The sound of silence

金曜日 02nd, 12月 2016 / 09:00 Written by
The sound of silence

In Japan we have the sound of silence. ‘Shin shin’ describes the sound snow falls silently. When the room is totally quiet, when no one is there or wants to speak out, the sound is ‘shiiiin’ (It’s pronounced like Charlie Sheen with no accent in front).

Onomatopoeia, which not only mimics real sounds and voices but also describes atmosphere and emotions, is characteristic unique to the Japanese language, which has by far more than other languages. A dictionary lists about 4500 words (excluding the new words created by recent comic book writers). Being 1% of the total vocabulary we can’t do without them.

Some of them are somewhat similar to other languages: ‘gira gira’ is used when the sun is ‘glaring’ in English, ‘pokkori’ is used to describe round mound or tummy like ‘puke’ in Maori.

Foreigners who study Japanese find them both amusing and challenging. You can make a game out of learning them. What does ‘pika pika mean? When do you use ‘doki doki’? screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-2-28-29-pm


This YouTube video shows the guessing game of onomatopoeia, and there are some websites listing and explaining them.

YouTube Japanese onomatopoeia

List of Japanese onomatopoeia

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