Author Archive | Sami Nicholas

Tiny but Mighty: Use Japanese Particles Like a Pro


Particles are like flavors.

It’s not much use having an espresso shot of hazelnut or vanilla if you don’t have a coffee to mix it with.

Furthermore, while vanilla coffee and hazelnut coffee are both still coffees, they’ve also become …

Why Saying “I Want to Learn Japanese” Won’t Help You and How to Set Good Goals


I became a vegetarian in high school but that all changed about two days after arriving in Japan. I realized that it would be a sin to spend an entire year in the country without trying sushi, so I did.…

Kanji Mnemonics, or How to Learn Kanji by Picturing Grandma Doing a Headstand

kanji mnemonics

Nothing could’ve prepared you for this.

Your grandmother, all 93 years of the woman, is balanced upside down on a solid ivory pedestal. Her mouth is at the base of the pedestal and her elbows are swaying back and forth …

Japanese Phonetics and the Power of Pronunciation

japanese phonetics

Let me set the scene: Japanese class, second semester. Small university in the middle of nowhere. A meter of snow.

The semester had just started, so my 10 classmates and I were arranged in horseshoe formation around the teacher, who …

Make Japanese Friends Online and Go Beyond Language Exchange


“Blasphemy” is the word Vera chose to describe the fact that I’d only just finished Harry Potter at the age of 24.

The impact of this strong word was notably lessened by the fact that she pronounced it as “blas-PAY-me” …

How to Say “I Want” in Japanese, Explained with Ties


It’s an unremarkable weekday evening and a salaryman is collapsed in the aisle of a dilapidated discount department store.

He is, for some reason, sobbing.

A concerned customer service representative approaches him to ask what’s wrong, to which he replies:…

Build a Strong Japanese Core Vocabulary from Your First 100 to Beyond 6,000

japanese core vocabulary

The first time I walked into a コンビニ (こんびに) — convenience store in Japan, I was greeted with an enthusiastic いらっしゃいませ!, a phrase that I assumed must mean “hello.”

I began repeating the word back to cashiers when I entered …