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Explanation of subtleties?

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Explanation of subtleties?

Postby Feba » Sat 06.07.2008 2:22 pm

To give a quick explanation that makes sense, instead of rambling, things like:

(どうぞ)よろしく(お願いします) / はじめまして
(どうも)ありがと(ございます)
すみません / ごめん(なさい)

I'm pretty sure the first two are pretty much entirely politeness levels. However, between different words, I don't really see any explanation of which is more polite (for example, どうぞよろしく is better than よろしく, but is はじめまして even more polite? Or is it more casual? If I say it to my new boss, will he be flattered or insulted?) wherever I seem to look.

The third one is more a matter of two words serving similar purposes. From what I can tell, it seems like すみません is more like "I am sorry for causing you trouble", and ごめんなさい is more like "apologies (for x)".

Are there any good places to get more than a 'feel' for what they mean? WWWJDIC is great, but if it can show these things I have no idea how. A native speaker would be useful, but unfortunately I haven't had any friends of the sort in a long time. Is there a 'Dictionary of Politeness' or 'Dictionary of subtle differences' out there? Or is the only way to do it to learn the language, and get used to things as you go?

Mods, I wasn't sure whether to put this under translation help or Learning Materials, so feel free to move it if you think it would fit better elsewhere.
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Re: Explanation of subtleties?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sat 06.07.2008 2:46 pm

Japanese: The Spoken Language is pretty good at providing detailed explanations of a lot of things, including many cultural things like this, and showing their usage through actual situations (including videos of the dialogues on the Internet).

I would not recommend JSL as a primary textbook unless you are taking a class that uses it; it's not a good book for self-study. But if you have access to the books (they're a little expensive), the explanations of the structure and culture can be an invaluable resource.
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Re: Explanation of subtleties?

Postby Feba » Sun 06.08.2008 7:58 am

mm, thanks for the recommendation. I checked it at Amazon, flipped through the pages they have there. I don't think I'd be able to learn much from it because of it's roma-ji. I mean, apart from roma-ji not being a good idea in general (for me, at least. That's an entirely different discussion, though) it's easily the most bizarre system I've seen. I've always been under the impression that roma-ji was supposed to make it easier for westerners to read than hiragana/katakana, but this actually made it harder. That could be because I try to pronounce words (especially new ones) as I read them, but still. Do they stop that later on, or is the entire book like that? Or is there a version published with hiragana? It's always possible to black out roma-ji where they aren't wanted, but it's not always so easy to write in hiragana (especially the 'legible' kind.)
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Re: Explanation of subtleties?

Postby JaySee » Sun 06.08.2008 8:30 am

We used JSL at uni as well for our conversation classes. There are three parts, all of which use romaji exclusively. As the title indicates, the method is aimed at improving your conversational skills, not so much your reading/writing skills (which is why it should preferably be used in a setting where you can actually practice with others, i.e. a classroom). As you will/should be speaking and listening most of the time rather than reading and writing, characters aren't really necessary; even if they were there you would't be dealing with them much, unless you were using the book in a way it wasn't intended to be used.

I have to agree though, that the romanization system used in the book really is an abomination and will take some getting used to.
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Re: Explanation of subtleties?

Postby richvh » Sun 06.08.2008 9:09 am

はじめまして is used only on first meeting; it's short for a longer greeting meaning, more or less, "this is the first time we have met." 【どうぞ】よろしく【お願いします】 can be used just about any time, and has more of a nuance of "treat me nicely."
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Re: Explanation of subtleties?

Postby coco » Sun 06.08.2008 9:23 am

Feba wrote:Are there any good places to get more than a 'feel' for what they mean?
If you have no problem with reading Japanese text, reading good novels would be one of the effective ways to grasp them.

To give a quick explanation that makes sense, instead of rambling, things like:

(どうぞ)よろしく(お願いします) / はじめまして
(どうも)ありがと(ございます)
すみません / ごめん(なさい)

I'm pretty sure the first two are pretty much entirely politeness levels. However, between different words, I don't really see any explanation of which is more polite (for example, どうぞよろしく is better than よろしく, but is はじめまして even more polite?

Generally, long version is more plite.
どうぞよろしくお願いいた(致)します>どうぞよろしくお願いします>よろしくお願いします>どうぞよろしく>よろしく

Originally はじめまして was a short version of 初め(まし)てお目にかかります.
( Some people use 初めてお目にかかります even now instead of はじめまして.)

The third one is more a matter of two words serving similar purposes. From what I can tell, it seems like すみません is more like "I am sorry for causing you trouble", and ごめんなさい is more like "apologies (for x)".


As for すみません / ごめん(なさい), this topic might be help.
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Re: Explanation of subtleties?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sun 06.08.2008 9:40 am

Feba wrote:mm, thanks for the recommendation. I checked it at Amazon, flipped through the pages they have there. I don't think I'd be able to learn much from it because of it's roma-ji. I mean, apart from roma-ji not being a good idea in general (for me, at least. That's an entirely different discussion, though) it's easily the most bizarre system I've seen. I've always been under the impression that roma-ji was supposed to make it easier for westerners to read than hiragana/katakana, but this actually made it harder. That could be because I try to pronounce words (especially new ones) as I read them, but still. Do they stop that later on, or is the entire book like that? Or is there a version published with hiragana? It's always possible to black out roma-ji where they aren't wanted, but it's not always so easy to write in hiragana (especially the 'legible' kind.)


As Jay See says, the romaji are there because the book is based on oral skill rather than reading/writing, but as far as that goes I'm not recommending it for anything other than the English explanations of the structure and culture. The romaji takes a little getting used to (it's based on Kunrei-shiki, which is the normal kind of romanization Japanese people use), but if you know how to pronounce Japanese sounds it only takes a little time to associate "si" with し, "tya" with ちゃ, etc. There would be no need to "black out" the romaji; it's not going to corrupt your brain or anything like that.
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Re: Explanation of subtleties?

Postby Feba » Sun 06.08.2008 10:11 am

Thanks for all these helpful replies :D

richvh, coco, thanks for helping to clarify those. Unfortunately, because I've not been very consistent in studying, I only know basic phrases; I'd probably have to use a dictionary to understand a children's picture book.

Jay, Yudan, I understand that it's inclined towards speaking aloud, but that's why it confuses me so much. It's easy to read "o-I-SI-I" and figure out that it means おいしい, but then I have to figure out how to pronounce it. I suppose I would get used to it though.

Also, Yudan, it's a lot harder to focus on learning one thing when your eyes are constantly staring at something that would be easier to read. If I put "yoroshiku" and よろしく side by side, I'm probably going to instantly recognize the first, and skip reading the second because it's slower. It's kinda like trying to study off flashcards where the answer is right next to the question. Whether you want to read it or not, if your eyes see it you will probably see it, and once you see the answer you can't answer honestly.
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Re: Explanation of subtleties?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sun 06.08.2008 10:24 am

Well, the JSL volumes would not be for developing reading practice, just for the grammatical explanations. Presumably you would have something else that you can practice reading and other general stuff with. I don't think that everything you have needs to be all-in-one.

(Like I said, I think buying all three JSL is a bit expensive, so I wouldn't necessarily recommend it unless you can get them used for a cheap price or can get them from a library. Especially since the explanations are complicated and not everyone takes well to them.)

(The "o-I-SI-I" spelling is only in the pronunciation section; everywhere else in the book that would be written "oisii" without the dashes or capital letters.)
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Re: Explanation of subtleties?

Postby Feba » Sun 06.08.2008 10:41 am

Yudan Taiteki wrote:Well, the JSL volumes would not be for developing reading practice, just for the grammatical explanations. Presumably you would have something else that you can practice reading and other general stuff with. I don't think that everything you have needs to be all-in-one.

I suppose that's true, like how you wouldn't expect kanji study to have a bunch of grammar to mess with.


(The "o-I-SI-I" spelling is only in the pronunciation section; everywhere else in the book that would be written "oisii" without the dashes or capital letters.)


Ah, that's quite a bit better then. I'd probably still get messed up on things like "tu/ti" and such, but that's much better than the pronunciation stuff.


As to finding cheap (text)books, that leads me to a good question; other than Amazon, are there any good places for getting really cheap Japanese books? I've seen some "book trade" things, and I do have plenty of books I could trade, but those seem far more oriented towards fiction than reference.
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Re: Explanation of subtleties?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sun 06.08.2008 11:19 am

It's probably a crapshoot; you can try e-bay or places like that.

Libraries can have some good books too -- in particular, if you have access to a university library that you can borrow from, they sometimes have books (especially older books, some of which are quite good) that you can borrow.
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Re: Explanation of subtleties?

Postby Feba » Sun 06.08.2008 12:11 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:Libraries can have some good books too [...]


Library Search: "Japanese".

Results:
Naruto
Mermaid Melody
Bleach
(something on contemporary art, and some graphic novel I've never heard of)
Okami (Wii, at least)
Trinity Blood
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya


I hope these results are based on popularity, and not relevance. At least then all I have to hate are people that use the library.

I will see if there are any serious books, but given the quality of other things (Everything relating to computers gets one shelf that's smaller than my bookshelf, and with books over a decade old where being archaic is NOT useful) I would be surprised.
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