One aspect of the Japanese language that’s fun to study is onomatopoeia, the words we use to describe the sounds all around us. Naturally, the Japanese have assigned unique words to the physical sounds in their world, for example a dog says wan wan! to the Japanese but woof woof! to us. Some other examples of these sound words are “twinkle twinkle” (kira kira), “drip drop” (potsun potsun) and the sound of rain pouring down (zaa zaa). Some of the sounds they think up can seem quite strange. For example, the “sound” of eyes looking left and right is kyoro kyoro, as in the popular line of bento boxes we sell, which is not something any English speaker would think a sound was needed for. The sound of snow falling has a word, too, shin shin (pronounced “sheen sheen”), which summons up pleasant images of whiteness outside a frosty window. There is a “sound of silence” in Japanese, which is shiiin (“sheen,” with a lengthened vowel). When I make a joke that my kids don’t think is funny, they’ll usually make this sound to highlight how bad my joke was.
The many sound words used in Japanese are fun to learn.