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Bikol Facilitates the Teaching and Learning of Japanese

and Mandarin Chinese
Ruel M. Magayanes

Language Department, Computer Arts and Technological College
Balintawak Street, Albay District, Legazpi City



Bikol comes handy in facilitating the understanding of some
grammatical, phonological, and orthographical idiosyncrasies of
Japanese and Mandarin Chinese.

prior knowledge upon which the students can build new


cognitive landmark that may guide the students in
navigating that complicated maze called foreign language
acquisition and transitioning them from the familiar to the
unknown; and


basis for analogy or comparison that may enhance

For instance, “Wŏ hăo” in Mandarin Chinese is “I am ok” in
English and “Ako ay ok” in Filipino: wŏ=I=ako, hăo=ok=ok,
x=am=ay. While both the English and the Filipino translations
follow the subject-linking verb-complement (S+LV+C) pattern,
the Mandarin Chinese version’s pattern is S+C. Students find it
difficult to account for the missing LV. The students can only
appreciate the S+C pattern when the sentence is translated to
“Ako ok” in Bikol where linking verbs are virtually non-existent.
“Peaceful town” in English is “shizuka na machi” in Japanese:
peaceful=shizuka, town=machi, x=na. Students would usually
want to know what the Japanese “na” is. Such difficulty is
unlocked when the Japanese phrase is translated to “matoninong
na banwa” in Bikol: shizuka=matoninong, na=na, machi=banwa.
The /l/ sound is non-existent in Japanese; it is normally
represented by “r”. But the Japanese “r” is not exactly the same
as the English “r”; the former sounds between /r/ and /l/ although
much closer to /d/. This complication is simplified by “sarili” in
Filipino and “sadiri” in Bikol: /r/ is related to /d/ and /l/ is
related to /r/. The ancient baybayin—where “d[a]” and “r[a]” are
represented by a common symbol—also helps.
Bikol, therefore, is an effective medium in the teaching and
learning of some East Asian languages.

General Term

Bicol, Japanese language, Mandarin Chinese, language teaching,
language learning, comparative linguistics, polyglotism



Acquiring a second language (L2) is hard enough; learning a
foreign tongue (L3 or L˃3) is even harder. This difficulty is
particularly more pronounced in learning East Asian languages
such as Japanese and Mandarin Chinese whose grammatical
structure, orthography, and phonology seem too exotic for
English users.
Thankfully, there is Bikol which, in my own classroom
experience, provides the following learning aids:

2.1. Teaching Japanese Phonetics
It is a well known fact that Japanese cannot produce the /l/
sound. This is not a racial predisposition. Perhaps, the Japanese
are not able to develop the ability to perceive, hence, articulate
the /l/ sound because such sound in nonexistent in their native
language. By nature, such ability would find no usefulness.
And then there is this mistaken notion that the Japanese language
is replete with the /r/ sound. Actually “r” is a mere symbol used
to represent a sound that is midway between /r/ and /l/. This
sound, although described as “midway between /r/ and /l/,” is
actually closer to /d/.
The following texts that describe the Japanese /r/ and give
suggestions on how it should be properly articulated were
verbatimly lifted from authoritative sources and given to the
students for them to understand.
“r—a sound peculiar to Japanese pronounced with
the tip of the tongue moving midway in the mouth
but not rolled. If the tongue is given slightly more
tension, this sound easily becomes “d.” It is like
neither “r” nor “l” in English but is sort of
between the two, like the Spanish “r” in “pero.” [1]
-o0o“/r/ is probably the most difficult sound for
English-speaking students. This is neither /r/, /l/,
nor /d/ in English, but may be most close to /d/. In
Japanese it is necessary to distinguish /r/ and /d/.
In both cases the tongue touches somewhere and
comes off quickly and decisively. The difference
between these /r/ and /d/ is that of the position of

But using baybayin as springboard may somehow ease the intimidation and melt the resistance against learning them.” Such process may also be used as springboard in teaching the transformation of basic kana characters into sonant and semisonant characters. /r/. /r/. & /d/ Figure 1 encapsulates the relationship among /l/. When I introduced Miss Winters to my Japanese friends I meant to say Edo bungaku o kenkyuu shite imasu (She’s studying the literature of the Edo period).” So what I actually said was “She’s studying pornographic literature” [Ero bungaku o kenkyuu shite imasu]. . They find such writing systems completely foreign. Relationship of the Bikol & Filipino /l/. and /d/ in Bikol and Filipino which the English explanation will find hard to capture. This is where Bikol and Filipino come to the rescue: ka da/ra Baybayin Kana “I then remembered what Sensee told me about the pronunciation of the “d” sound. The Bikol word for “cut” is either “kiris” or “giris.” The following (non-exhaustive) list of some Filipino words may help elucidate the relationship between /r/ and /d/: dami rami dito rito dini rini doon roon Even the ancient baybayin (Table 1) confirms the nearness of /r/ and /d/: “d[a]” and r[a]” are represented by common symbol: Biko Mintz d/r Doctrina Cristiana d Tagalog stylized d Baybayin kana d/r Bisaya Hervás d Baybayin Lopez d Table 1.” [7] a ba Tagalog Sytlized “I put my foot in my mouth again today.s a d i  Filipino s a r r l i i Figure 1.” That also is another good springboard. Take note also of the following baybayin characters: d [da] r [ra] Bikol Mintz d [da] r [ra] Baybayin kana “Ra” is formed simply by adding a diacritic to “da. Teaching Japanese Orthography Refer to Table 1 and Table 2 and notice the following similarities: k [ka] Baybayin kana エ [e] Katakana h [ha] Baybayin kana ノ [no] Katakana O [o/u] Doctrina Cristiana ろ [ro] Hiragana t [ta] Baybayin kana イ [i] Katakana y [ya] Baybayin kana ひ [hi] Hiragana Filipino students find the Japanese hiragana (cursive script) and katakana (angular script) too intimidating. /r/. Comparison of baybayin font types Baybayin Typeface[3][4] ha la ma na nga o/u pa sa ta  i ga wa ya Baybayin Lopez Bikol e/i Bisaya Hervás Yet. the students still could not grasp the relationship of /l/. But my “d” sounded like an “r. and /d/.2. Notice also the relationship of /l/ and /r/ in the Bikol “daraga” and the Filipino “dalaga.” Cristiana Doctrina -o0o- Bikol Mintz /d/ against the teeth with somewhere more front of the tongue”[6] Roman Transliteration /r/ against the alveolar ridge with the very tip of the tongue a b k d/r E g h l m n N O p s t w y a b k d E g h l m n N O p s t w y a b k d E g h l m n N O p s t w y a b k d/r E/I g h l m n N O/U p s t w y A b k d E g h l m n N O p s t w y a b k d E g h l m n N O p s t w y 2. For instance: かが kaga きぎ kigi くぐ kugu けげ kege こご kogo ばはぱ bahapa びひぴ bihipi ぶふぷ bufupu べへぺ behepe ぼほぽ bohopo Take きぎ(kigi). I should have pressed the tip of the tongue against the upper teeth ridge. even with the aforementioned explanations from experts.

that is. it is its simplicity that makes it hard to comprehend.” But translating the Japanese phrases into Bikol does the trick. albeit verbless sentence. a linking verb is not necessary. Example: oishii (delicious) atsui (hot) atatakai (warm) When used as noun modifiers.” “Nǐ hăo” may be expanded to “Nǐ hăo ma?” whose literal translation is “you are fine?” but is equivalent in English to “How are you?” The formulaic response is “Wŏ (I) hăo” (I am fine) or “Wŏ hĕn (very) hăo” (I am very fine). TEACHING JAPANESE & MANDARIN CHINESE GRAMMAR USING BIKOL THROUGH ANALOGY 3. In Mandarin Chinese. Ironically. I-adjectives. S-C pattern in Mandarin Chinese & Bikol Mandarin Chinese Bikol Filipino .” but its equivalent expression in English is “Hi. are native to the Japanese language. ok. “Wŏ hăo” is the basic—being the simplest—sentence pattern in Mandarin Chinese. when the complement is an adjective. (I am fine.1 Example: shizuka (peaceful) nigiyaka (lively) shinsetsu (kind) Japanese Adjectives Japanese adjectives are of two kinds: i-adjectives and naadjectives. 3. the linking verb “shì” is needed. Japanese kana (hiragana & katakana) syllabaries Basic Syllables あ ア a か カ ka さ サ sa た タ ta な ナ na は ハ ha ま マ ma や ヤ ya ら ラ ra わ ワ wa ん ン n い イ i き キ ki し シ shi ち チ chi に ニ ni ひ ヒ hi み ミ mi り リ ri う ウ u く ク ku す ス su つ ツ tsu ぬ ヌ nu ふ フ fu む ム mu ゆ ユ yu る ル ru え エ e け ケ ke せ セ se て テ te ね ネ ne へ ヘ he め メ me お オ o こ コ ko そ ソ so と ト to の ノ no ほ ホ ho も モ mo よ ヨ yo れ ろ レ ロ re ro を ヲ o Dakuon (voiced/sonant) Handakuon (semivoiced/semisonant) They are called na-adjectives because they need particle “na” when modifying nouns.2 Mandarin Chinese Basic Sentence Pattern The first sentence learned by a student of Mandarin Chinese is usually “Nǐ (you) hăo (fine). (She is a teacher.” It’s literal translation is “you are fine. They are so called because they end in character い(‘i’). considered as true adjectives. the Bikol translation enhances comprehension.) Tā (she) shì lăoshī (teacher).Table 2. For instance: が ガ ga ざ ザ za だ ダ da ぎ ギ gi じ ジ ji ぢ ヂ ji ぐ グ gu ず ズ zu づ ヅ zu げ ゲ ge ぜ ゼ ze で デ de ご ゴ go ぞ ゾ zo ど ド do ば び ぶ べ ぼ バ ビ ブ ベ ボ ba bi bu be bo shizuka na machi (peaceful town) nigiyaka na pātii (lively party) shinsetsu na sensei (kind teacher) Most students could not grasp the sense of the English translation because they could not account for the missing “na. but Bikol says it all. Table 3. Mandarin Chinese is difficult. ok. English users are told that a sentence may not be complete without a verb.) Table 3 shows that English and Filipino are inadequate to explain the sentence pattern. ぱ ぴ ぷ ぺ ぽ パ ピ プ ペ ポ pa pi pu pe po shizuka na machi (matoninong na banwa) nigiyaka na pātii (maribok na party) shinsetsu na sensei (maboot na maestra) By employing Japanese-Bikol analogy. Comparison of S-C & S-LV-C sentence patterns Subject (S) Wŏ Ako Ako ay Adjectival Complement (C) hăo. they precede the nouns that they modify. 3. i-adjectives behave like English adjectives. as in: Wŏ shì (am) Fēilǜbīnrén (Filipino). as in: Wŏ hăo. But the complement is a noun. (I am [a] Filipino.) Hànyŭ (Mandarin Chinese) nán (difficult). For example: oishii tabemono (delicious food) atsui kōhii (hot coffee) atatakai tenki (warm weather) Na-adjectives are those that originated from Chinese and other foreign languages. But “Wŏ hăo” is a complete.

[8] National Office for the Teaching of Chinese as a Foreign Language (NOTCFL). New Practical Chinese Reader 1 (Textbook). .I Subject (S) 4. Japanese for Today. Tokyo: Tokyo: Let’s. 2002. Osamu and Nobuko Mizutani. [6] Koide. 1973.mts. Easy Japanese. p3. 1986. 1973.font [5] Japan Tokyo: Gakken. Tokyo: Bonjinsha-Oxford. [7] Mizutani. Tokyo: Japan Times.fonts2u. pp26-27. [2] _____________________. The. Japanese for Today. 1983. p99. Beijing: NOTCFL. Nihongo Notes 1: Speaking and Living in Japan. using one or two languages in delivering the lesson may not be enough to make things clear. 1977. Fumiko. English Linking Complement Verb S-LV-C pattern (C) (LV) in English & Filipino Predicate CONCLUSION Teaching foreign language is a multilingual affair. REFERENCES [1] _____________________. am ok. p6. Basic Japanese-English Dictionary. [3] http://www. 5.htm [4] http://www.