed their own Japanese-style mascot for the program. Our student artist, Key’Mari Thompson, translated the concept into art. And so we are happy to have Key’Mari introduce Tamawan to our wider community. Kawaii!

By Key’Mari Thompson

Meet Tamawan, the official mascot of Japanese Tamago!

He is a scholarly dog who showcases the various different aspects and values of the class. Tamawan is a Shiba Inu, a very popular breed of dog in Japan, whose name combines “Tamago” and “wan-wan”, the Japanese onomatopoeia for dogs barking. His fur is red and white, representing the colors of both the DC flag and the Japanese flag, alongside symbolizing the cooperation and community between them. Since red is a very strong and passionate color, Tamawan’s fur shows off the strong dedication and passion that the students have for learning Japanese. He also sits inside of a cracked egg, not only representing the name “Tamago” in the literal sense, as Tamago means “egg” in Japanese, but it also shows off the open-minded attitude of the students necessary for language learning. As Tamawan himself is a student, he is excited to learn about the Japanese language, much like the students, and also like the alternative meaning of Tamago, apprentice. Much like an apprentice, Tamawan is always eager to grow and learn new skills.

3-11: Ten Years Later

To mark the 10th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake on 3-11-2011, the students in our online Japanese Tamago program used video and other resources to learn about the horrific events that unfolded that day. The goal was to help our DC students connect with the experience and the residents of Tohoku, and to try to imagine themselves in the moment. Here are some of their immediate responses.

By Zoe Roell

Ground splits
Black waves
Homes fall
Lives collapse
Wreckage
The world grieves

By Hallie Munsat

In 2011, an earthquake and tsunami occurred on the pacific coast of Tohuku in Japan. The magnitude of the earthquake came to be 9.0-9.1. This terrible tragedy turned out to be the most recent deadliest earthquake. It left almost 16,000 people dead, about 6,000 injured and 2,500 people missing. Now ten years after the fact it’s still left many people unstable emotionally and financially. I cannot even begin to imagine what being in that situation is like. It’s bad enough to experience it in the moment, it’s worse to live with it for the rest of your life. This was an event that couldn’t really have been prevented. It’s terrifying to go through things you can’t control and it takes time to process things like that. We have to be gentle to ourselves and others during hard times and we have to be there for each other to listen, and to support. Because of the severity of this event, many people in the same community went through the same thing. There’s always someone to listen to or understand because no one is alone.

By Penelope Morris

At first, I almost couldn’t believe that three events that would by themselves have been horrific to deal with, all happened simultaneously and hurt so many people. But the damage was right there in front of my eyes.

By Kourtney Beauvais

My initial reaction to the film of 3/11 was shock. I wasn’t aware of how fast the devastation occurred, and couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to be there. With the recurring earthquakes, I assume that the residents of the area had very conflicting emotions, flicking back and forth between hope and desperation and fear. It makes me wonder if they were thinking about what was happening in the present, what the future consequences would be, or a mixture of both. It was also saddening to think of the feeling of loss, not only of belongings and a familiar landscape, but of their family, friends, and community.

By Sakarrio Moore

I’ve never experienced any tragedy of this magnitude, and I literally can’t imagine the physiological response of people who lived there. I just feel so sorry. I imagine that in the instant, people would have just felt as if the world itself was against them.

By Akesh Mallia

My reflection on 3-11 is that it was really heartbreaking to see so many lives impacted by something as uncontrollable as nature. I thought it was especially scary when the tsunami hit the people trying to escape by car, those people couldn’t even evacuate. And the impacts of the natural disasters are very much still present today, especially with the nuclear meltdown which I think shows the scale of the earthquake. I hope safety measures and public awareness measures are being put in place to prevent this type of event from happening again. 

By Owen Strasberg

I found it interesting how initially even though the situation seemed very chaotic, people were handling it calmly (like when everyone was evacuating). It was sort of scary though to think that whatever high ground people stayed at was where they would have to be for the whole thing, and you would just have to hope it was safe enough.

By Dara Lira

If I previously lived in Japan, I would probably not pay much attention to the earthquake at first. However, as the day progresses, I would become more scared, confused, disturbed, and shocked at the events unfolding before me. A matter of life or death such as this terrifies me, and I can hardly imagine what this was actually like, especially seeing as I’ve never been in an earthquake before. 

By Chamiya Carnathan

The amount of earthquakes that appeared continuously during March 11 was mind blowing to me. I can’t imagine how scary the situation must have been for everyone inhabiting that area. Earthquakes are common in Japan and I wonder if the inhabitants living in the affected area thought that it would be a regular occurrence. I truly cannot imagine the fear of earthquakes that were that large being struck down on me. The biggest takeaway that I gained from watching the video and map is that you have to go to high ground. Don’t worry about taking pictures and videos or watching what’s happening. Worry about your own safety and go to high ground.

By Camila Marryshow

If anyone had known March 11, 2011 would have submerged entire towns in water along with thousands of other civilians fighting for their lives, there would have been preventative action to protect the people along Japan’s east coast. But there was no way of knowing the events that would unfold within those 24 hours. 

Employees worked to earn their pay to support themselves and their families. Graduations occurred. Earning diplomas, congratulating friends, and celebrating achievements of other students would soon be replaced with sheltering in place under desks, evacuating school and office buildings, and rushing to higher ground to ensure safety. Some walked away with missing friends while others without families to provide for. Some could not walk away from their cars with water impeding their ability to escape while others would never walk the Earth again. The tsunami stripped towns of commerce, buildings, history, and many of its residents. 

Within 24 hours, several earthquakes evolved into a 9.1-magnitude earthquake that generated waves many meters high devastating hundreds of square miles of Japanese land. Over 120,000 buildings were destroyed. More than 100,000 people lost their homes. Nearly 20,000 people died. 

The Tohoku region of Japan along with other coastal areas have worked over the past ten years to rebuild Japan and provide housing to those who are in need. The survivors who witnessed the events of that day will be able to not only recount the suffering numerous people endured, but can speak of the recovery and progress the Japanese people have made from the rubble of the tragedy.

Remembering 3-11

By Katie:

The Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami began on March 11, 2011 with almost 22,000 deaths. I believe that to preserve the event and to honor what had happened, we should have a moment of silence and learn what happened on March 11, just like on September 11 when the twin towers had fallen. We should also be more supportive and caring to the victims of the earthquake/tsunami. I was thinking that we can integrate at least learning a bit of Japanese to honor the Japanese victims and I feel that others should be aware of what happened. It is really heartbreaking to see that Japanese victims are still recovering from an event nine years ago. Even after watching 10 mins of the film that Eshita-sensei and Sally showed us, I was pretty shocked by the impact of the tsunami and was disappointed in myself for not being aware of the effect the tsunami had on residents.

By Jazmin:

The Great East Japan Earthquake was a tragedy. I can’t imagine the loss of those lives who were swept from the tsunami in Northern Japan. An earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0, gives me goosebumps even thinking about it. In order to remember this tragic event, I think by more people being aware and or learning about this tragic event is one way to honor what happened there. There are others who don’t know anything about the 3/11 Great Earthquake. Another way we can remember this event is to visit areas that were affected by the tsunami, and help those in need. There are still people who haven’t fully recovered from the Earthquake. We can visit people in those areas and we can hear their stories. It’s one way we can connect with them, and can resonate with them one way or another. When I watched a clip while the tsunami was happening online, I saw people running to higher grounds. Those who ran faster were missed by the tsunami by mere seconds. The tsunami ran about 6 miles inland, and caused an accident at the Fukushima Nuclear power plant as well. It’s sad and heartbreaking that over 18,000 people died. I hope in the future, there are ways we can avoid this tragic event from repeating itself and doing things differently to prevent it from happening again.

By Theo:

I’ve been thinking about the events of March 11, 2011 for a while now and how I, as both a student and an American can honor the loss of so many people. I confess, I still haven’t found a satisfying conclusion, but for now I am content in submitting my philosophical ramblings for a wider audience.

I believe it’s honestly rather hard to sympathize with someone an ocean away, and harder still to empathize with them. Understanding can come easy; loss is, after all, something everyone experiences multiple times throughout their life and that shared experience breeds a shared understanding. Empathy, however, requires one to take the extra step and to share the same feelings as another person. Of course, emotion being so nuanced it is impossible to truly understand and to truly feel the depths to which an individual experiences loss and as such, we only feel empathy in a broad sense. In my experience, this vague form of empathy is present even among close relations, be they family or friends, and thus it should come as no surprise that our already incomplete empathy is spread thinner and thinner as it looks further and further away. The result is that, at least on a personal level, I cannot empathize with the many Japanese people who lost both possessions and relations at a truly meaningful level. Instead I’m left thinking “I’m sorry” or “that’s so sad.” The issue I have with these thoughts are that they exist to placate my own desire to empathize for fear that a lack of empathy would make me a bad person. Personally, after a great deal of thought, I don’t believe true empathy is necessary, nor is it a reasonable request for Americans in general to hold any deeper emotions than those on the surface when discussing Japan.

What I do think is necessary is understanding, recognition, and respect. Even if you cannot feel what the many people who lost their loved ones feel, it is important to realize where that feeling stems from and to respect the depth and enormity of such feelings. For an American, I believe this attempt is one of the best things one can do for those who know loss from a world away.

By Aeris:

Natural disasters are a very real and very scary threat in our lives. Some of us may be safe from them, and others see so many it’s as if they’ve survived a war. In class, we watched a short documentary showing the horrific tragedy that was the earthquake followed by a tsunami in Tohoku, Japan on March 11th, 2011. The class fell into a petrified hush as we watched people try to rescue people from the waves only to be pulled in themselves. From people describing how they watched their friends and loved ones be swept away in front of their eyes, to others recounting their narrow escapes from death. I think I was honestly near tears… I don’t even think I had noticed the subtitles and could honestly hear the pain in their voices which greatly upset me. Unlike in many situations, there’s always a way you could learn from the past, but having to write about this felt very weird, I feel like this is not my place to speak about it, it’s not my trauma to unpack. Many people only had moments notice before they were able to get away, and even those who did get away to evacuation zones also got swept away. Over 18,000 people died in the tsunami, and the rest came back to towns that were completely washed away. Many towns still look like they did after the tsunami today. I know there are also still many relief efforts going on and it reminded me of a story I heard from a JET participant, who spent their days off volunteering to help clean up in some of the affected towns. I would like to help with those efforts when I go to Japan.

By Jonah:

There are too many emotions running rampant after any catastrophe. All are appropriate for you to experience. There are pains and aches that will plague anyone after a loss this large, which are appropriate feelings. Time can only heal, and it always will take time. There will be better days and there will be more time to heal, there will be more opportunity to recover from this loss. Be sure to make the most out of each moment and live to the fullest, each moment should count.

3-11

The Disaster Prevention Building in Minamisanriku, Japan – after the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011

By Asa Marshall

To remember is to not forget
To not forget however is not enough

The clashing plates echo through the foundations of history leaving a permanent crack in the world of many
The tears make up the waves drowning the horizon in sorrow
The shouts spark flames in the smoke dense wind reaching from east to south plucking away the life of each passing blossom

To remember is to tell the story
To share experiences of yourself and others
To feel the pain yet console the truly broken hearted

Knowing does nothing until you use your voice
Be the voice for the unheard
Be the voice the world hears from the tops of mountains and troughs of the valleys resounding the message of yesterdays and tomorrows

To remember is to not forget
To not forget however is not enough

人生初の体験

Introducing the newest member of our Japanese Plus family – Ryoma Tatsuoka – in Japanese and English.

辰岡 稜馬(Ryoma Tatsuoka)

2月26日初めてJapanese Plusのクラスに参加させてもらった。僕にとっては外国の子供達が日本語を学んでいる姿を見るのはもちろんのこと日本語の授業というのも人生で初となる体験だった。授業に参加する前は生徒の日本語レベルは高く見積もっても自己紹介するので精一杯だろうと考えていた。でもいざ授業に参加して生徒の子達と話してみると僕の想像をゆうに超える日本語力に驚いた。例えば、授業に遅刻すれば「遅れてすいません」と流暢な日本語で言ったり、先生が日本語でかなり早いスピードで会話していてもそれを理解していたりとかなり驚く事が多かった。一番驚いたのは「を」や「に」などの接続語をしっかりと使い分けれていた事だ。留学に来て5ヶ月経つ僕でもまだ英語の接続語「of」や「to」などがまだ完璧にマスターできていないの、留学に言って分けどもないみんなが接続語をしっかり使い分けれていたのは本当に驚きを通り越して感動だった。

次に授業についてだが、かなり難しいことをしていて驚いた。僕が参加した授業では「〜してもいいですか?」という質問系をマスターする授業だったのだが、日本にいては絶対に気づく事が出来ない部分がたくさんあった。例えば、「〜してもいいですか?」の「し」が単語に言って着き方が変わるなんてこと何も気にせずに今まで喋って来たので「あ、本当だ!」

と驚いた。

In February 26 I attendant Japanese Plus first time. This is first time see other country people study Japanese. I’m really surprised when I take Japanese class. Because students Japanese level is really high. When we did introduction they talk Japanese very quickly. And also they can read ‘Hiragana’, ‘Katakana’ and little bit ‘Kanzi’. And also they can use ‘Romaji’.

Meeting Ryoma San!

By Jazmin Angel-Guzman

Today, February 29, 2020, while I was walking towards the classroom, I noticed something blue. A blue that speaks to the soul and attracts the eye. My favorite color is blue, and whenever I see blue I’m always intrigued by that something. Then I found out that he was Ryoma Tatsuoka. Apart from having amazing blue hair, Ryoma san is an exchange student who participated with the YFU exchange program. He is from Osaka, Japan and he’s seventeen years old. He now stays with a host family and attends School Without Walls, a high school located in Washington, D.C. Today, I’m grateful I had the opportunity to meet Ryoma san. He’s funny and always helpful when you ask for help. He was always helping me with my Japanese when I made a mistake, or he would jump in to come out and help me. During our conversations in our small groups, he was the facilitator.

When I look at him, it’s still strange to me that I am older than him! I find it’s a great opportunity to be able to speak with a Japanese native speaker who’s around my age. I’m applying the Japanese I have learned thus far and putting it to practice. That is one of the things I love about learning languages. Learning languages is the key that enables you to speak, interact, and network with other people. You can learn so many things with just one sentence. For example, that one sentence can be a sentence of introduction about yourself. In my junior year of high school, I learned something really important about languages. Languages aren’t only about communicating with words, it’s about communicating and expressing your ideas to other people, in addition to sharing those ideas. Therefore, I’m glad I met Ryoma san today.

 

Coronavirus Cancels Anime Japan Event

By Katie Nguyen

On February 26, 2020, it has been announced that the Anime Japan event, a Japanese anime consumer show, has been cancelled due to COVID-19 or the coronavirus. The coronavirus is an illness that produces flu like symptoms. They are zoonotic which means that they can be transmitted between animals and people. The coronavirus has caused quite an epidemic and has started to spread in the United States. Many fans were upset due to the cancellation of the event, however, it does prevent them from transmitting diseases to each other as it is a big event. A fan wrote “I can’t help it. Now, to prevent the spread of infection, It’s good that we announced the cancellation one month ago.” Another fan wrote, “The most important thing is to take care of people. Hopefully things will calm down and we pray that everyone is well 🙏.” It is very important to ensure the people’s safety. I believe that this was a smart decision to cancel the event, if there is a chance that someone will catch the coronavirus; even if there is a small chance, it’s still too risky.

It is pretty devastating that the coronavirus has caused the Anime Japan Event. This could possibly mean that the Sakura Matsuri could close as well. I was pretty excited for the Sakura Matsuri as Japanese Plus is confirmed to have a booth there. I wanted to share what my class does and how it impacts and encourages me to further pursue my interest in Japan. I was also hoping to encourage DMV high school students to join Japanese Plus, as it was, in my opinion, the best language class I could hope for, and to promote our new book, Japan In DC. I hope that the Sakura Matsuri doesn’t close but it is still important to care for our health so it would be best for it to close in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus, especially now that it has spread to the DMV area.

Additionally, many people are exposed to it and most people don’t know how to properly put on a mask. To wear a surgical mask, you must wash your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap with water in order to prevent germs from getting onto your mask. Next, you should cover your mouth and nose and make sure that your face is covered, meaning that there should be no gaps from any sides of your face. If you want to touch your mask, you should wash your hands as you would when putting it on. You should replace your mask as soon as it is damp and you should not reuse it either. You should always take off your mask from the back and never touch it from the front. This is to ensure that you don’t catch any other germs that were caught from your mask. Afterwards you should wash your hands once more. This was all recommended by the World Health Organization, so please follow these instructions, even if the coronavirus hasn’t reached your country yet.

NOTE: The April 4th Sakura Matsuri was in fact cancelled, along with all other large public gatherings in DC.

Sources:

https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2020-02-26/animejapan-2020-event-canceled-due-to-covid-19-coronavirus-concerns/.156866

https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/when-and-how-to-use-masks

My Experience as an OSSE Scholar

By Jonah Nguyen-Conyers

My experience as an OSSE Scholar at Northwestern University was pretty okay, everything has their goods and bads. OSSE Scholars are students who attend DC schools, and are from low income families and are looking to go to college, and have shown dedication to education with high school accomplishments through GPA, and other successful elements of a student.

Those who are selected as OSSE Scholars are sent to prestigious colleges over the summer for free. Students can stay at these colleges for 2-6 weeks, and study almost any summer course. The course I chose was a Level 1 Japanese course. Surprisingly, there were only 3 students, including myself.

I wish in the summer program at Northwestern there was more diversity, and a cast of people who were not from the same background, but there were some fun people that I had fun moments with during my time there. We still keep in touch. That was not a good part, but the best part was learning Japanese, and being able to practice and be more comfortable with the language I love to learn so much. I was able to be tested in a prestigious college, and speak with other high achieving students, even though I did have some hiccups in my study habits during my time there. I had two other classmates and my teacher, and we met 5 times a week, and I had so much fun. I felt that I learned a lot, but it sure was quite difficult. I do wish there were more people in my class, but I like the closeness I had with my classmates, and I can tell they felt the same in the discussions we had during class.

As a student, I was able to see the next steps of my education, and what the expectations might be for me, and it allowed me to understand the expectations of being a college student. This program was able to leave me with valuable knowledge and valuable experience like no other. I have learned a lot and know what I learned will help me reach my goals in later life. I can’t be any more grateful for this experience.