Learn Japanese from Yoda

yoda-japanese

No doubt, if you’ve taken Japanese lessons from me before, you probably have heard this “rant” before. The one about Star Wars and how it was “inspired” by a Japanese film, and Yoda (which is a Japanese name, by the way) is actually an old Samurai master who speaks with Japanese grammar. I use this as a jumping off point when teaching people about Japanese grammar, so I thought it would be fun to share it with all of you as well!

[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehVguHuVvuM']

The lesson begins with an explanation of “This is a pen.” This sentence seems innocent enough, but really, it’s so full of depth that it’s astounding (or not, really). Most Japanese know this English phrase (“This is a Pen”) and wonder why it’s one of the first things they learn. Sure, it’s a dumb phrase, but if you can say “This is a pen” then you can say “This is a computer,” or “This is stupid” or (with a little bit of tweaking) “This was a pen” or “This wasn’t a monkey.” It’s the foundation of grammar, and since Japanese people have to suffer through it, then you should too. Hopefully Yoda makes it more fun and interesting.

Instead of “This is a pen” we’re going to learn “it is a pen.” This phrase is a lot simpler, and builds you up to “This is a pen.” First, let’s look at the vocab we’ll need in order to say “it is a pen.”

Pen: Pen
It is:
Desu (pronounced dess)

Now, let’s go back to Yoda. How would he say “It is a pen?” That’s right, he’d say “Pen it is.” The same goes for Japanese. If you just took the vocab from the above, how would you say “it is a pen” in Japanese, using Yoda grammar?

English: It is a pen
Yoda:
Pen it is
Japanese:
Pen desu

You can replace “Pen” with anything you want now! “Neko desu” (it is a cat). “Inu desu” (it is a dog). You’re only limited now by vocabulary, which is easy to look up. This pattern applies to past, negative, and past negative tense as well.

It was = deshita
It is not = ja-arimasen
It was not = ja-arimasen deshita

So, we can just throw nouns before all of those grammar points, and make sentences.

English: It was a cat
Yoda: Cat it was
Japanese: Neko deshita

English: It is not water
Yoda: Water it is not
Japanese: Mizu ja-arimasen

English: It was not Koichi
Yoda: Koichi it was not
Japanese: Koichi-san ja-arimasen deshita

There you go – you’re already on your way to speaking Japanese, using Japanese grammar! That wasn’t too hard, was it? If you’re ever confused about Japanese grammar, just think of Yoda and his sexy bod.

Makes me wonder though… how does the Japanese version of Yoda talk when he gets dubbed? “desu pen”? Does he switch to English style grammar? I sure hope so.

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  • Devynne_desu

    Awesomeness. I totally get it now. Thanks a bunch.

  • Greg

    Yoda is also Hebrew for Wise One or Hand of Wisdom according to a fannish Rabbi I once knew. Yod certainly means “Open Hand” and the Jedi actually replicate the letter/pictogram YOD and the related Kaph when they use the Force.

    It is also no secret that Lucas was a huge fan of early Samauri movies and the Jedi costumes and attitudes are a clear reflection of this obsession. I would not be suprised if there were a direct connection between Yoda's grammar and Nihongo.

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    Thanks for sharing the video as well. It was fun trying to lean Japanese.

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  • lenatpena80

    I love to learn japanese language. There are many awesome cartoons and I watched some of it with only translations. Thanks for the post. fixed annuites

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  • Baltimore Limousine

    wow let start learning it all together

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  • Anonymous

    damn, so now i really start questioning myself why did i spent 4yrs in nihonggodaigaku & learn very little compared to what you’ve done here. japanese in a simpler way! ahaha. thx :)

  • http://twitter.com/VXLbeast Nick

    Awesome, thanks much!

    I think German syntax is very similar, is it not?

  • Marcgraci

    Actually, Yoda doesn’t speak in a weird way in the Japanese versions of Star Wars.

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  • Anonymous

    Rather actually! Haha! On Sundays at the bar I work at it’s kinda a goofy night so I end up speaking Japanese in my Yoda voice with the customers. That flips on and off with the pirate voice (arrrrr beerru!). Yea, Sundays are a little strange.

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    Always was interested in this theme! It is also no secret that Lucas was a huge fan of early Samauri movies and the Jedi costumes and attitudes are a clear reflection of this obsession. I would not be suprised if there were a direct connection between Yoda’s grammar and Nihongo.

  • Madbeanman

    This reminds of a story from my Japanese class at university back in first year. I remember our lecturer pointing at a pen someone was holding and saying それは何ですか? and the student said これはペンです!Then our lecturer burst ou laughing at said when she was teaching English in Japan there was a one group of students who could only say This is a pen in English and also F*** Y**. She said it was a fun year with them :)

  • http://twitter.com/precioimplantes Martin Mas

    Awesome

  • Bragi029

     This is by far one of the best ways to clearly explain the subtle nuances that separate english and japanese languages. Can’t believe I didn’t think of it, (especially since I wrote a film paper called “Star Wars Samurai” comparing Seven Samurai / Star Wars)

  • craig

    Yoda speaks with Japanese grammar? How odd. I’ve heard a lot said about him being Swedish but not JApanese

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  • Ice

    Very Cool! My first read on your site and it was amuzing as well as educating. Thumbs up for that.

    I watch tons of anime so I guess I picked up the informal first. 

    I am looking forward to learning much more. Thanks!

    (Will Share the link with a friend we call Yoda, just for fun)

  • Anonymous

    from Yoda can learn japanese HAHA maybe it works 
    let me have a try. THANKS!
     

  • Tofu

    Primarily OSV languages are more rare, but they exist.  And that is an allowable sentence structure in lots of languages in certain context.  It can be used in English, even, usually to emphasize the object of the sentence.  “Do you see Jim over there?” “No, I don’t see him.(SVO)  Ben, I see. (OSV)”

  • Tofu

    Primarily OSV languages are more rare, but they exist.  And that is an allowable sentence structure in lots of languages in certain context.  It can be used in English, even, usually to emphasize the object of the sentence.  “Do you see Jim over there?” “No, I don’t see him.(SVO)  Ben, I see. (OSV)”

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  • http://twitter.com/21tigermike Michael A. Robson

    This is an awesome post for anyone learning Korean/JP, thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/zentoko Talia

    When I was in Tokyo last summer the original Star Wars was on tv (subtitles) and his Japanese was normal… so to explain to my host mom why I thought it was weird that he could be understood I put the verbs on the beginning and mixed around particles… she got it. :)

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  • sungodyamoto

    i find that japanese grammers easy to learn; however, my problem is remembering vocab.

  • osakan

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KevZ8G2l2Mk
    apparently, he uses the typical boring old-people Japanese.

  • Guest

    Now that’s FUNNY! (However true it is.)