Unlike English, Japanese relies heavily on onomatopoeia, which is split into different categories, in daily conversation.
擬声語 – animal and human sounds
擬音語 – sounds of nature and inanimate objects
擬態語 – sounds of conditions and states
擬容語 – sounds of movements and motions
擬情語 – words that describe emotions
There are many extensive lists online, but we will not be covering every single one in every post we make about onomatopoeia, rather we will gradually introduce useful ones used in daily life so you can learn them a little bit at a time so make sure to come back for more!!
One thing we want to stress out is the importance of getting a feel for those words instead of just saying them. For example, in number 2 below, it is a word that gives the feeling of how the rain is falling, rather than a mere explanation of some scientific phenomenon. When it is raining hard people say 雨がザーザー降っている (it is raining really hard!). This concept of “feeling” and “sensing” the meanings of onomatopoeia is essential to understanding and speaking the language more deeply.
Some of these may not always show up as a distinct word in the English translation, which just goes to show that the usage in Japanese is different than in English, but they’re used quite often in Japanese nonetheless. When teachers at my school are talking, sometimes I miss the whole meaning of the sentence because I do not understand the exact onomatopoeia they are using.
Here are the first five:
1- ポロポロ* – in large drops
I often drop things from my bag.
2- パラパラ – sparse / scattered
People are gathering here and there.
It is sprinkling rain.
3- ペラペラ – fluently / incessantly
I want to speak Japanese fluently.
4- バラバラ – scattered / loose
I got separated from my family and we fell apart.
The playing cards fell and scattered on the floor.
5- ザクザク – cutting into large pieces
Please cut the cabbage in large pieces.
Notice the particle usage after the different words.
と is used when it is an adverbial meaning.
に is used when it is a change of state.
Nothing is used when the onomatopoeia is followed by する.
*ポロポロ is sometimes followed by する.
Till next time! またね〜
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