User:Retropunk/Japanese Curriculum/Lesson 1

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Conversation[edit]

スミスさん: あの, やまださん です か。
: いいえ、じゃ ありません。.
スミスさん: すみません。
...
スミスさん: あの, やまださん です か?
やまださん: はい、 やまだです. スミスさん です か。
スミスさん:  はい、スミス です。 はじめまして。 よろしくおねがいします。
やまださん: はじめまして。 よろしくおねがいします。

Translated:
Mr. Smith: Um, are you Mr. Yamada?
A man: No, I'm not.
Mr. Smith: Oh, I'm sorry.
...
Mr. Smith: Um, are you Mr. Yamada?
Mr. Yamada: Yes、 I am. Are you Mr. Smith?
Mr. Smith:  Yes, I am. Nice to meet you.
Mr. Yamada: Nice to meet you, too.

Vocabulary[edit]

English Japanese Reading Notes
Umm, excuse me あの
Mr, Mrs さん A type of honorific
to be です the polite Japanese copula
no いいえ
yes はい
am not じゃ ありません polite negative form of です
nice to meet you, or how do you do はじめまして
Please favor me with your friendship よろしくおねがいします
question particle

Expressions[edit]

はじめまして

This expression is only used when you first meet someone and has the same meaning as "Nice to meet you" or "How do you do?"

よろしくおねがいします

This expression is difficult to translate into English. It's a greeting statement that's common after 「はじめまして」. In this context, it's like asking "Please favor me with your friendship" or "I'm looking forward to working with you." There are many different levels of politeness for this expression. From most polite to casual, we have

どうぞよろしくおねがいします
よろしくおねがいします
どうぞよろしく
よろしく

The decision to which to use depends on the listener. 「よろしくおねがいします」 is polite enough for most circumstances.

Grammar Overview[edit]

The question particle[edit]

The kana 「か」 is used at the end of the sentence, after a verb, to indicate that the sentence is a question or doubt. The use of a question mark is optional, and most of the time a 「。」 is used. Some people must substitute the 「か」 with the question marker, but even in these cases the sound is still spoken.


The さん Honorific[edit]

  • 〜さん (-san) is an honorific suffix denoting Mr., Miss, Mrs., or Ms.
すずき さん
Suzuki-san
Mr/Ms Suzuki.

This should be used when speaking to someone of higher status (e.g., your boss) or out of respect to another individual. There are many more honorifics that may be used. You do not attach an honorific to your own name. However, there are exceptions to this (e.g., sensei.)

Common honorifics
Honorific Usage
san most common honorific
chan informal version of san
kun mainly used for younger males
sensei used for teachers/doctors
senpai used for senior colleagues/mentors
kouhai opposite of senpai

What is a copula?[edit]

In English, the verb 'to be' serves two purposes: It acts as the copula, and it acts as the verb for existence. However, in many languages, including Japanese, these two verbs are separate—so it helps to have an understanding of the difference between the two usages.

A copula can be thought of as an equals sign: it equates two things to each other. In the sentence "That is a dog," 'is' is the copula. In the sentence "The dog is inside," you don't mean that 'the dog' and 'inside' are the same thing; you mean that the dog exists inside.

These two usages have different verbs in Japanese, so it'd be good to get used to it now. Here are some examples:

Using 'to be' as a copula:

  • That man is the president.
  • Joe is a salesman.
  • The dog is a golden retriever.
  • This paper is my report.

Using 'to be' to mean existence:

  • Sara is outside.
  • The plate is on the table.
  • The watch is on my wrist.
  • They are at the mall.
  • There is John.

In Japanese, です is the copula. It is used to equate two things, not used for existence of an item. Japanese uses two separate verb to express existence of inanimate and animate items. Wikipedia has a detail entry on the copula, its basic use, and its use in various languages. The negative form of です is じゃ ありません. This is an example of verb conjugation. As you would imagine, this would mean two items are not equal to each other.

です Conjugation
Type of speech Verb
Non-past です
Past じゃ ありません
Examples1
Japanese Translation
pencil です (This) is a pencil.
dictionary じゃ ありません. (This) is not a dictionary.
John です I'm John.
John-san じゃ ありません (That) is not John.

1Note, these are loose translations since there's no topic described. These examples are meant to illustrate the use of the copula.

Predicates[edit]

English Predicates[edit]

In English, we learn that a sentence consists of a subject and a predicate. The predicate of a sentence indicates what the subject is, what the subject does, or what happens to the subject. For example, in the English sentence:

John is a baseball player.

The subject is "John", and the predicate is "is a baseball player". The sentence is about John, but it states that John is something, namely he "is a baseball player." In English, the predicate of a simple sentence starts with the verb and continues to the end of the sentence.

Japanese Predicates[edit]

In Japanese, a complete sentence must have a predicate, but the subject can be implied rather than stated, which is exactly the case more often than not. The Japanese equivalent of the above sentence would be (informal/formal ending):

ジョンは野球(やきゅう)選手(せんしゅ)だ/です。
Jon wa yakyuu senshu da / desu.

However, if you were already talking about John, his name would not be mentioned again and the sentence would be shortened to:

野球(やきゅう)選手(せんしゅ)だ/です。
Yakyuu senshu da / desu.

In Japanese, when you want to form a predicate with a noun, the structure to use is:

Noun Predicate Formation
Type of speech Japanese Roomaji
Formal NOUN です NOUN desu
Informal NOUN だ NOUN da

Japanese particles (助詞 joshi) are a Japanese part of speech consisting of suffixes or short words which follow other words such as nouns, verbs and adjectives, to indicate a wide range of grammatical and discursive (communicative) functions. For instance, particles are used to indicate, or mark, the subject, direct object, and so on; in English, this task is normally performed by word order. Particles may also indicate the speaker's assertiveness, certitude, or other feelings. Note that a particle cannot exist by itself, it always follows another word or phrase.

Quick explanations[edit]

  • 〜さん (-san) is an honorific suffix denoting Mr., Miss, Mrs., or Ms.
すずき さん
Suzuki-san
Mr/Ms Suzuki.
  • The easiest Japanese sentence contains just one word followed by です. です is the Japanese Copula, linking two words much like the English word "to be". For example: そうです - soo desu, meaning "it is so". Note that very often the subject will be implied in Japanese, and です doesn't change for different people, so if you see ぐみです that could mean "I am Gumi" or "He is Gumi" (or even "you are Gumi" or "they are Gumi" or anything "be Gumi") depending on the context.
  • To turn any sentence into a yes/no question, add the particle か : そうですか? - Is that so? か is used at the end of the sentence, after a verb, to the point that it has become synonymous with a question mark. Some people don't write か anymore and just write ? (still pronouncing the "ka" though). But in most cases you will see "か。" at the end of a question - the "?" is optional as か is marker enough.
  • When meeting somebody for the first time, say "はじめまして" (nice to meet you). Don't say this when you've met them before. Also don't forget the phrase "よろしくおねがいします" (please be kind to me). Japanese is full of funny polite expressions like that.