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Two months into his job, the feline Palmerston is already looking to expand his outreach to a global scale.

As someone who started studying Japanese back in an era when that wasn’t nearly as common an endeavor as it is now, I’m always happy when I hear about someone else starting out on that linguistic path, be they man, woman, or cat.

Among the staff members at the U.K.’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office is Palmerston, the Chief Mouser. Palmerston assumed his position in April of this year, and his primary duties include catching the occasional mouse that’s infiltrated the facility and posing with visiting foreign dignitaries. Oh, and acquiring Twitter followers, which he’s done an outstanding job of by attracting some 16,000 in the two months he’s been tweeting.

And now, to support the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s goal of connecting with the rest of the world, Palmerston is seemingly learning Japanese.

In his most recent tweet (as of this writing), Palmerston poses in front of 24 Tasks for Basic Modern Japanese, which is by all means a far better starting textbook choice than, say, 24 Tasks for Advanced, Antiquated Japanese. He also seems to be getting himself in the mood by decorating his surroundings with a large photo of a group of geisha. They don’t really have anything to do with language per se, but perhaps like so many before him, some small part of Palmerston’s attraction to a foreign country’s language stems from an attraction to members of its opposite sex.

In any case, Palmerston’s efforts look to be already paying off, as his first Japanese tweet is not only grammatically correct, but charming and comical. And since we’re sure no one wants to fall behind a cat in their studies, let’s break down the message, which in Japanese is:

日本の皆さん、こんにちは。どこかにネズミはいないかにゃ?
Nihon no mina-san, konnichiwa. Doko ka ni nezumi ha inai ka nya?

Starting off, we’ve got Nihon no mina-san, which means “people of Japan,” followed by konnichiwa, the most broadly encompassing Japanese greeting.

Next up is Doko ka ni, which can mean “somewhere” or “anywhere” depending on the context and nezumi, or “mice” (written in katakana, as animal names are another common use for the phonetic script that’s mainly used for writing foreign loanwords). The ha that comes next is a grammatical subject marker, and inai is the negative form of iru, “to exist.”

Now if this was a human speaking, they’d finish off with ka na, a grammatical ending showing a question with a bit of doubt or uncertainty attached to it. But since Palmerston is a cat, he instead goes with ka nya, giving his question a feline purr from nya, the Japanese onomatopoeia for “meow.”

Put it all together, and Palmerston’s message translates as:

“Hello, people of Japan! I wonder if there are any mice around (meow).”

Responses from Japan have included:

▼ “Nope, no mice here (meow).”

▼ “Maybe there are some hiding in this lantern.”

▼ “There are a lot of mice in my attic LOL so I’ll be waiting for you here in Japan.”

Looks like Palmerston’s Japanese-language debut is a success, and we can’t wait to hear what he’s got to say next.

You can follow Casey on Twitter, but unfortunately he can’t help you with any mouse-related problems.

Source: IT Media
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