So my friend Tadashi gives me little Japanese lessons almost daily to supplement the ones I get on Friday nights from Karina. He has been teaching me some phrasal verbs that just don't make any sense to me. A lot of Japanese I learn quickly and accept it, but every once in a while something comes along that my brain resists so badly that it feels like I've just slammed on the brakes of a car and am doing a 180 so that I can stamp on the gas and go back the other way. Real fast. Recently I tried to tell Tadashi, "I just got back from the post office." I can't remember how I said it, but in any case it was wrong. He *understood* what I said. He knew what I meant, but it sounded strange. It isn't how Japanese people would say it. I think I said something like Watashi wa yubinkyoku kara dake kaetta. Which literally translated means: I the post office from just returned. You know, I just returned from the post office. Right? Nope. This is how you say it:
Yubinkyoku kara kaette kita.
Post office from return came.
Okay, so he drops the "I". You drop the "I" and "You" and "He" and "She" in Japanese all the time. Apparently they don't need to know who the subject is. It's implicit. You mention the subject person the first time, and ever after you can drop it. When you start to speak about someone new's actions etc. you then bring up the new person as the subject. It makes sense. That's not my problem. I'm used to that. Using "Kara" makes sense. It's just "from". I used that in my sentence too. "Kaette" I used in my sentence too. It means "return" or "go back" etc. "Kita" though, is "came". My head kept saying, "I came return from Post Office." Nope. Then I thought, "I came back from the Post Office." They're just changing "return" and making the verb back. I dealt with it. Okay. Got it. Wakata.
He teaches me this phrase:
Chris ga nagoya ni yatte kuru = Chris is coming to Nagoya.
what's up with the yatte? It's one of the ways to say "do". Chris is doing come to Nagoya? "Why do you need the 'do' in there?" I asked. He doesn't know. It's just how it is. Hmm. I've heard that one before.
He then shows me this sentence:
Chris ga nagoya ni kiteru = Chris is in Nagoya(now).
Screeeech, once more.
Kiteru is the present progress of come. So it means "is coming". This is how I would have made the previous sentence, which apparently they don't do it that way. They want the "yatte" in there to say "is coming". So I ask, how in the world are you making the present progressive "is coming" mean "is in"?
Answer: It's just how it is.
My response: I find this unacceptable.
T: Just accept it!
Me: You suck.
Tadashi then asks, "Well why in English do you say, I'm going to take a nap. I'm going to take a pee, etc. You can't take those things."
I think for a while. Yes you can. You're not taking the nap itself or the pee, but a space of time to do those things in. It's a break from a routine your taking to do those things in. Makes sense. I then ask for him to find an explanation that makes sense for his silly phrasal verbs.
Let's just say I'm still waiting for an answer.
But I will accept the (*rolls eyes*) "yatte" being thrown around like so much confetti into sentences that don't really need it (in my opinion) and sure, I'll accept changing the verb "is coming" into "is in" (and that's a total leap of faith for me). But I will not accept these things without being a bitch about it. So on my laptop's desktop, I've created a file for things that are going to take a lot more time for me to learn because they're wickedly rule-breaking, and have labeled said file, "Evil Japanese Phrases That Make No Goddamned Sense".
And that makes the pill go down a little easier.
On yet another side note, whenever I speak Japanese, Japanese people go crazy. This is kind of cute but also a little like, well you know, you're able to learn English, what's so weird about me learning Japanese? I think mainly they're often struck by foreigners learning Japanese because they really don't need to. You can get by here without knowing Japanese. You'll run into some hassles and things will get confusing in some ways, but you can do it. And a lot of foreigners never do learn it. But I still sort of smile fakely when someone says, "Sugoi! Nihongo jouzu!" (You're good at Japanese! Amazing!) I will even say something really appropriate, like "Iie, mada dame desu." (No, it's not good yet.) But anyway, today one of my student's mother came to pick him up from school. He's one of my very favorite students, Shoki, a seventh grader with a mysterious illness that I still haven't been able to find out from the teachers what it is. He has to wear a fanny pack that has tubes coming out of it which go to who knows where. When I first got here, I thought Shoki wore that little fanny pack as a sort of affectation and I thought it was cute, until Hiraga sensei told me he has a disease and whatever it is that he needs to be healthy is in that fanny pack. I should have known better. Japanese schools are all uniformed. A fanny pack would diverge from the uniform and that wouldn't be allowed. But Hiraga sensei didn't know the name of the disease in English and Fujita says she's not sure what it is. Maybe she knows and just isn't saying for some reason. But in any case, Shoki is probably the best English speaker at the school. He's amazing. And so today his mother came to pick him up at school and as she and another teacher and Shoki were walking to her van, I was walking to my car, which was parked next to hers, and Shoki told me in Japanese that he'd see me tomorrow, and I told him in Japanese that he wouldn't because I was going to the elementary school on Thursday, so I'd see him on Friday. And Shoki's mother looked startled and turned to the other teacher and said, "Amazing! He can talk." This of course is the literal translation of what she said. She didn't say, He can talk Japanese, but it was implied. I translate into direct English sometimes and when I heard, "Amazing, he can talk," before carrying it out to what she really meant, "He can talk in Japanese," I was a little ruffled. Of course I can talk!!! What the hell!! hehehe. Then I just got over it in the next moment and joked around with Shoki until him and his mom left.
But man dealing with the nuances of a language that drops a lot of implied meaning is difficult. One day Kyoto Sensei (Head Teacher) came to me and said, "Chris san, Gakko ni Doyobi." Chris, School, Saturday." That's it. I was like, Okay, I understand, what about school and Saturday? (We had to come in to work on that Saturday for a special PTA day). So I'm standing there waiting for him to finish his sentence and Fujita sensei says, "He wants to know if you're coming to school on Saturday."
*Makes brow furrowed scrunchy nose open mouthed face*
How the heck am I supposed to know he asked that unless he SAYS the whole sentence???
Well next time I'll know. But damn. I'm not part of the hive mind. I NEED more information to respond!!! Some Japanese people understand this and because of that, I understand them completely when they speak to me. Others, like Kyoto sensei, don't realize English doesn't drop so much info and expect someone to understand it. So I always end up looking like a stupid dork with him even though I do fine with people who make complete sentences around me. Kyoto sensei will probably, in later years, think of me and how I never tried to learn Japanese because whenever he spoke, I couldn't understand him.