I received an alert email from Youtube today telling me that someone had posted a comment to the Good Learner, Bad Learner video, and when I visited the site to check it out I took a look at the related videos and found the subject of this post. I thought the video was taking the piss, because it is exaggerated to the point where I was chuckling as I watched it, but based on the comments by the author it appears to be the real deal. Now have a look at the video and we'll continue this conversation below.
This will sound harsh, but James doesn't have a good accent. He is speaking overly slowly, he pronounces "もちろん" as if it has an English "r" instead of the actual Japanese ろ, and some of his phrases are unusual.
But that's not the point. I love this video. Why?
- First up, it is funny - and funny=memorable=learn. I don't think I will ever forget the translation of "げんき？” as "Spirited?" (it really equates to "How are you going?" or "What's up?".
- Kojima's Japanese phrases are just the kind you will hear when you speak to Japanese friends on the phone - listen and remember them.
- James is having a go - he isn't perfect, but he had the balls to put his Nihongo on display, got his message across, and he made a video from which thousands of people can learn. For this he deserves a round of applause.
Having said that, I have some constructive criticism.
Instead of James saying "あなたは” he should have said ”小島さんは”：always try to use the other person's name and avoid using anata - it is textbook Japanese, not colloquial Japanese.
When asked "こんや なに を してる？”, James says "どうして？”。I guess he is aiming for "Why, what's up?" or something similar, but the effect is kind of harsh - Kojima's questions is implicitly asking whether James has plans or not, so James should either say that he is busy or proclaim that he is indeed ready to go out for a night on the town.
Saying "もちろん” to Kojima's invitation sounds like another forced translation - more natural would have been "いいな！” or "いいんじゃない”。Rather than ”どこにいく？”、”どこにいこう？” - it has more of the feel of "Where shall we go?"
”もちろん。いいね。いこう。” Just drop the ”もちろん” and James is good to go here.
"うん、ぜひ” is fine, but "うん” should not be so forcefully enunciated that it sounds like first syllable of a Yorkshireman's pronunciation of "underwater" - "うん” is more like a nasal "hmm" (listen to how Kojima says it later on).
”マクドナルドはどう？” The hiragana are correct but James sounds like he is saying the English word for the Golden Arches. Japan can be very unforgiving about even the smallest glitches in katakana pronunciation - remember, it doesn't matter what the correct, original pronunciation is, when a word becomes katakana-ized it is Japanese, and non-receptive to non-Japanese sounds.
James also pronounces ”どう” like "だお".
After that it's pretty good. James should listen to and copy more Japanese speech, but he has the basic patterns down well. At the end he says "わたしも”、which struck me as too formal - after all the video is supposed to be a casual phone conversation. "わたし” isn't wrong, just polite, and if James and Kojima are mates then ぼくor おれ would be more in order. Finally, when James says ”じゃまたね”, he should have separated the じゃ and the またね instead of running them together: ”じゃ、またね”
Ok, grumpy Japanese language curmudgeon time is over - I hope if James reads this he takes it in the spirit with which it was intended, and I wish him luck in his future videos - I will be watching out for them.