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Friday, June 29, 2012

Essential Phrases and Body Language #4

Gesture #4: Showing appreciation for the meal
Actual Gesture: Holding both hands together and lightly bowing your head
It's Function?: It's as the name says, specifically, for all the things that had to happen just for the meal to appear on the plate (which, when you think about the farming, packing, cooking and so on, is quite a lot); for a frame of reference, think about the folks who say grace before a meal(and like saying grace, this is mostly done in the home, and among company)
Any Associated Phrase?: Yes, and this one has two; 「いただきます(Thank you for the meal)」for before the meal begins and 「ご馳走様ちそうさまでした(Thanks for the hospitality)」after it's done
Anything else?: The bow and each phrase are done at the appropriate points they ask for in order to show your gratefulness for the grub, whether each is done at all is up to what the context and the mood call for.

Phrase #4: みません
Literal Meaning: I didn't finish the task at hand
Intent: I'm sorry
Usage: This actually has 2 uses: as both as apology for something and a humble way to thank someone for doing something, like telling you co-worker, "Thanks for picking the slack" when you forget to do the dishes before you jet, and they cover your six by doing it before they head home for the day.
Notes: This comes from the verb to express you did finish doing something, 済む, and all the stuff you just learned also applies when it's used in it's more casual negative form, 済まない(this also includes variations of this, naturally). To specifically say you're sorry for something, you'd use ごめんなさい(the others, you'll pick up as you go)
Example: (saying sorry) パーティーにぎて、済まないな。ひさしぶりのでさけよわいこと わすれたんだ。
(Sorry about getting too blitzed at your party, man. It's been a while, so I forgot I'm a lightweight with the booze)
(saying thank you) たすけて済みません。本当ほんとうありがたい。
(Thank you for the help back there. I really appreciate it)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Essential Phrases and Body Language #3

Gesture #3: Showing something is wrong/you don't know something
Actual Gesture: with the thumb-side of the hand held near the mouth, waving it back and forth
It's Function?: It does as the name says, specifically when there's nothing the person doing it can do to help you out
Any Associated Phrase?: 2 main ones, the one for something being wrong, 「ちがいます」and the one showing they don't know something/can't help you out, 「っていません」
Anything else?: You might see this paired with a shake of the head, just so you understand how little they can do for you. In addition, this can also used, as it is by folks in the West, to demonstrate the presence of disagreeable scents in the air-or in other words, that something stinks to high heaven(though it's not exactly in good taste to do it so blatantly). The context will tell you which is which, so be sure to check your scent, so you can start crossing off reasons the person might be making that gesture
Phrase #3: 失礼しつれいしますが
Literal Meaning: What I'm doing is in bad form, but...
Intent: "Excuse me(and similar meanings in translation)"
1. To pardon yourself when you're something that interrupt what someone's doing(I.E. not being home when someone calls or leaving during the middle of meeting)
2. To excuse your when you have to go somewhere
3. To politely get someone's attention
Notes: 失礼, itself, is a な adjective that describes someone as being rude or impolite
Example: おきゃくさまがいるので、失礼しますが
(There's a guest waiting for me, so pardon the interruption)
(What does she mean by 'guest'?[note: in Japan, “Guest” can also carry the same connotations as 'Aunt Flo,' make of that what you will])

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Essential Phrases and Body Language #2

Gesture #2: Pointing to yourself
Actual Gesture: Pointing to the tip of your nose
It's Function?: It's meant to clarify if the subject of conversation is, indeed, you
Any Associated Phrase?: More like word, that word being 「わたし?(Me?[this also includes any variant of the word you happen to pick up on your travels])」
Anything else?: In contemporary usage, you're more likely to see the version folks in the West use(where someone points to the chest to achieve the same end), and the version first discussed is the more old fashioned iteration; inversely, when the speaker wants to point out who they're speaking with, they point to them, context showing whether or not they mean to be jerks when they do it.

Phrase #2: 大丈夫だいじょうぶですか?
Literal Meaning: "Is your health great?"
Intent: "You alright?(and similar meanings in translation)"
Usage: To ask someone how they're doing, particularly if it doesn't look like they're in good shape, much like the phrase, "Are you OK?"
Notes: It-and other variations of this phrase-can be used to ask both if someone is OK(i.e. If you see someone trip and fall flat on their face in front you, you can ask 「大丈夫ですか?」 to ensure they haven't kicked the bucket), as well as ask permission to do something; it's like when you wanna grab the last donut, but aren't quite sure if everyone else has had one yet, so you ask "Can I grab it?" (いい, in a question, can function the same way)
Example: クリスさん、大丈夫?大山おおやまさん葉「じ自転車てんしゃからちた」といいましたのでっ。
(Are you doing alright, Chris? Oyama told me you fell off of your bicycle, so-)
(Yeah, I'm doing alright, Ms. Wakayama. I mean my leg kind of aches, but other than that I'll be muy bueno, for sure.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Essential Phrases and Body Language

In learning a language, we're often blitzed with grammar and vocabulary and expected to use only that to get our point across; obviously, this approach glosses over much of the other elements that decide how what we want to get across gets across, the most neglected being unspoken communication. The nod of the head, the thumbs down, the middle or pointer finger used to make a point are all among the gestures we use in communication, and without them, we find it much harder to complete the message the way we want to. Japan's society is no different, with not only its own interpretation of those gestures, but also those unique to the culture and their day to day interactions, of which you'll be treated to a sampling of, along with phrases to help you get by and dip your toes into the language.

Each entry aims to break down the gesture/phrase and give you the background info needed to use it well and in the right context-including video examples, where available. By the end of the 20 entry series(10 phrases/10 gestures), you'll have a solid base to work from and that much more ability to interact how you want to and make sure your message rings loud and clear. With all that established, we'll jump right into the first of each, starting with a gesture made famous by a random cat who helped a traveler avoid a bad end with a simple wave of their palm.

Gesture #1: The Beckoning Wave
Actual Gesture: the palm of the person's hand faces the ground and the hand waves inward towards the body

It's Function?: It's meant to signal the person on the receiving end to come closer, similar to the palm-up version used in many Western countries, but much less of a tough guy vibe

Any Associated Phrase?: Yes, and with this one, one of them is 「こっちにおいで!(Over here, please!)」

Anything else?: If you've seeing the waving motion go outwards from the body, it means they're pissed off at the recipient and are telling them to piss off.

What's this about a cat and a traveler?: One possible origin of this gesture and the cat itself, known in Japan as まねねこ, is that a loaded feudal lord, seeking shelter from a thunderstorm, ducked under a tree; that tree happened to be near Gotoku Temple in western Tokyo, home of a broke priest and his cat. The cat made the gesture at him and he, probably curious about what the cat wanted, approached it; not a moment later the tree was struck by lightning, which might've made him a think twice about what do to with his riches after speaking to the priest and learning of his situation. In time, the priest and he became buddies, and the temple prospered as their friendship prospered, perhaps prompting the feudal lord to have a sculpture of the cat made in its beckoning pose when it passed on.

Phrase #1: ありがとう

Literal Meaning: It's tough for this to exist

Intent: Thank you

Usage: Like 'Thank You', it's used when someone does something for you and you want to express appreciation for it, like when you find you don't have money for the last train home, and someone pays your fare

Notes: One possible origin for this phrase is from the full, formal version of this phrase, ありがとうございます, itself derived from the adjective describing being grateful for something, ありがた

Example: 色々いろいろありがとうございます。ごおんけっしてわすれません。 (Thank you for everything you've done. I certainly won't forget the kindness you've shown me)