You’ll eventually forget the stories, but you’ll never forget the words. A great way to study!
I once owned a book that boasted it could teach me how to learn all 46 characters of hiragana (the Japanese alphabet for want of a better word) in no less than three hours. It did, I did, and moved swiftly on to the second half of the book to teach myself the 46 characters of katakana (the Japanese alphabet used for foreign words) in just a few hours more. A quick search on Amazon… yes, here it is:Remembering the Kana: Hiragana and Katakana, by James W. Heisig. I can’t recommend this book enough, it uses a mnemonic storytelling technique, and does exactly what it boasts it can do. I remember only fragments of the stories now, but with only occasional use, I have remembered all of the characters.
So impressed was I with this memory method that I conceived of my own short but elaborate and memorable (very important!) exercises, to enable people to quickly learn groups of Japanese words.
My boast is that you will:
Learn to count one to ten in Japanese in less than five minutes!
First, here’s the list of numbers, paired with a similar-sounding English word:
- Ichi – Itchy
- Ni – Knee
- San – Son
- Shi – She
- Go – Go
- Roku – Rock
- Nana – Nana (grandma)
- Hachi – Hatch
- Kyu – Queue
- Ju – Jew
As you can see, my mnemonics will involve the word Jew, but I assure you I am neither Zionist or anti-Semitic! This mnemonic is a two-parter, the first part being a simple joke:
What did the Japanese math teacher say to his boy when he saw him scratching his leg?
“Itchy knee, son?”
The second is a tale about my grandma, who we like to call Nana. It’s a British thing.
Nana has “rock concert” on her bucket list. She’s old, and we were worried that she’d be queuing up in the cold, but we needn’t have worried, she’s a smart old lady. She went to a Rolling Stones concert, and it just so happened that Mick Jagger had just converted to Judaism. In honor of ‘his people’, he insisted that they be given a line of their own. It was a much shorter line, so Nana hatched a plan, pretending that she was Jewish to use the shorter line.
Or, in other words: She Go Rock Nana Hatch [plan] Queue [as a] Jew.
After you have learned the joke and story, and committed the important words to memory, a few things to watch out for:
- Don’t say ‘son’, say ‘san’, as in Santa Claus.
- Don’t say ‘hatch’, say ‘hatchi’.
- There are two words for the number four: shi and yon.
- There are two words for the number seven: nana and shichi.
Good luck in your studies!