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Writing Essays in Japanese

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Writing Essays in Japanese

Postby chequer » Sun 09.24.2006 11:35 am

I've just corrected an English language essay for my Japanese penpal. It made me realise that we have different ways of going about writing such a composition (200 words). I wouldn't have a clue about how to write an essay for him to correct.

Does anyone know of any websites that give advice to people studying Japanese about how to structure an essay? Are there any "rules of engagement" that are obviously different from writing an essay in English?

I've had a quick search but couldn't find anything that matched what I wanted. Do learners of Japanese never write essays?

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RE: Writing Essays in Japanese

Postby coco » Mon 09.25.2006 7:14 am

I think your penpal is a lucky man because you seem to be kind.

Although I might misunderstand, are you going to show him some websites that explain how to write an essay in English? or are you looking for the website that tells "how to compose Japanese sentence" for writing your advice to him?

Which language do you usually use when you communicate with him?
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RE: Writing Essays in Japanese

Postby Tspoonami » Mon 09.25.2006 7:09 pm

coco wrote:Although I might misunderstand, are you going to show him some websites that explain how to write an essay in English? or are you looking for the website that tells "how to compose Japanese sentence" for writing your advice to him?

I think Chequer is wondering if there is a set format in which to write an essay... Like the 'five-paragraph essay' format used in schools... Is there a specific way children have to write in school? Also, is there a specific way that you would write a general letter, or abstract, or composition... I think Chequer is asking for things that would be, in English, 'do I indent paragraphs, do I space lines a certain way, do I have a minimum number of words, etc.' Stuff about format.

But, then, I may be wrong and you may be right! :D

And, just to reiterate Coco's question so that it isn't passed over: Which language do you use to communicate with your pen pal?
Last edited by Tspoonami on Mon 09.25.2006 7:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Writing Essays in Japanese

Postby CajunCoder » Mon 09.25.2006 10:41 pm

Personally, I hate the "5 paragraph structure" that the school system loves so much. The structure should fit the contents, not the other way around. What if I need 4 paragraphs in the middle to explain things? Or what if I only need two? - I have actually come across people who believe this to be "incorrect"!

Mm, anyway. I have heard that Japanese writing is often different in several ways. For example, in english we are taught to state our opinion/view up front, usually. In Japanese writing, I hear that this is often left obscure, until the end, where you state your point only after you have painted the picture. In this way, you explain your reasoning before simply blurting it out - which, I think is the better way of doing things.

As I'm sure most of you can tell, I am a poor writer... Please keep in mind that I really don't know what I'm talking about, though. This is only something I thought I heard a while ago, and I forgot where - but it does seem to reflect Japanese culture and language, so I decided to throw it out here and see.

Anyway, I am interested in any information regarding this as well.
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RE: Writing Essays in Japanese

Postby chequer » Tue 09.26.2006 12:40 pm

Thanks Everyone for your posts so far.

I was thinking "If I'm so kind to correct essays for him to improve his English, perhaps I could write a Japanese essay for him to correct...."

If I write an essay in Japanese on a topic, do I use the 5 paragraph format I'm used to in English or are the rules different for Japanese?

Thanks.

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RE: Writing Essays in Japanese

Postby chequer » Tue 09.26.2006 12:42 pm

I usually write to him in Japanese and him to me in English but I've corrected his English using English comments and examples - my knowledge of Japanese grammar terms is too weak to explain clearly.

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RE: Writing Essays in Japanese

Postby Chris Hart » Tue 09.26.2006 1:43 pm

CajunCoder wrote:
Mm, anyway. I have heard that Japanese writing is often different in several ways. For example, in english we are taught to state our opinion/view up front, usually. In Japanese writing, I hear that this is often left obscure, until the end, where you state your point only after you have painted the picture. In this way, you explain your reasoning before simply blurting it out - which, I think is the better way of doing things.



Certainly seems like a more logical way to write it as well. When I was in school, some of the teachers actually had us write the body, then the intro and conclusion, and re-arrage the order. Some had us write the conclusion first. Some even required us to write them in order - Intro, Body, Conclusion. Many did not care what order we wrote them in, but gave due dates that would imply Intro, body, and conclusion.
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RE: Writing Essays in Japanese

Postby magma » Tue 09.26.2006 1:56 pm

Personally, I hate the "5 paragraph structure" that the school system loves so much. The structure should fit the contents, not the other way around.

アーメン!

Mm, anyway. I have heard that Japanese writing is often different in several ways. For example, in english we are taught to state our opinion/view up front, usually. In Japanese writing, I hear that this is often left obscure, until the end, where you state your point only after you have painted the picture. In this way, you explain your reasoning before simply blurting it out - which, I think is the better way of doing things.

I've heard that too, and I am eager to see if someone will confirm it. It seems logical, since Japanese sentences save the most important part for last. Why shouldn't their essays do the same?

One friend of mine fluent in both languages said Japanese orators tend to ramble (in his opinion), talking and talking, telling stories, describing circumstances, but never really making their point explicit until the very end (if at all).

Jay Rubin described the situation quite well in his book:
As usual, official policies of the United States toward Japan are totally misdirected. Instead of pressuring the Japanese into lowering trade barriers or taking a greater share of the responsibility for their own defense, we should be urging them to bring their verbs from the ends of their sentences into second place, right after their subjects, where they belong. Unless we accomplish this, the rest of our foreign policy is so much tofu.
If you think you have trouble with Japanese verbs being withheld from you until you get through all the intervening time expressions and modifying clauses and whatever else the writer decides to put in your way, don't worry: the Japanese have the same problem themselves. They know their language works backwards, but they persist in keeping it that way as a matter of national pride.
Of course, some writers, such as Kabuki playwrights, have capitalized on the perverse placement of the verb at the end. The theater is charged with suspense as the retainer, center stage, slowly, tantalizingly intones the lines, "As to the question . . . of whether or not this severed head . . . is the head of my liege lord, the mighty general Kajimura Saburou Mitsumaru . . . known throughout the land for his brilliant military exploits . . . beloved by the people of his domain for his benevolence towards even the lowliest farmer . . . I can say, here and now, without a single doubt clouding my mind . . . that although the throngs gathered here before us may wish the truth to be otherwise . . . and the happines of his entire family hangs in the balance . . . this my master's head . . . is . . . NOT!"
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RE: Writing Essays in Japanese

Postby Infidel » Tue 09.26.2006 2:22 pm

Chris Hart wrote:
CajunCoder wrote:
Mm, anyway. I have heard that Japanese writing is often different in several ways. For example, in english we are taught to state our opinion/view up front, usually. In Japanese writing, I hear that this is often left obscure, until the end, where you state your point only after you have painted the picture. In this way, you explain your reasoning before simply blurting it out - which, I think is the better way of doing things.



Certainly seems like a more logical way to write it as well. When I was in school, some of the teachers actually had us write the body, then the intro and conclusion, and re-arrage the order. Some had us write the conclusion first. Some even required us to write them in order - Intro, Body, Conclusion. Many did not care what order we wrote them in, but gave due dates that would imply Intro, body, and conclusion.


It is definitely not a more logical way to write. the whole point of the five paragraph system is to get students in the habit of structuring their thoughts appropriately on paper. The most important part goes in the beginning because in real life real reports tend to number in the hundreds of pagesand the people reading them want to get to the point immediately and not read through 80 pages to find out what the answer is.

In school writing is targeted towards teachers who already knows the answers. School writing is a display of knowledge; in real life writing is targeted towards people who do not already know the answer but do not necessarily want to read through everything to discover how the answer was arrived at. So you always write the answers upfront so people do not lose productivity reading your report searching for the answer, but those who do want to know how you came to your conclusions can find the answers in the body.

Even in school, I don't remember many teachers getting upset if I wrote four central paragraphs instead of three; but, the writing style consisting of Introduction, Body, and Conclusion will stick with you for life in any formal writing you do.
Last edited by Infidel on Tue 09.26.2006 2:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Writing Essays in Japanese

Postby Chris Hart » Tue 09.26.2006 3:14 pm

Infidel wrote:
Chris Hart wrote:
CajunCoder wrote:
Mm, anyway. I have heard that Japanese writing is often different in several ways. For example, in english we are taught to state our opinion/view up front, usually. In Japanese writing, I hear that this is often left obscure, until the end, where you state your point only after you have painted the picture. In this way, you explain your reasoning before simply blurting it out - which, I think is the better way of doing things.



Certainly seems like a more logical way to write it as well. When I was in school, some of the teachers actually had us write the body, then the intro and conclusion, and re-arrage the order. Some had us write the conclusion first. Some even required us to write them in order - Intro, Body, Conclusion. Many did not care what order we wrote them in, but gave due dates that would imply Intro, body, and conclusion.


It is definitely not a more logical way to write. the whole point of the five paragraph system is to get students in the habit of structuring their thoughts appropriately on paper. The most important part goes in the beginning because in real life real reports tend to number in the hundreds of pagesand the people reading them want to get to the point immediately and not read through 80 pages to find out what the answer is.

In school writing is targeted towards teachers who already knows the answers. School writing is a display of knowledge; in real life writing is targeted towards people who do not already know the answer but do not necessarily want to read through everything to discover how the answer was arrived at. So you always write the answers upfront so people do not lose productivity reading your report searching for the answer, but those who do want to know how you came to your conclusions can find the answers in the body.

Even in school, I don't remember many teachers getting upset if I wrote four central paragraphs instead of three; but, the writing style consisting of Introduction, Body, and Conclusion will stick with you for life in any formal writing you do.


But it makes perfect sense if you realize that you can always turn to the last page, where all the minor points (throughout the paper) are brought togeather to form the major point.

In the English classes I took, (standard 5+ section report (intro, 3+ points, conclusion) the thesis went in both the intro and the conclusion. Why not eliminate putting it in one of those. You always want your main point to be the last thing the reader sees, (so it sticks in their mind) so leave it in the conclusion. This also allows you to write as you do the research, since, often, you can't finalize the thesis until you have the rest of your argument.
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RE: Writing Essays in Japanese

Postby coco » Tue 09.26.2006 4:23 pm

chequer-san

日本にも「小論文の書き方」という類のものはありますが、今回のケースでは役に立つとは思えません。「英作文の組み立て方」についてchequer-sanが説明したいと思うことを、単純に英文を和訳すれば、それで充分だと思います。

差し支えなければ、「英作文の組み立て方」についてchequer-sanがどのような内容のessayを日本人のために書くのか、英文と和文で、このフォーラムに投稿していただけませんか? そうすれば、日本語訳を手伝ってくださる人もいらっしゃるし、みなさんの(そして私の)勉強にもなると思います。

その日本人の方のessayがどのような内容かにもよりますが、[url=http://vu.flare.hiroshima-u.ac.jp/english/writing/frontpage.htm]
このサイト[/url]がその方の役に立つかもしれません。
ご参考までに。(私は読んでいませんが)
Last edited by coco on Tue 09.26.2006 4:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Writing Essays in Japanese

Postby chikara » Tue 09.26.2006 8:42 pm

CajunCoder wrote:
Personally, I hate the "5 paragraph structure" that the school system loves so much.........
What is this "5 paragraph structure"? Image
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RE: Writing Essays in Japanese

Postby hungryhotei » Tue 09.26.2006 9:00 pm

I think it's an American thing. I've never heard of it.
天気がいいから、散歩しましょう。
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RE: Writing Essays in Japanese

Postby magma » Tue 09.26.2006 11:28 pm

Me neither--and I live here!
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RE: Writing Essays in Japanese

Postby magma » Tue 09.26.2006 11:55 pm

I hope you won't think me rude for doing so, coco-san, but I would like to attempt a translation of your post, to make sure I'm really understanding your insights (or rather, to see how badly I'm mis-understanding them!)

日本にも「小論文の書き方」という類のものはありますが、今回のケースでは役に立つとは思えません。

Japan also has a kind of "short essay writing technique", but these days it doesn't seem useful.

「英作文の組み立て方」についてchequer-sanが説明したいと思うことを、単純に英文を和訳すれば、それで充分だと思います。

I think simply translating the English sentences into Japanese should be enough for you (chequer-san) to explain the "techniques for organizing English compositions."

差し支えなければ、「英作文の組み立て方」についてchequer-sanがどのような内容のessayを日本人のために書くのか、英文と和文で、このフォーラムに投稿していただけませんか?

If you're having trouble explaining to your Japanese friends the "techniques for organizing English compositions", perhaps you could post the English and Japanese sentences in this forum?

そうすれば、日本語訳を手伝ってくださる人もいらっしゃるし、みなさんの(そして私の)勉強にもなると思います。

If you do that, then people will come to help you with the Japanese translation, and everyone (including myself) can study together.

その日本人の方のessayがどのような内容かにもよりますが、
このサイトがその方の役に立つかもしれません。

No matter how that Japanese person writes the essay, the people of this site may be helpful.

ご参考までに。

Until then (ie. until you submit an essay for consultation).

(私は読んでいませんが)

I won't be reading, but....

Does that last sentence mean you don't plan on reading the essays, coco-san?
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