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Foreigners Shouldn't Speak Dialects?

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Foreigners Shouldn't Speak Dialects?

Postby jakk » Tue 08.26.2008 5:36 am

Hi everyone, my name's Jakk (^ w ^)

I've recently moved to Osaka to study Japanese Language. A few days after my arrival, I heard the natives' conversation and realize that they're speaking in Osaka-ben (or Kansai-ben, I can't really tell), it's my first time hearing the dialect and I'm really surprised how "homely" it sounded. I am from Malaysia and I speak Cantonese generally, I thought Kansai-ben and Cantonese sounded somewhat similar and I really hope to learn and speak it someday, since then I've been trying to go out more often and listen to the natives and practice pronouncing them at home.

I am a little discouraged when a classmate of mine pointed out that it's best that we foreigners don't speak dialects, it would sound strange and awkward when a native listens :? Specially when the foreigner couldn't speak standard Japanese very well and is speaking strange dialects, it makes the person feel uneasy... So, I am now wondering if I should just go back and concentrate on 標準語 and leave out the dialects? (still think the dialect sounded really soothing though... :oops:)

Is it true that it will not be possible for a foreigner like me to converse with the natives with the local dialects without having "strange feelings" about? :cry:
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Re: Foreigners Shouldn't Speak Dialects?

Postby becki_kanou » Tue 08.26.2008 5:43 am

It depends. I'd generally say wait until you can speak the standard language fairly fluently before you hop into the dialect, but using a few dialect phrases now again shouldn't be a problem. In fact it shows that you're listening to and picking up on the natural speech of those around you, which I think is a good thing.

I may be biased though because my husband and I speak Kansai-ben at home and I think it's the best thing since sliced bread.
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Re: Foreigners Shouldn't Speak Dialects?

Postby Harisenbon » Tue 08.26.2008 5:52 am

I think it all depends. If you're *trying* to speak in a dialect, it will show, and may in some cases lower people's opinons of you (imagine a small Japanese girl showing up and mixing ghetto-slang in with her otherwise normal speech-patterns).

However, in many cases people just learn the dialect of where they are, and end up speaking like that naturally. In these cases the use of colloquial phrases and whatnot do not seem out of place, because they are part of the large whole: a person who speaks WITH a dialect, as opposed to someone who is merely throwing random dialects into his normal speech pattern.

And, amusingly enough, Japanese people don't like other Japanese people who try to speak in a kansai accent to look cool, either. ;)
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Re: Foreigners Shouldn't Speak Dialects?

Postby jakk » Tue 08.26.2008 6:22 am

Harisenbon wrote:I think it all depends. If you're *trying* to speak in a dialect, it will show, and may in some cases lower people's opinons of you (imagine a small Japanese girl showing up and mixing ghetto-slang in with her otherwise normal speech-patterns).

However, in many cases people just learn the dialect of where they are, and end up speaking like that naturally. In these cases the use of colloquial phrases and whatnot do not seem out of place, because they are part of the large whole: a person who speaks WITH a dialect, as opposed to someone who is merely throwing random dialects into his normal speech pattern.

And, amusingly enough, Japanese people don't like other Japanese people who try to speak in a kansai accent to look cool, either. ;)
becki_kanou wrote:It depends. I'd generally say wait until you can speak the standard language fairly fluently before you hop into the dialect, but using a few dialect phrases now again shouldn't be a problem. In fact it shows that you're listening to and picking up on the natural speech of those around you, which I think is a good thing.

I may be biased though because my husband and I speak Kansai-ben at home and I think it's the best thing since sliced bread.


Thank you very much for the super quick reply! I was a little worry that no one would post a reply for the same question might have been asked previously before...

becki_kanou,
I also heard there's polite/formal forms for Kansai-ben, will it be possible to teach me some really basic ones? I am very happy to know that you and your husband enjoy Kansai-ben too :D

Harisenbon,
I probably sound like I'm "trying" to speak the dialect now, since my teachers are always laughing when I greet them goodbye in Osaka-ben... :lol: thank you very much for your reply :3

Does kansai-ben actually sounds cool among Japanese themselves? just curious :)

------
So far, I've only been saying "ほんま?", "ほな、~", "ええわ", are any of them inappropriate for certain situation? I'm still not very confident in speaking Japanese overall, phrases and tones I learn from friends in my home country are probably overly informal (even though I think they speak pretty fluently...) and I really want to avoid saying anything strange or offensive... :|
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Re: Foreigners Shouldn't Speak Dialects?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Tue 08.26.2008 8:29 am

I've talked to a number of native speakers about this, and I have never heard any of them say that they like it when foreigners try to speak dialectical Japanese. The problem, according to them, is that very few foreigners can actually speak a dialect -- with all the intonation patterns, pronunciation, etc. Just throwing in ほんま and や isn't really Kansai-ben. Imagine if a Japanese person spoke to you in Japanese-accented English with a number of grammatical problems, but used "y'all" and "fixin' to".

Now, this doesn't mean they'll get angry or offended if you try to speak a dialect, but they may find it funny or cute.
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Re: Foreigners Shouldn't Speak Dialects?

Postby becki_kanou » Tue 08.26.2008 10:14 am

jakk wrote:becki_kanou,
I also heard there's polite/formal forms for Kansai-ben, will it be possible to teach me some really basic ones? I am very happy to know that you and your husband enjoy Kansai-ben too :D


One typically Kansai politeness marker is 〜はる added on to the verb stem or the て-form for continuous / progressive. Wikipedia has a summary here under section 2.5.

------
So far, I've only been saying "ほんま?", "ほな、~", "ええわ", are any of them inappropriate for certain situation? I'm still not very confident in speaking Japanese overall, phrases and tones I learn from friends in my home country are probably overly informal (even though I think they speak pretty fluently...) and I really want to avoid saying anything strange or offensive... :|


As Yudan said, speaking in dialect is unlikely to be offensive, but it may be unintentionally cute or comical, especially if you can't yet use it well. Do you plan staying long term/ living in the Kansai? If so, go ahead and get a head start. If not, it's probably best to really master standard Japanese first.

If you do decide to use dialect though, you should probably do so with your fellow students and peers and stick to standard Japanese with professors etc.
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Re: Foreigners Shouldn't Speak Dialects?

Postby Harisenbon » Tue 08.26.2008 8:07 pm

becki_kanou wrote: Do you plan staying long term/ living in the Kansai? If so, go ahead and get a head start. If not, it's probably best to really master standard Japanese first.


This is something that I think should be reiterated: if you are going to live in Kansai for a while, then you will naturally start to pick up the language and dialect just from hearing it every day. Going out of your way to study and speak in the dialect will make your speech forced, where if you pick it up naturally, the dialect will flow better with your natural sentence patterns.

My aunt has lived in London for almost 30 years now, and has a fairly strong english accent/ speaks in an english dialect. It sounds completely natural, because it was something "picked up" through years of being immersed in that culture, versus dedicated studying.

Contrast that to my friend in High-school "Fake British Man" who constantly spoke in a fake british accent and insisted it was legit.
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Re: Foreigners Shouldn't Speak Dialects?

Postby spin13 » Wed 08.27.2008 2:31 am

As a few others have said, you're going to need to understand it even if you're not ready to speak it. Here's a website (which does have an English version) that compares standard Japanese to various dialects. Though I've never spoken any dialect other than Tokyo's, I used this site to help me out while reading a novel using one of Kyushu's western, Fukuoka-ish dialects.

I think it's a fairly useful as a starter reference to dialects but, because it's just a side-by-side comparison, how much you can learn is pretty much limited to how much standard Japanese you know, which means you're going to have to learn standard Japanese anyway.

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Re: Foreigners Shouldn't Speak Dialects?

Postby jakk » Wed 08.27.2008 7:26 am

Yudan Taiteki wrote:Imagine if a Japanese person spoke to you in Japanese-accented English with a number of grammatical problems, but used "y'all" and "fixin' to".

Ah, I pretty much get the feeling now, thanks for the example :lol:

becki_kanou wrote:One typically Kansai politeness marker is 〜はる added on to the verb stem or the て-form for continuous / progressive. Wikipedia has a summary here under section 2.5.

As Yudan said, speaking in dialect is unlikely to be offensive, but it may be unintentionally cute or comical, especially if you can't yet use it well. Do you plan staying long term/ living in the Kansai? If so, go ahead and get a head start. If not, it's probably best to really master standard Japanese first.

If you do decide to use dialect though, you should probably do so with your fellow students and peers and stick to standard Japanese with professors etc.

First of all, thanks for the useful info and link ^ w ^)o I will be staying in Osaka for another few years before I decide what to do next :oops: most of my friends and classmates find Kansai-ben being just a dialect and isn't worth "investing"... and because I still have a weak grammer, they barely understand anything I say (I guess it's normal for every newbie :lol: ) I'll try to focus more on the standard jap for now, since it's probably more important at this stage right? :3 Thanks for the advise :D

Harisenbon wrote:This is something that I think should be reiterated: if you are going to live in Kansai for a while, then you will naturally start to pick up the language and dialect just from hearing it every day. Going out of your way to study and speak in the dialect will make your speech forced, where if you pick it up naturally, the dialect will flow better with your natural sentence patterns.

My aunt has lived in London for almost 30 years now, and has a fairly strong english accent/ speaks in an english dialect. It sounds completely natural, because it was something "picked up" through years of being immersed in that culture, versus dedicated studying.

Contrast that to my friend in High-school "Fake British Man" who constantly spoke in a fake british accent and insisted it was legit.

I will only stay in Osaka for maybe 3 years or less, which according to a teacher of mine, will only to be able to bring us as far as a standard of a first year high student... it's somewhat disappointing but I do believe it's true, it's hard to master a new language if it's not done correctly : :( I understand what you meant by the "naturally picking it up", and I'll keep that in mind ^___^)b thank you very much for the help :3

spin13 wrote:As a few others have said, you're going to need to understand it even if you're not ready to speak it. Here's a website (which does have an English version) that compares standard Japanese to various dialects. Though I've never spoken any dialect other than Tokyo's, I used this site to help me out while reading a novel using one of Kyushu's western, Fukuoka-ish dialects.

I think it's a fairly useful as a starter reference to dialects but, because it's just a side-by-side comparison, how much you can learn is pretty much limited to how much standard Japanese you know, which means you're going to have to learn standard Japanese anyway.

-Eric

Eric, thanks for the link, I had great fun reading and learning the few words of other dialects on that page (even though I don't know how they should sound...) XD I will be forced to study the standard at school even if I don't want to, I look forward to completing Minna no Nihongo 1 (really am a newbie in Japan) :lol:
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Re: Foreigners Shouldn't Speak Dialects?

Postby Majik4ever » Fri 08.29.2008 6:28 pm

JAKK wrote:I'll try to focus more on the standard jap for now, since it's probably more important at this stage right?

Please do not use the word "jap" as a abbreviation for Japanese; some people see it as offensive. SEE HERE

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Re: Foreigners Shouldn't Speak Dialects?

Postby Mike Cash » Fri 08.29.2008 8:02 pm

Harisenbon wrote:Contrast that to my friend in High-school "Fake British Man" who constantly spoke in a fake british accent and insisted it was legit.


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Re: Foreigners Shouldn't Speak Dialects?

Postby Dehitay » Fri 08.29.2008 8:23 pm

spin13 wrote:As a few others have said, you're going to need to understand it even if you're not ready to speak it. Here's a website (which does have an English version) that compares standard Japanese to various dialects. Though I've never spoken any dialect other than Tokyo's, I used this site to help me out while reading a novel using one of Kyushu's western, Fukuoka-ish dialects.


Heh, I just got back to this site after a long absence and your site seemed like exactly what I was looking for. While Osaka-ben/Kansai-ben is popular enough to have examples all over the place, Hokkaido-ben can't be found so easily. However, though the site is useful to me, I wish there was more information on Hokkaido-ben than listed. Still, thank you. This is probly still the most information on Hokkaido-ben I've found so far.
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Re: Foreigners Shouldn't Speak Dialects?

Postby hyperconjugated » Fri 08.29.2008 8:33 pm

Oy, long time no see Dehitay. Welcome back.
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Re: Foreigners Shouldn't Speak Dialects?

Postby spin13 » Fri 08.29.2008 9:48 pm

Dehitay wrote:Heh, I just got back to this site after a long absence and your site seemed like exactly what I was looking for. While Osaka-ben/Kansai-ben is popular enough to have examples all over the place, Hokkaido-ben can't be found so easily. However, though the site is useful to me, I wish there was more information on Hokkaido-ben than listed. Still, thank you. This is probably still the most information on Hokkaido-ben I've found so far.


Do a little search for 北海道方言 in Japanese. You'll find a whole lot more info than in English. For example, the Japanese Wikipedia article is fairly substantial.
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