Recently, I have been trying to get back into a routine of studying Japanese. I thought I could do with a bit of a grammar refresher course and had a look in my book cupboard. I was sure I must have bought some Japanese books at some point in my life.
I did indeed find a grammar book. It was not one I remember buying, and the date of its publication would suggest I hadn’t been the purchaser. It was first printed in 1973. My edition was the eleventh printing and came out in 1984. ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘grammar doesn’t change that quickly. I’ll give it a go.’
The book is called Japanese Grammar and was written by Hideichi Ono, who, it would appear, was an Assistant Professor at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, a lecturer at Takachiho College of Commerce, and a lecturer at the Association for Overseas Technical Scholarship.
On the back of the book, on his blurb if you will, he promises, ‘the vocabulary, phrases, and sentences contained in the sections drill and exercise in each lesson are practical ones, which the author has specially chosen to enable foreigners to use them correctly…’ He also states that the book is for beginners or those wishing to study at a more advanced level. It sounded perfect for what I wanted. And then I began reading. I soon discovered that Mr Ono`s idea of practical lessons are far removed from mine . So far removed, in fact, that I am fascinated to discover what life in Japan must have been like for an Assistant Professor in the seventies and eighties.
I first suspected that Mr Ono might be a tad peculiar when I read his sentences designed to show the sentence patterns one might use when employing ni arimasu or ni imasu. They were written in Japanese, but Mr Ono had thoughtfully provided English translations. Here are the first and fourth examples: ‘A patient, semi-paralysed from a wound in his back bone, lies on the bed next to me,’ and, ‘The two-storied foreign-style government sanatorium with yellow walls is on a hill in Meguro commanding a fine view.’
And to think, I almost skipped the early part of the book believing that iru and aru hold no problems for me.
I turned the page and found, ‘I myself would not lead an intemperate life but there are some who waste their energies in dissipation.’ I think I’ll give that one a go down the izakaya tonight.
You can open the book at random and find similar gems. This is on page 199: ‘She had a quarrel with her husband and rushed out of the house. Holding a baby in her arms, she already might have lost her life on a railway track somewhere.’ Well, I tried that one out when my neighbour asked if I’d seen young Mrs Kono of late and, to be honest, he looked at me a bit funny. And lord only knows what was on Mr Ono’s mind when he saw the need for this: ‘She wept upon the pillow after her slender back trembled.’
The book is completely full of these ‘practical examples’. I might not be getting much better at grammar but I am enjoying it immensely!