Japanese

HOME > Waei Gorin Shūsei > Waei Gorin Shūsei topics : The relationship with S.R. Brown's Colloquial Japanese

The relationship with S.R. Brown's Colloquial Japanese

Colloquial Japanese

Samuel Robbins Brown (1810-1880) came to Japan in 1859 as a missionary for the American Dutch Reformed Church, and resided with Hepburn in Jōbutsuji in Kanagawa. In 1863, four years later, he published Colloquial Japanese, or, Conversational sentences and dialogues in English and Japanese, together with an English-Japanese index to serve as a vocabulary and an introduction on the grammatical structure of the language in Shanghai through the Presbyterian Mission Press. This conversation book is now regarded as a valuable resource as a record of the words of the educated classes during the Edo era.

Brown met Hepburn in Singapore before he came to Japan, and shared a residence with him during Hepburn's time in Kanagawa; even after Hepburn had moved to his Yokohama residence, the two maintained an intimate relationship, to the extent that he continued to help Hepburn with his translation of The Bible.

Indexes and vocabulary tabeles

Pages 203 to 243 of Brown's Colloquial Japanese contain the indexes and vocabulary tabeles of 1,270 examples and 150 dialogue sentences recorded in the book. The book proceeds from A to Y, and is designed for the reader to be able to search for example sentences related to English words: if one was to search for "anybody," an index exists to show that it means "anyone, whoever, see Example 5." It is a simple dictionary, and interesting for words at the level of "do," "get," or "take."

It is easy to assume that Hepburn spent many of his days with Brown in pursuit of studying the Japanese language, and that naturally this influenced the compilation of the Waei Gorin Shūsei in a multitude of ways, yet research into the topic remains scarce.
Moreover, this conversation book was printed four years before the Waei Gorin Shūsei in 1867, at the same American Presbyterian Missionary Press in Shanghai, with the Japanese set in katakana type.
While the Japanese kanji and katakana used on the title page of the Waei Gorin Shūsei was supposedly the work of Kishida Ginkō, who was it that wrote the katakana for Colloquial Japanese? While the Waei Gorin Shūsei from the same time is often thought to be the first printed book to have set Japanese horizontally, it may be that Brown's Colloquial Japanese was in fact the first to do so.

PAGE TOP