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Japanese questions

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13 messages over 2 pages: 1
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 Message 9 of 13
20 December 2008 at 3:43am | IP Logged 
With pleasure, just don't rely too much on my Japanese, I'm not in a position to teach anything to others, really!
All in all, my impression is that a bunch of teenagers migh say "bokutachi" (we guys) in situations like "we're going ahead, folks, catch up later". "Wareware" is only used for "we" if you're speaking on behalf of an organization or an ethnic group you belong to. It's pretty solemn in a way. Aliens in a movie might say that, if a specimen is referring to his race, or a Yakuza member speaking of the mob.
I suppose a guy talking to his boss on behalf of a bunch of colleagues would say "watashitachi", a third option and a more neutral "we". The same guy would probably say "wareware" if he was talking with an employee from another company.

The chemistry of Japanese pronouns is really subtle.

You can say "omae" (very informal "you") to your girlfriend, you're kind of expected to if you're a teenager, but I guess you don't really say that to your father. It's not that it's inherently unpolite, but it's a matter of contexts. Try to stop a passerby shouting "oh, omae!" and it sounds like you're looking for a fight (typical provocative line in Samurai movies). Use the same pronoun in a love letter to a girl and it sounds protective and intimate...

Watching tons of native materials with subs is the best way to get an idea. It's surprising how many personal pronouns actually exist: historical characters might refer to themselves as "watakushi", "wagahai" and so on.

The unique humour of the title of Natsume Sooseki's novel "I'm a cat" is usually lost in translation. It's an animal referring to himself as "wagahai wa neko de aru" (something haughty along the lines of: I'm a feline, dear gentlemen). Again, the intentional mismatching of pronouns can have very funny effects, like the transsexual saying "atashi"

Edited by FrancescoP on 20 December 2008 at 9:18am

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 Message 10 of 13
20 December 2008 at 10:20pm | IP Logged 
rob wrote:
Luai_lashire wrote:
There are no informal words for "I" that can be used by girls.

Actually, あたし is the feminine version of ぼく and あたい is the feminine form of おれ, but I have never heard あ
たい in real life. あたし is extremely popular though.

Interesting, and good to know. My teacher told us (her class) that there wasn't, that's why I thought that.
Thank you for your long and detailed post on different pronouns, it's very interesting!
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 Message 11 of 13
21 December 2008 at 4:12pm | IP Logged 
rob wrote:
as in それはちょっと or even just ちょっと。。。 which means "that's a little bit difficult to talk about, so I'd rather not say anything".

I just thought I'd point out that 。 isn't used for ellipses in Japanese. (It might be in online chat or something, I don't know, but I don't see it in the media.) They generally write it like something like this: "ちょっと・・・・"
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 Message 12 of 13
26 December 2008 at 11:30am | IP Logged 
Assuming you're a guy, "boku" is probably the safest word to use in most situations. "Watashi" can make you sound effeminate if used in the wrong context, and "ore" can sound too casual or rude. The different nuances of all the "I" words in Japanese can be very subtle, and in my opinion it's best to stick with "boku" until you come to a better understanding of these subtleties. For girls, "watashi" is almost always the most appropriate. Someone mentioned "atashi", but this is actually somewhat outdated now and only seems to be used by people trying extra-hard to be girlie. For young girls, it seems to be being replaced by "uchi". These days you even hear some girls referring to themselves as "boku", but I wouldn't suggest trying this (or "uchi") unless you are rather fluent in Japanese and are under the age of 20. There are some interesting changes going on in the language now, and the gender differences in speech are disappearing. People of different generations-- especially women and girls-- all speak in completely different ways. It's fascinating, but may present challenges for a foreigner first trying to learn the language. Ideally, you should speak in a way appropriate to your age as well as gender, but this may be difficult to grasp at this point.

I agree that it's best to avoid using "I" or "you" unless the subject would be unclear otherwise, and in fact I think it's best not to say "you" at all-- say the person's name instead. "You" can be rude if used inappropriately, and choosing the wrong "you" word is much worse than choosing the wrong "I" word. I suppose "anata" is relatively more polite than other common words for "you", but even this can be rude when said of a social superior. When said of a child, on the other hand, "anata" can sound awkwardly formal-- "kimi" may be more appropriate. Then again, these differences are very subtle and there is no black and white explanation. So, if you are a beginner as you say, just try to avoid using "I" and "you" as much as possible.

"no hou" is a bit difficult to explain because it's one of those phrases that is over-used to the point that it almost has no meaning in some contexts. The previous person's explanation is basically correct, but then you hear things like... "Dorinku no hou wa dou shimasu ka?" ("What would you like to drink?") I suppose we could try to translate this as something like "Now as for the drink, what would you like?", but basically "no hou" is redundant. It's kind of like the "over" in "They're sitting over at the table in the corner." "Over" is really not necessary, but people say it out of habit. Though of course, as the previous person said, "no hou" is also used when comparing and/or contrasting two things or situations. For example, "Mikan yori ha ringo no hou ga suki." ("I like apples better than oranges.")

As for "sukoshi" and "chotto", I'd say the difference is that "chotto" doesn't always mean "a little". It also has the effect of "softening" a sentence when asking for a favor, criticizing something, etc. For example, "Chotto otearai wo karite mo ii desu ka?" ("Do you mind if I use your bathroom?") Or, "Kirei da kedo chotto chiisai kamo ne" ("It's pretty, but it might be too small.") When the intent is to "soften" the sentence, not to say "a little", "chotto" cannot be replaced with "sukoshi". And the previous person is correct in that "shoushou" is a formal version of "sukoshi". For example, "Shoushou omachi kudasai." ("Wait a moment, please.")

Sorry I'm not a native speaker (are there even any Japanese native speakers on this forum??), but I thought I'd contribute what I can anyway.
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Monox D. I-Fly
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 Message 13 of 13
17 September 2017 at 4:21pm | IP Logged 
As for sukoshi and chotto, I'd say the difference is that chotto doesn't always mean a little. It also has the effect of softening a sentence when asking for a favor, criticizing something, etc. For example, Chotto otearai wo karite mo ii desu ka? (Do you mind if I use your bathroom?) Or, Kirei da kedo chotto chiisai kamo ne (It's pretty, but it might be too small.) When the intent is to soften the sentence, not to say a little, chotto cannot be replaced with sukoshi. And the previous person is correct in that shoushou is a formal version of sukoshi. For example, Shoushou omachi kudasai. (Wait a moment, please.)[/QUOTE wrote:

So, if someone asked me "Anata wa Nihon-go dekiru ka?" should I answer with "Chotto dake" or "Sukoshi dake"?

So, if someone asked me "Anata wa Nihon-go dekiru ka?" should I answer with "Chotto dake" or "Sukoshi dake"?

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