Saturday, November 28, 2009

Secret #6 for Speaking Fluent Japanese - Synonym Generator

How to be five times as fluent in Japanese.
The sixth post of the series -13 Secret Techniques to Put You on the Fast Track to Fluency in Japanese.

Giles Murray's idea of increasing your powers of expression by memorising vocabulary and conceiving ideas in clusters of five is an idea that just keeps on giving. This alone is good reason to read 13 Secrets to Speaking Fluent Japanese. I first encountered a similar strategy when working in eikaiwa, as a way to expand vocabulary by using a dictionary and thesaurus to go beyond the word you had just learned and memorise a family of associated words and expressions.

Through a process of association, the original word is supported by synonym, litotes, exaggeration, comparison and fantastic statement. Learning to sort memory in these groups allows you to adjust your delivery to become more expressive, and increases your descriptive power even when you are running short on vocabulary.

The men and the ghost ?
The men and the ghost ? by, on Flickr| CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

This strategy can be used on any type of word, but in this chapter of 13 Secrets it adapted for the description of an array of wild characters, the kind you would expect to meet in a b-grade schlock horror.

Rather than go down the familiar path of poking fun at people you'd probably get more use out the technique when you apply it to descriptive words you use everyday. All too often you can get stuck in the rut of using the same vernacular to describe completely unrelated events. I want to show you that with a little lateral thinking you can start expand your vocabulary.


Take a simple expression like かんたんだ (kantanda | easy) and you already have a synonym.
You could go a little further with:

Or, change direction with some thing not that difficult:
sonna ni muzukashikunai
not that difficult

If you're in the mood to exaggerate then you might add a something to make things seem easier than they were:

Or you could compare it to some thing ridiculously easy, like pie.
pai mitai ni
like pie
Fantastic statement

If you are willing to take things to extremes then I'm sure you could do the next one with your eyes closed
me tojitemo dekiru
you can do it even with your eyes closed
Putting it all into practice.

None of this is any good unless you prepare a little bit every day to stretch your boundaries. Spend a little time tonight going over a descriptive word you use often enough to the point of being over repetitive and try saying it a different way.

Remember it's not about having an English glossary running in parallel with your Japanese. With enough practice you should be freely making these word associations, leaping from synonym to litotes and exaggeration without ever crossing the line back to your English mind.

If you need a place to start with some descriptive words, try this list of 66 Colourful Japanese Adjectives on Let me know what fantastic statements you come up with in the comments.

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