Hougang Japanese Language School in Singapore


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Would you like to know what's going on during a lesson? Let's peek at our very first lesson.

Hello, everyone! Welcome to Hougang Japanese Language School. I hope you can enjoy studying Japanese with us.

At first, please let me introduce for a while. My name is Kitahara and I am a principal of this school. You can call me 'Kitahara sensei' or 'Kitahara-san'.

'sensei' means 'teacher' and 'san' is like an English 'Mr, Mrs or Miss'.

I came from Fukuoka which is one of forty seven prefectures in 1975, studied Mandarin in Nanyang Technological University for three years , and started my career as a Japanese teacher right after graduation.

I started to run this school in 1983 and have been teaching the Japanese language since then.

Now, let's begin to study the Japanese language. Before studying Lesson-1, I would like to explain "Pronunciation" and "Writing System" of the Japanese language since it is very important when you study Japanese for the first time.

At first, we study Japanese syllables. "Syllable" means "A unit of spoken language consisting of a single uninterrupted sound formed by a vowel, diphthong, or syllabic consonant alone, or by any of these sounds preceded, followed, or surrounded by one or more consonants.[http://www.thefreedictionary.com/]"
You can skip this part if you know what "vowel", "diphthong" and " "consonant" are.

("Vowel" means "A speech sound, such as (?) or (?), created by the relatively free passage of breath through the larynx and oral cavity, usually forming the most prominent and central sound of a syllable. [http://www.thefreedictionary.com/])")

("Diphthong" means "A complex speech sound or glide that begins with one vowel and gradually changes to another vowel within the same syllable, as (oi) in boil or (?) in fine. [http://www.thefreedictionary.com/])")
(""Consonant" means "A speech sound produced by a partial or complete obstruction of the air stream by any of various constrictions of the speech organs, such as (p), (f), (r), (w), and (h). [http://www.thefreedictionary.com/])")

By learning Japanese syllables, you can pronounce all Japanese sentences properly.

Please look at the handout which I gave you just now. Then, I read the handout.



Basically, Japanese syllables are shown by Hiragana which is one of Japanese writing characters and is one of Japanese syllabaries.

"Syllabary" means "A set of written characters for a language, each character representing a syllable. [http://www.thefreedictionary.com/])"

(Other than Hiragana, we have Katakana syllabary. We study more about Hiragana and Katakana later.)

And the Japanese syllables also can be expressed in the English alphabets although it is slightly different from the actual English pronunciation. We call it Roumaji. (We explain more about Roumaji later.)

For the time being, we use Roumaji to explain the pronunciation of the Japanese language.

The Japanese syllables consist of the vowels 'a', 'i', 'u', 'e' and 'o' or a combination of one consonant sound with a vowel.

Let us pronounce the Japanese syllables chart together. Before pronounce the chart, please see the Note below.


'a' as in farm
'i' as in eel
'u' as in boom
'e' as in egg
'o' as in oak

'y' as in yacht
'w' as in waffle

'k' as in cake
'g' as in glass
's' as in soap
'z' as in zebra
'j' as in jam
't' as in teeth
'd' as in doll
'n'as in noon
'h' as in hat
'f' as in foot
'b' as in ball
'p' as in puppy
'm' as in male
'r' as in radish
one 'n' as in insect

A consonant plus 'ya', 'yu' or 'yo' such as 'cha', 'chu' or 'cho' is pronounced as in "chance", "choose" or "choke".
'sha', 'shu' or 'sho' is pronounced as in "shark", "shoe" or "show".

Please look at the Japanese syllables chart.

At first, I read, and please repeat after me after listening to my pronunciation carefully.

(You can see the chart here.)
Japanese syllables chart with Hiragana

Well, we combine the Japanese syllables to make any Japanese word and sentence such as:
'a' plus 'me' is 'a-me' which means "rain",
'yu' plus 'ki' is 'yu-ki which means "snow" and
'wa' plus 'ta' plus 'shi' plus 'wa' plus 'i' plus 'sha' plus 'de' plus 'su' is 'wa-ta-shi wa i-sha de-su" which means "I am a doctor."

And whenever you pronounce the Japanese syllables, Japanese words or Japanese sentences which are expressed in the English alphabets, please pronounce in Japanese way.

If you are not sure how to pronounce, please ask me.

Next, let me explain about "Long Vowels and Double Consonants." I read the handout.


Long Vowels and Double Consonants

Some Japanese words have long vowels (They are written in Roumaji as in 'aa', 'ii' , 'uu', 'ei' and 'ou' or '?, '?', '?', '?' and 'o-'. In this textbook, the former writing is used.).

When we make the vowel sound long, we simply pronounce it a bit longer than the normal vowel. Its length is twice the normal vowel. If we do not pronounce long vowels properly, misunderstanding may occur. See examples.

'o-ba-a-sa-n' means "grandmother."
'o-ba-sa-n' means "aunt."

'bi-i-ru' means "beer."
'bi-ru' means "building."

Some Japanese words have double consonant (kk, pp, ss and tt). When we pronounce the double consonant, we hold our breath a little bit after pronouncing the one syllable before the double consonant. If you do not pronounce this double consonant properly, you will have some misunderstandings. See examples.

'shi-t-te ku-da-sa-i' means "Please know."
'shi-te ku-da-sa-i' means "Please do."

'sa-k-ki' means "a little time ago."
'sa-ki' means "point."

So, whenever you see the words which have the long vowels and double consonants, please pronounce them properly.

Let's practice to pronounce the words on the whiteboard.


o-ji sa-n = uncle
o-ji-i sa-n = grandfather

do-ro = mud
do-u-ro = road

yu-me = dream
yu-u-me-i = famous

yu-ki = snow
yu-u-ki = courage

i-ki = breath
i-k-ki = in one go

ki-te ku-da-sa-i = please come ki-t-te ku-da-sa-i = please cut

Well, I am going to explain about the Japanese writing system. Please look at the handout.


Writing System

Most of the Japanese sentences are composed of three kinds of letter: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji.

Hiragana and Katakana are phonetic characters. There are no specific meanings in Hiragana and Katakana. They show a certain sound or syllable.

Mainly, Hiragana is used to write the particles, conjunctions, some adverbs, the ending of verbs and adjective that conjugate. Some words are also written in Hiragana.

Some Japanese words transliterated from non-Japanese language such as English, French, Malay, etc. To write the transliterated words in Japanese, we use Katakana.

Example: 'rajio' made from English "radio", 'terebi' made from English "television", 'kouhii' made from English "coffee".

(Note that the pronunciation of the transliterated words are slightly (sometimes much) different from those of the original languages.)

And also we use Katakana to write non-Japanese names and places. However, Hiragana can be used if you do not know how to write Katakana.

Kanji (Chinese characters for the Japanese language) was imported from China. Please note that there is a great difference between Kanji and Chinese characters although they look similar because Kanji developed independently in Japan after being imported a long time ago. About 2,000 Kanji are used commonly.

Basically, all Japanese sentences can be written in Hiragana. So, it is very important to learn Hiragana as soon as possible. Then, you should learn Katakana and Kanji.

We have English alphabet for the Japanese language - known as Roumaji that is not used generally. It is only used to teach the Japanese language to learners who do not know how to read and write Japanese writing characters.

Where pronunciation is concerned Roumaji is different from English alphabet. Roumaji is used to help you pronounce Japanese writing characters (Hiragana and Katakana) until you can memorize them.

Let me summarize what we read just now.

When we write English sentences, we use English alphabets. When we write Chinese sentences, we use Chinese characters or use Han Yi Pin Yin once in a while.

Regarding Japanese, we normally mix there characters which are Hiraganna, Katakana and Kanji to write sentences. Which character to use depends on the word in the sentence.

I give you example. Look at the whiteboard, please.


I drink coffee.

我喝珈琲。 (wo he ke fei)

私はコーヒーを飲みます。 (watashi wa kouhii o nomimasu.)
- 私 / 飲 --- Kanji
- は / を / みます --- Hiragana
- コーヒー --- Katakata
- watashi wa kouhii o nomimasu --- Roumaji

Among these three characters, Hiragana is the most important because all Japanese sentences can be written in Hiragana as follows.


So, it is very important to master Hiragana as soon possible.

In this Elementary-1 course, we don’t study Katakana and Kanji, so please concentrate on memorizing Hiragana.

It is a bit tough to memorize Hiragana, however, if you memorize 46 basic Hiragana, you can read the complete Japanese Syllables Chart in Hiragana instead of reading in Roumaji.

We made Hiragana Picture Association Chart for you so that you can memorize Hiragana without any difficulties. So, please download here.

Hiragana Picture Association Chart

Next, let's study the Japanese greetings which are very useful for our daily life. At first, I read and then you follow me, please.


A: o-ha-yo-u / go-za-i-ma-su. (Good morning.)
B: o-ha-yo-u / go-za-i-ma-su. (Good morning.)

A: ko-n-ni-chi-wa. (Good afternoon.)
B: ko-n-ni-chi-wa. (Good afternoon.)

A: sa-yo-na-ra. (Good bye.)
B: sa-yo-na-ra. (Good bey.)

A: ko-n-ba-n-wa. (Good evening.)
B: ko-n-ba-n-wa. (Good evening.)

A: o-ya-su-mi-na-sa-i. (Good night.)
B: o-ya-su-mi-na-sa-i. (Good night.)

A: do-u-mo / a-ri-ga-to-u / go-za-i-ma-su. (Thank you very much.)
B: i-i-e / do-u / i-ta-shi-ma-shi-te. (You are welcome.)

A: do-u-mo / su-mi-ma-se-n. (I am sorry.)
B: i-i-e / ka-ma-i-ma-se-n. (Never mind.)

A: cho-t-to / su-mi-ma-se-n. (Excuse me,)
B: ha-i / na-n / de-su / ka. (Yes?)

A: ma-ta / a-i-ma-sho-u. (See you.)
B: ma-ta / a-i-ma-sho-u.(See you.)

A: o-ge-n-ki / de-su/ ka. (How are you?)
B: ha-i / o-ka-ge / sa-ma-de / ge-n-ki / de-su. (I am fine.)

A: o-me-de-to-u / go-za-i-ma-su. (Congratulations.)
B: do-u / mo-a-ri-ga-to-u / go-za-i-ma-su. (Thank you very much.)

A: ga-n-ba-t-te / ku-da-sa-i. (Do your best.)
B: ha-i / ga-n-ba-ri-ma-su. (Yes, I will do my best.)

A: o-hi-sa-shi-bu-ri / de-su / ne. (Long time no see.)
B: o-hi-sa-shi-bu-ri / de-su / ne. (Long time no see.)

A: ha-ji-me / ma-shi-te. (How do you do? (Used to say when you see the person for the first time )
B: ha-ji-me / ma-shi-te. (How do you do?)

A: do-u-zo / yo-ro-shi-ku / o-ne-ga-i / shi-ma-su. (Do take care of me.)

A: ki-o-tsu-ke-te / ku-da-sa-i. (Watch out!/ Take care of yourself.)

A: o-ne-ga-i / shi-ma-su. (Do me a favor.)

A: mo-u / i-chi-do / o-ne-ga-i / shi-ma-su. (Please say (repeat) one more time.)

A: ta-n-jo-u-bi / o-me-de-to-u / go-za-i-ma-su. (Happy birthday to you!)

A: a-ke-ma-shi-te / o-me-de-to-u / go-za-i-ma-su. (Happy New Year!)

I would like to greet you, so please reply me.

{Q and A sessions}

Now, let's study Lesson 1. Look at page 4 of your textbook. This is the list of the new vocabularies which we use in Lesson 1. So, please repeat after me and learn the proper pronunciation of the word.

{Read the textbook page 4.}

In Lesson 1, we study how to identify a person.

In other words, we study how to say “I am Mr Tanaka.”, “He is a student.”, “She is a Japanese”, etc in Japanese.

And also, we study what a particle is. So, I would like to read the handout.


1 'watashi wa gakusei desu.' (I am a student.)

'wa' right after 'watashi' is a particle that is used to show a topic and a subject of the sentence.

What is a particle?

A particle shows the grammatical relationships between the words used before it and some other word in the sentence.

It looks like an English preposition ("at", "in", "of", etc.). However, Japanese particles come after the words.

What is a topic and a subject?

In Japanese, a topic means that what the sentence is about. And a subject means that the thing or the person that performs the action of the verb, or about which something is stated.

In most of the Japanese sentences, a topic and a subject are the same. So, we simply put 'wa' right after a topic and a subject of the sentence. In 1, 'watashi' is a topic and a subject. Therefore, 'wa' follows 'watashi'.

'desu' corresponds with an English be-verb ("is", "are" and "am") and is put at the end of the sentence.

The conception of '(A) wa (B) desu' is that "(A) equals (B)." It is not necessary to change 'desu' into another form no matter what the subject is. ((A) and (B) must be a noun.)

ex.1 watashi wa sensei desu. (I am a teacher.)
ex.2 anata wa gakusei desu. (You are a student.)
ex.3 anata wa sensei desu. (You are a teacher.)
ex.4 anata wa kaishain desu. (You are an employee.)
ex.5 kare wa kaishain desu. (He is an employee.)
ex.6 kare wa mushoku desu. (He is jobless.)
ex.7 kanojo wa Nihon-jin desu. (She is a Japanese.)
ex.8 kanojo wa Shingapouru-jin desu. (She is Singaporean.)
ex.9 Kimura-san wa jieigyou desu. (Mr Kimura is a self-employed person.)

We can describe one's nationality by adding '-jin' to the name of the country.
2. '-san' is used for addressing people. It is added after the name. It can be used for all people regardless of gender, marriage status, but never used when we mention our own name.

Well, let’s practice using what we studied just now.

B-san, please translate the English sentences on the whiteboard in Japanese, please.

{Mr B translates the Japanese sentences below in English.}

1 I am a teacher.
2 You are a teacher.
3 He is a teacher.
4 She is a teacher.
5 Mr is a teacher.
6 We are teacher.

Yoku dekimashita! (Well done!)

Well, we translate some more Japanese into English.

1 I am a student.
2 You are a student.
3 He is a student.
4 She is a student.
5 Mr is a student.
6 We are students.

7 I am an employee.
8 You are an employee.
9 He is an employee.
10 She is an employee.
11 Mr Tan is an employee.
12 You all are employees.

13 I am a trainee.
14 You are a trainee.
15 He is a trainee.
16 She is a trainee.
17 Mr Tan is a trainee.
18 They are trainees.

19 I am self-employed.
20 You are self-employed.
21 He is self-employed.
22 She is self-employed.
23 Mr Tan is self-employed.
24 We are self-employed.

25 I am Japanese.
26 You are Singaporean.
27 He is Malaysian.
28 She is Korean.
29 Mr Tan is Chinese.
30 I am healthy.

Yoku dekimashita. Well, we go to the next grammar. Please go back to the handout.


2 watashi wa gakusei dewa arimasen. (I am not a student.)

'-dewa arimasen' is the negative of 'desu'. It means "is not/ are not/ am not". In daily conversation, '-ja arimasen' is used commonly.

ex.1 watashi wa sensei dewa arimasen. (I am not a teacher.)
ex.2 anata wa gakusei dewa arimasen. (You are not a student.)
ex.3 anata wa sensei dewa arimasen. (You are not a teacher.)
ex.4 anata wa kaishain dewa arimasen. (You are not an employee.)
ex.5 kare wa kaishain dewa arimasen. (He is not an employee.)
ex.6 kare wa mushoku ja arimasen. (He is not jobless.)
ex.7 kanojo wa Nihon-jin ja arimasen. (She is not Japanese.)
ex.8 kanojo wa Shingapouru-jin ja arimasen. (She is not Singaporean.)
ex.9 Tanaka-san wa jieigyou ja arimasen. (Mr Tanaka is not a self-employed person.)

{practice sessions}


3 anata wa gakusei desu ka? (Are you a student?)

To make a Japanese question sentence, we simply put 'ka', which is a particle used to make a question, at the end of the sentence.

ex.1 anata wa sensei desu ka? (Are you a teacher?)
ex.2 kare wa dokushin desu ka? (Is he single?)
ex.3 kare wa Kankoku-jin desu ka? (Is he a Korean?)
ex.4 kanojo wa mushoku desu ka? (Is she jobless?)
ex.5 kanojo wa meido desu ka? (Is she a maid?)
ex.6 Tanaka-san wa shufu desu ka? (Is Mrs Tanaka a housewife?)

anata wa Nihon-jin desu ka? (Are you a Japanese?)

hai, [watashi wa] Nihon-jin desu. (Yes, I am Japanese.) /
hai, sou desu. 3 (Yes, I am.)

iie, [watashi wa Nihon-jin dewa arimasen.] (No, I am not.)
[watashi wa] Shingapouru-jin desu. (I am a Singaporean.)

You are free to leave out the words in [ ].

1. Basically, 'hai' means "Yes" and 'iie' means "No." However, the exact meaning of 'hai' is "what you have said is right" and that of 'iie' is "what you have said is wrong."

Thus, you have to be careful to answer the negative question in Japanese. For example, to answer 'anata wa Tanaka-san dewa arimasen ka? (Aren’t you Mr Tanaka?)', 'hai, Tanaka dewa arimasen (No, I am not Tanaka.)' should be used if you are not Mr Tanaka, and 'iie, Tanaka desu (Yes, I am Tanaka.)' should be used if you are Mr Tanaka.

2. We can leave out a topic or a subject of the sentence when both the speaker and the listener already know it.

3. 'hai, sou desu' means "Yes, I am / you are / he is / she is / it is, etc." It is used so as to avoid repeating the noun in the answer. Thus, it cannot be replaced by the verb and the adjective.

Q: anata wa gakusei desu ka? (Are you a student?)

hai, [watashi wa] gakusei desu. (Yes, I am a student.) /
hai, sou desu. (Yes, I am.)

iie, [watashi wa gakusei ja arimasen.] (No, I am not.)
[watashi wa] kaishain desu. (I am an employee.)

Q: kare wa kaishain desu ka? (Is he an employee?)
hai, [kare wa] kaishain desu. (Yes, he is an employee.) /
hai, sou desu. (Yes, he is.)

iie, [kare wa gakusei ja arimasen.] (No, he is not.)
[kare wa] mushoku desu. (He is jobless.)

New Question-Word:
anata wa donata * (dare) desu ka? (Who are you?)
[watashi wa] Tanaka desu. (I am Tanaka.)

kanojo wa donata * (dare) desu ka? (Who is she?)

[kanojo wa] Satou-san desu. (She is Mrs Satou.)

*'donata' and 'dare' are question-words for asking who the person is. Both mean "who." However, 'donata' is more polite expression than 'dare'. In Japanese, it is not necessary to change the word order by using the question-word.

{practice sessions}


4 watashi mo gakusei desu. (I am a student, too.)

'mo' is a particle that means "also", "too" or "as well". It replaces a particle, 'wa'.

ex.1 anata mo Chuugoku-jin desu. (You are also a Chinese.)
ex.2 anata mo gakusei desu ka? (Are you also a student?)
ex.3 kare mo shachou desu ka? (Is he a company president as well?)
ex.4 Suzuki san mo Shingapouru-jin dewa arimasen. (Mr. Suzuki is not a Singaporean too.)

{practice sessions}


Conversation - jiko shoukai (Self-Introduction) -

konnichi wa. hajime mashite. (1)

watashi wa Tanaka to moushimasu. (2)

douzo yoroshiku onegai shimasu. (3)

watashi wa Tan to moushimasu.

kochira koso douzo yoroshiku onegai shimasu. (4)

shitsurei desu ga, Tan-san wa gakusei desu ka? (5)(6)

hai, sou desu. gakusei desu. Tanaka-san wa? (7)

watashi wa kaishain desu.


(1) 'hajime mashite' means "How do you do?" In Japan, this greeting is used when we meet someone for the first time. After this greeting, we shake hands with each other.

(2) '...to moushimasu' is used when you are introducing your name. In this case, 'desu' is seldom used.

(3) 'douzo yoroshiku onegai shimasu' means "Nice to meet you."

(4) 'kochira koso' means "me, too" or "It is I who should say so".

(5) 'shitsurei desu ga' means "Excuse me, but ..." It is used when asking personal questions such as one's age, marriage status and name we have forgotten and so on.

(6) In Japan, the name is usually used rather than 'anata' when addressing to a person or asking a question about a person whom you talk with.

(7) '...wa?' is pronounced with a rising intonation. This is a kind of question and means "How about …?"


A: Good afternoon. How do you do? My name is Tanaka. Nice to meet you.
B: I'm Tan. Nice to meet you.
A: Excuse me, but are you a student?
B: Yes, I am. How about you?
A: I'm a company employee.

Note: Japanese Name
Here are typical Japanese names (written in Kanji).
田中 太郎 It reads Tanaka Tarou. Tanaka is a family name.
木村 春子 It reads Kimura Haruko. Kimura is a family name.
When we tell our name to non-Japanese people, we normally say a given name first like Tarou Tanaka, Haruko Kimura.

Well, that's all for our first lesson.

If you would like to study more, call us at 62827590 (Hougang School) or 62738434 (Alexandra School) right now. Hope I see you soon! (*^-^*) I summarise what we are going to study at each lesson below.

Lesson 1 How to Identify a Person
Lesson 2 How to Identify a Thing
Lesson 3 How to Identify a Place
Lesson 4 How to Tell Time and Days of a Week / Basic Usage of Japanese Verb
Lesson 5 How to Tell Days of The Month / Usage of Directional Verb
Lesson 6 How to Describe What You Do (Direct Object of Verb)
Lesson 7 How to Show Means and How to Say Give or Get
Lesson 8 How to Show How Things, Persons and Animals are (Adjective)
Lesson 9 How to Show The Characteristics
Lesson 10 How to Say Where Things or Persons is/ Exists
Lesson 11 How to Count Items
Lesson 12 How to Compare Items
Lesson 13 How to Show Your Wish and Purpose / Verious Adverbs
Lesson 14 Number of Verb / TE-form of Verb and Usage of TE-form (How to Make a Request and How to Show Continuity)
Lesson 15 How to Permit and Prohibit
Lesson 16 How to Join Sentences and Adjectives
Lesson 17 How to Make NAI-form and Usage of NAI-form (How to Make a Negative Request and to Show Obligation and Unnecessity)
Lesson 18 How to Make Dictionary-form and Usage of Dictionary-form (How to Show Ability)
Lesson 19 How to Make TA-form and Usage of TA-form (How to Show Experience and Advice)
Lesson 20 Plain-style-sentence and Polite-style-sentence
Lesson 21 How to Quote a Sentence
Lesson 22 How to Say 'When doing ....'
Lesson 23 How to Modify a Noun by a Sentence (Relative Clause)
Lesson 24 How to Change a Verb to a Noun
Lesson 25 How to Say 'If ...'
Lesson 26 How to Show Ability 2
Lesson 27 How to Say Give or Get 2
Lesson 28/29/30 Grammar Summary of Beginner 1, 2 and Intermediate 1
Lesson 31 Conditional-form (How to Say 'if ...' 2)
Lesson 32 Volitional-Verb (How to Show Your Volition and Intention)
Lesson 33 How to Command and Order
Lesson 34 How to Imply Your Doubt, Surprise, Wonder, etc
Lesson 35 How to Say 'While ...' and How to Show Many Actions and Repeated Actions
Lesson 36 How to Describe a Reason
Lesson 37 How to Say '... so that ...'
Lesson 38 Passive-sentence (I am done ... by someone)
Lesson 39 Indirect Question
Lesson 40 How to Show Continuity 2
Lesson 41 How to Say 'do ... beforehand' and 'leave it do as it is'
Lesson 42 How to Change a Verb to a Noun 2
Lesson 43 How to Show Hearsay and Guess
Lesson 44 How to Show Hearsay and Guess 2
Lesson 45 How to Say 'be about to do ...' and 'be in th midst of doing ...' and 'have just done ...'
Lesson 46 Causative-sentence (I make[let] someone do ...)
Lesson 47 How to Say Give or Get 3
Lesson 48 Honorific-Verb and Humble-Verb
Lesson 49/50 Grammar Summary of Intermediate 2 and Advance 1
J.L.P.T.3 At first, we study J.L.P.T.3 Grammar Note that is especially prepared for students of Hougang Japanese Language School. Then we study past test papers and listening comprehension of J.L.P.T.3.
J.L.P.T.2 At first, we study J.L.P.T. 2 Grammar Textbook (Published by ALC) that explains important Grammar of J.L.P.T.2 with step-by-step method. And also study 4000 (four thousand) Basic Vocabularies. Then we study past test papers and listening comprehension of J.L.P.T.2.
J.L.P.T.1 At first, we study vocabularies of J.L.P.T.1. Then we study past test papers and listening comprehension of J.L.P.T.1.

We are looking forwrd to seeing you in the class (*^-^*).

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