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November 30, 2022

Learn Japanese with Anime: Your Name 君の名は and Japanese Pronouns

君の名は。 is a very popular movie by director 新海(しんかい) (まこと) (Shinkai Makoto). It is a fantasy, time tripping adventure set in modern day Tokyo and rural Japan. In it, the two swap bodies and only vaguely remember the experiences as if they were dreams.

The movie is much better than I make it sound…

The boy is 立花(たちばな) (たき) and the girl is 宮水(みやみず) 三葉(みつは).

But the point is, with this scene, the boy is talking to his friends, but he is really the girl.

Here, we get to an interesting contradiction in Japanese. Pronouns are important in Japanese! But they are rarely used.

Unlike English, Japanese pronouns not only express number and person, but also sometimes gender and social status. (Learn more about Japanese pronouns with this lesson.)

In today’s lesson, the boy (たき) (who is really the girl 三葉(みつは)) is talking with his friends.

The key phrase for today's lesson is:

わたし、わたくし、(ぼく)(おれ)

In English, this would be translated as, “I, I, I, I.”

But remember! In Japanese pronouns also express cultural aspects, social status, and gender (male or female).


The Pronouns

Let’s go over these pronouns before we get to the lines in the scene:

わたし 

The normal “I” or “me” [The kanji is the same as わたくし, (わたし)]

わたくし

A more formal “I” or “me” [The kanji is the same as わたし, (わたくし)]

(ぼく)

I; me [male; humble; used often with boys and younger men]

(おれ)

I; me [male; masculine; sounds stronger than  and is the pronoun of choice for ]

Learn more about Japanese pronouns on this lesson page. Click here.


The Dialogue in Japanese

  • (まえ)さあ どうやったら 通学(つうがく)(みち)(まよ)えんだよ?
  • ああ えーと わたし(・・・)
  • わたし?
  • あっ わたくし
  • ん?
  • (ぼく)
  • はあ?
  • (おれ)
  • うん
  • あ… (おれ) (たの)しかったんやよ


The Dialogue in English

  • How do you get lost on the way to school?
  • Well, I... [わたし standard, but not masculine]
  • I?
  • Oh, I... [わたくし formal and not masculine]
  • Hmm?
  • I? [(ぼく) masculine, but humble]
  • Huh?
  • I? [(おれ) masculine and the pronoun he uses.]
  • Yes...
  • Ah, I ((おれ)) was having fun.

I have no idea how the translators translated this passage (the version of the movie I saw only had Japanese subtitles…), but I would think it would be impossible to convey the humor well.

)


Dialogue Breakdown

(まえ)さあ どうやったら 通学(つうがく)(みち)(まよ)えんだよ?

How do you get lost on the way to school?

  • (まえ) you [between peers and those with lower social status; can be rude]
  • さあ well; c’mon; umm; about that; all right now [さあ is a common conversational filler that expresses an assertion, typically used by males. It can mean many things depending on the context]
  • どうやったら how; in what way (were you able)
  • 通学(つうがく) go to school; commute to school
  • で while (commuting)
  • (みち)に the road; on the way
  • (めい)えんだ able to get lost [potential form of (まよ)う (to get lost); the んだ is used for emphasis and to show he is seeking an explantion; of course, when one has gone to school every day, it should be pretty much impossible to get lost…]
  • よ (emphasis)

ああ えーと わたしわたし?

Well, I...           I?

  • ああ ah; oh [She (in (たき)’s body) realizes the absurdity of what she just said.]
  • えーと umm; let me see; errr…; well [Sometimes written as ええと]
  • わたし I [most common pronoun, but isn’t often used by high school boys; slightly feminine]


あっ わたくし。 ん? (ぼく)? はあ?

Oh, I...              Hmm?              I?                     Huh?

  • あっ Ah [Here, she realizes the boy wouldn’t use わたし]
  • わたくし I (formal) [This pronoun uses the same kanji as わたし. They are both 私. Here, thinking she was being rude, she over corrects by going from the standard わたし pronoun to the more formal わたくし]
  • ん? Huh? [Of course, this is even more absurd for a boy to say among peers.]
  • 僕? I? [This is a possible pronoun, since it is used by boys and young mean, but this humble pronoun isn’t  (たき) ‘s style.]
  • はあ? Huh?


(おれ) うん あ… (おれ) (たの)しかったんやよ

I?         Yes...       Ah, I ((おれ)) was having fun.

  • (おれ) I [masculine; strong sounding]
  • うん yes; yeah
  • あ… Ah…
  • (たの)しかった was fun; enjoyed
  • んやよ [the んや is a form of のだ which is an explanation ender; the よ is for emphasis]

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