Japanese Skill Blog #3

This week I was extremely busy with university classes so I did not get as much time to work on my skill as I would have liked. I am continuing on with Rosetta Stone and still learning new words. Here are some that I learned this week:

じてんしゃ (jitensha) = bike

くるま (kuruma) = car

つき (tsuki) = moon

はな (hana) = flower

りょうり (ryouri) = cousine

けいて (kaite) = to write

I always find it extremely interesting when words sound the exact same as things we say in English. For example, a common name in North America is Hannah, which sounds exactly like the Japanese word for flower.

Another word I really like because it sounds super cool when you say it in a low voice is “わかりました” (wakarimashita). It means “understood”. If you want to sound like a tough military guy, this is the right word to say to your superiors when given orders. The final letters of the word “mashita” is the past tense of a verb. Therefore, if I were to say the present tense “わかります” (wakarimasu), it would end with the masu. This translates to “understand”. If I wanted to say “don’t understand”, I would use the negative masen, which would look like this: “わかりません”, or “wakarimasen”.

To reiterate:

Masu = present tense verb

mashita = past tense verb

masen = negative verb

わかります (wakarimasu) = understand

わかりました (wakarimashita) = understood

わかりません (wakarimasen) = don’t understand

These simple phrases can help a lot because one word can confirm or deny whether you understand what is being stated.

However, to connect to my previous statement of sounding like a cool military guy, there are actually two different ways to say the Japanese equivalent of “yes sir”. There is the badass “wakarimashita”, but there is the more somber and quiet “りょかい” (ryokai). Ryokai translates to “comprehension”. So it is just a toss up of saying understood or comprehension. To my knowledge, neither is preferable over the other, but I could be wrong!

Just as a side note, “wakarimashita” is often translated to “I understand”, ignoring that it is a past tense verb. To my knowledge, it is translated like this to avoid confusion because in English we don’t confirm orders by saying “I understood” because that implies you no longer understand. You understood once, but now you do not. This is a classic case of translating it to make it easier, but as a by-product making it all the more confusing. Again though, I could be wrong about this, it is just my understanding of the situation!

  • Garrett J. Bates

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