Emily, an exchange student, is staying with the Yamamoto family and is heading out in the morning.
Emily: Anou, ima nan-ji desu ka. Um, what time is it (now)?
Yamamoto: Etto…hachi-ji desu yo. Let’s see…it’s eight o’clock.
Emily: Ja, itte kimasu.
じゃ、行ってきます。Well, see you later.
Outside, Emily sees Mr. Tanaka, a neighbor.
Emily: Ii otenki desu nee. It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?
Tanaka: A, Emily-san, gakkou desu ka.Oh, Michael. Are you going to school?
Emily: Ie, kyou wa gakkou ja nai desu. No, not school, today.
Arubaito desu. I’m working.
ima いま今 now
nan-ji なんじ何時 what time
desu です is X
etto えっと let’s see… (hesitation noise)
hachi-ji はちじ八時 eight o’clock
ii いい good
o- お affix indicating politeness
tenki てんき天気 weather
otenki おてんきお天気 weather (polite)
ii otenki いいおてんきいいお天気 good weather
gakkou がっこう学校 school
ja nai desu じゃないです is not X
arubaito あるばいとアルバイト part-time job (of students), side job
＋baito ばいとバイト abbreviated form of arubaito
＋~han〜 はん半 half (past the hour)
＋ame あめ雨 rain
＋yuki ゆき雪 snow
＋atsui あつい暑い hot
＋samui さむい寒い cold
＋shigoto しごと仕事 work, job
＋kaisha かいしゃ会社 company, work
＋kaimono かいもの買い物 shopping
＋sanpo さんぽ散歩 walk
＋yasumi やすみ休み time off, absence, (store) closed
Ichi-ji いちじ一時 1 o’clock
Ni-ji にじ二時 2 o’clock
San-ji さんじ三時 3 o’clock
Yo-ji よじ四時 4 o’clock
Go-ji ごじ五時 5 o’clock
Roku-ji ろくじ六時 6 o’clock
Shichi-ji しちじ七時 7 o’clock
Hachi-ji はちじ八時 8 o’clock
Ku-ji くじ九時 9 o’clock
Juu-ji じゅうじ十時 10 o’clock
Juu-ichi-ji じゅういちじ十一時 11 o’clock
Juu-ni-ji じゅうにじ十二時 12 o’clock
Rei-ji れいじ零時 12 o’clock (0 o’clock)
Nan-ji なんじ何時 what time
han〜 はん半 half
ichi-ji-han いちじはん一時半 1:30
/X desu/ means ‘is X’ (Affirmative) and /X ja nai desu/ means ‘is not X’ (Negative). These noun sentences are Non-Past and Formal.
Ame desu yo. It’s raining.
Kore wa gakkou desu ka. Is this a school?
Honda-san ja nai desu ka? Aren’t you Ms. Honda?
A negative question can be also used to:
- show some uncertainty, and
- politely correct someone
Ima, na-ji desu ka. What time is it?
–Yo-ji ja nai desu ka?Isn’t it four?
San-ji desu yo. It’s three.
-Anou, yo-ji ja nai desu ka. Umm, isn’t it four?
Recall that what is obvious from the context is usually not mentioned in Japanese.
In the dialogue above, Ms. Tanaka sees Michael going somewhere, and checks if he is going to work. All she has to say is ‘Is it work (that you are going to)?’
A sentence X wa Y desu is usually translated as ‘X is Y’. However, unlike the English translation, where X equals Y (Y is the identity of X), the interpretation of the Japanese sentence is more open and flexible. Consider the following:
Honda-san wa shigoto desu.
This sentence does not mean ‘Ms. Honda IS work’, but rather for Ms. Honda what is under discussion is the work. So, there are numerous possible interpretations depending on the context. For example, she is at work, her priority is her work, her plan for the weekend is to work, what she likes is her job, to list a few. So, be aware of the context and be imaginative. Now, test your imagination. What can the following possibly mean?
Honda-san wa Panda desu.
Hours are named by attaching –ji to the number. Minutes will be introduced later. You can attach –han to the hour to mean ‘half past the hour’. Note that, unlike English, when asking what time it is, ima ’now’ is commonly used in Japanese, as shown in the dialogue above.
Hesitation noises are very common in Japanese conversations. Without them, a conversation may sound too mechanical and abrupt. Japanese conversations tend to favor less direct and less confrontational exchanges. ‘Beating around the bush’ may not be such a bad thing when speaking Japanese. One way to do it is to use hesitation noises. A lot of them!
Anou and etto are two of the most common hesitation noises in Japanese. Anou is the all mighty hesitation noise while etto indicates that you are searching for the right answer. So, when asked what your name is, for example, anou is fine, but not etto. Anou is also used to get attention from a person, but not etto.
Besides the hesitation noises, you also hear Japanese speakers elongating the last vowel of each word, or inserting desu ne between chunks of words to slow down speech.
Imaaa, anooo, Honda-san waaaa, shigotooo desu.Honda is at work now.
Ashita desu ne, anoo desu ne zenbu desu ne tsukurimasu. I’ll make all tomorrow.
Cue: Ima ku-ji desu ka. Is it nine o’clock?
Response: Iya, juu-ji desu yo. No, it’s ten.
Cue: Ima san-ji desu ka. Is it three o’clock?
Response: Iya, yo-ji desu yo. No, it’s four.
Cue: Kyou wa baito desu ka. Are you working today?
Response: Ie, baito ja nai desu. No, I’m not.
Cue: Kyou wa ame desu ka. Is it raining today?
Response: Ie, ame ja nai desu. No, it isn’t.
B. Say it in Japanese.
You are heading out in the morning. Mrs. Yamamoto asks you if you are going to work. Reply.
- Yes, I’m going to the office (company). Excuse me. What time is it?
- No, today is my day off. I’m going shopping.
- No, I’m not going to work today. I’m just going out.
- Yes, I’m going to work (side job). I’m not returning today. I’ll be back the day after tomorrow. See you later.
- No, I’m just taking a little walk. It’s a beautiful day! Wont’ you come, too?
Act in Japanese.
- Greet a neighbor in the morning. Mention how cold it is. Ask if it’s going to snow tomorrow.
- Ms. Honda is heading out. Check if she is going shopping. Warn her that it will rain today.
- You’ve been asked if it’s your day off today. Tell Ms. Yamamoto that yes, it is, but you’ll study.
- A supervisor is looking for Mr. Yamada. Let her know that he is absent today, but will come tomorrow.
- Someone has mistaken you for Mr/s. Smith. Correct him. Use hesitation noises to avoid bluntness.
- You’ve been invited to join a neighborhood soccer team. Find out what time practice is scheduled everyday.
- You found an error in the schedule. Politely point out that this is not 3:00 and should be 3:30.