By user12614620 on Oct 07, 2008
One of the things I'm trying to do, besides have a full time job at Sun and raise three kids (another full-time job, even with my wife's help), is to learn Japanese. I'm not in any great rush, so I make time where I can and I try to spend at least a few minutes a day on it. I've started by trying to learn the kana writing system before I move onto the more complex kanji. There are two primary kinds of kana, hiragana and katakana. The former is used when writing Japanese, and the latter is used when writing "foreign" words, including words that have become part of the Japanese language but were borrowed from, for example, English.
Sun, as you're probably aware, encourages blogging from its employees around the globe, and more than a few of these are from Japan. Here's an example of one: キャンパス アンバサダ (I hope that came through).
Here's how the entry looks in my browser - I'll include it here in case your browser doesn't show the characters correctly
What I've been doing, in order to practice my kana, is to pick out the katakana symbols from the entries and see if I can work out what word it is in English. Here's the title of the entry I linked to, broken down kana by kana:
|ン||n or m|
|ン||n or m|
Spelling it phonetically, we get kyanpasu or kyampasu for the first word, and anbasada or ambasada for the second. And I was puzzled. Contrast that with another katakana word that appears in the blog entry: "オリエンテーション", which is o-ri-e-n-teh-sho-n ... orientehshon ... orientation. Obvious, right? What's kyanpasu? Words that end with ス tend to have the final 'oo' sound dropped, so it becomes kyanpas when saying it aloud. I give up, so Google Translate tells me: Campus. This is where I hit my head on the desk. Why does Campus start with キャ? The a in kya sounds like the a in father, not the a in campus, so maybe that's why kya is used to differentiate it from the カ character ('ka') which also sounds like the a in father?
Of course, once I saw the first word was 'campus', it's easy to figure out the second word is Ambassador. Which I would have spelled, apparently incorrectly, アンバサドル