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『Classifying de Tango』

October 14, 2009

preview14Studying vocabulary of a new language can be a daunting task, not only do you have to study endless lists of words but with so many different types it won’t take long before you mix up which is what, what goes where and when to use what. In this latest issue of Study Tips learn how to effectively separate different types of words by using a smart marking system of abbreviations. No dancing experience required!

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In this hot new issue of Study Tips, all about classifying your「単語(たんご, word), something that is actually easier than dancing the Tango Japanese 単語, needless to say, come in all different forms, sometimes it’s handy to know what kind of word you are studying to avoid confusing and to understand how to use certain words. Understanding words like  始まる and  始める can be difficult if you don’t know in which class they belong. By classifying your Japanese words as soon as you learn them will make it easier to employ its usage and thus minimizing mistakes. First let’s take a look at what kind of word classes there are:


Let’s talk about verbs first

Don’t be intimidated by all those linguistic terms, we’re going to break those down using easy abbreviations to mark and classify your study words. Although the above terms are self-explanatory I do want to get into the verb class a bit. As you might know, verbs can be classified into different groups. Though I’m not going to explain what kind of different verb groups there are because that’s beyond the scope of this article and you’ve probably learned that already in class or you can find it in any beginners textbook. What you do need to know is that verbs can be roughly classified into 5 categories. They are:


All verbs are either「一段,「五段or「する-class」. Furthermore, they can either fall into「他動」,「自動or both categories. When you study verbs it can be helpful to know what category verb it is and to mark them we will abbreviate the above categories by only taking the first kanji of a verb term for instant recognition when studying. Let’s try classifying two example verbs:

踊る (おどる) to dance

A quick look up in a dictionary says this is an intransitive verb and a Godan verb. Now let’s take the「」from「自動」and the「」from「五段」and attach them together and it becomes:「自五」! From the first kanji you can see it’s an intrasitive verb, the second will tell you it’s a Godan verb.

見る (みる) to see

The dictionary says this is a transitive Ichidan verb. Take the「」from「他動」and the「」from「一段」and it becomes:「他一」!

There are only a couple of combinations possible but there are exceptions and sometimes a verb can be both transitive and intransitive, in that case I only mark as「」,「」or「する」.

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So what leaves this for the other classes?

名詞 becomes「

形容詞 becomes「

形容動詞 becomes「形動

副詞 becomes「


By marking your study words using only one or two kanji of their respective classes you can instantly see what kind of word you are studying and understand better how they are used. Ofcourse you don’t have to classify and mark every single word, just the words you feel needing attention and needless to say this can be done with words in either your textbook, notepad or SRS application. When I study I always write in front of the word what class they are and draw a small box around it so I know I classified the Tango Can you guess where the following words are classified in?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 16, 2009 8:05 am

    Totally unrelated comment

    I’m not sure if I’m reading way too much into everything I see here and start imagining things myself… but…

    are you by any chance a Final Fantasy fan/guy/shipper/buff/*insert whatever term appropriate*?

    • October 16, 2009 11:00 am

      You hit the nail there right on its head! Yea mega Final Fantasy fan…when I was 16, haha. Nah, nowadays I can’t find myself playing a game longer than an hour and a half before falling asleep. I got other interests and more important issues to worry about 🙂
      Haha, that was really random, anyways, are you? And what made you think that I was 🙂

      • October 16, 2009 3:01 pm

        Random person is random. And that’s moi~

        I’ll probably get laughed at for guessing that because of these reasons:

        1. I know you’ve written that Chokochoko means slowly crawling/scurrying around… but combined with the general yellow you use here… my brain is processing this as direct reference to Le Chocobo!!

        2. Like I said, the general color here. The background yellow is just so… the main screen background of the NDS Chocobo Tales game

        3. The title of this post Classifying de Tango just reminded me of all the Chocobo tracks in some of the Final Fantasy OSTs, like Waltz de Chocobo, Cinco de Chocobo, etc…

        er, to clear things up, I admire the series (they manage to keep it alive for so long) but I don’t really like the actual game of the series. I like the soundtracks/piano collections very much though… and I’m a big Chocobo fan :3

      • October 16, 2009 3:10 pm

        Ahh, no haha. I kinda like egg-yellow-ish color and it’s kinda fresh and general. If I’d make it limegreen then it’s would be too lemony, orange, don’t like it (reminds me too much of the Dutch football team’s official color and I dont like soccer), pink…girly, purple…erhm right, turqoise…doesnt work too well, red and black…already have a blog in black and red it’s totally the opposite of Chokochoko, but here is also where it connects. Don’t worry, it’ll all be revealed in time how it’s all connected. THOSE DARN CHOCOBO’S!!! Ruining it for anything eggyellow and Chokochoko’s!!! OFF WITH THEIR HEAD’S I SAY…did I say that out loud…? 😛
        PS: You’ve been playing games for waaaay too long, you’re definitely seeing things hahaha

      • October 16, 2009 3:51 pm

        haha, so my bull’s-eye was pure luck?
        Why don’t I ever win the lottery, wakakaka….!!

        anyway, back to this post, it seems (I think) how I’ve learnt the basics is different… in the beginning I had absolutely no idea what your 一段 and 五段 were all about… now I know :3

        一段 is what I know as Group I verbs, 五段 is Group II verbs, and する being する is Group III verbs. It actually took this post and also that new book I got to find this out. Man, am I slow!
        I still have to slowly digest all the other stuff.

        Thanks for the tips!

      • October 16, 2009 7:27 pm

        Bull’s eye? what bull’s eye? Did you hit something?

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