Thursday, November 17, 2016

Japan’s “Southern Accent” – Kansai-ben (Hannah)

It’s a journey, to say the least, to apply the knowledge you learned in the classroom to everyday situations. It’s even more of a journey when you learn standard Japanese and most of the people around you are speaking in a dialect you can barely understand. Imagine someone from Chicago going down to New Orleans and not being able to understand a word.

That’s how it is for me.

Especially living with a host family, I had to get used to the dialect very quickly. My host mother and grandmother have very thick accents, though I can tell my host mother tries to tone it down whenever she speaks with me, something I’ve figured out when I compare how she speaks to me versus the rest of the family.

Kansai-ben is the dialect of Japanese spoken in the Kansai region, an area in southern Japan made up of Osaka, Kyoto, Wakayama, Shiga, Hyogo, and Nara prefectures. I’ve noticed it’s a bit more nasally than the Japanese I hear in class, with slang terms and pronunciation varieties that confuse me greatly. Kansai-ben is most often associated with Osaka, and is often mistaken for Osaka-ben, or a dialect that seems to be only spoken in Osaka. Each Kansai region has it’s own variation of the dialect different from that spoken in Osaka.

Luckily, I’ve made friends who help me!

Selfie with Natsuki (right) and his friend Yuuya (left)
A Japanese student named Natsuki approached me in the international student lounge one day, and he has been very helpful in deciphering Kansai-ben. Every week we sit together and teach each other different phrases in each other’s languages. Not everything he teaches me is Kansai-ben, but a significant amount is, and I’ve overheard the words he teaches in conversations on trains or bus stops.
Natsuki is proud of his dialect, from what I have gathered. He told me he teaches Kansai-ben to his other international student friends, and is as eager to learn new English phrases as he is to teach Japanese ones. I am a master of tongue twisters now, thanks to him.

He taught me words like なんでやね “Nandeyaneh” which means something similar to “are you kidding me?” andおおきに “ookini” which is a Kansai casual form of “thank you.” I’ve even learned words outside of my Japanese friends’ guidance, a frequent one I have begun using being めっちゃ “me-cha,” or “very.” I feel like I’m more in the inside group than the outside when I use Kansai-ben, and it’s very comfortable to use.

I’ve heard these words in and around the area, and I love the feeling of hearing words I’ve learned in real life situations. I just hope that I don’t suddenly speak Kansai-ben in class when I get back to Beloit!

1 comment:

Millie Fan said...

It's always interesting to hear different accents in one language! My roommate is also from the Kansai area haha, when she talked with her mom on the phone, I felt another feeling about Japanese. For me, the Souther Accent is so cute!!
In Akita, there is Akita accent too, but since it was a real old accent, even the young generation can not understand it. It's a pity even until now I have not hear it.