Nar3: Japan

Nihongo ga heta desu.
Posted on Tuesday, October 7th, 2003 at 4:31am by Brett.
(Tuesday, October 7th, 2003 at 5:31pm Japanese Standard Time)

Japanese is hard. It isn't hard like any romance language ever might be "hard". It's hard like trying to speak in unfactored quadratic equations is hard.

There are two theories about the origins of the Japanese language.

The first is that Japanese was originally created by the Koreans and Chinese as a form of punishment. Around 666BC, China and Korea got together and tried to figure out a way to punish the worst criminals. The solution? A cosy-looking set of islands slightly to the east to serve as a prison.

As everyone knows, evil criminals are Tricky. China and Korea knew this, and wanted to make sure they wouldn't riot and break free, so the criminals were forbidden to speak any language in which they could be understood by one another. And thus was birth of the Japanese language...

The second theory suggests that the Tower of Babble fell not because everyone started speaking different languages, but in fact that everyone started speaking Japanese and was therefore unable to understand each other without first studying their own language for years.

The whole of the Japanese language is based upon an in group / out group idea. Depending upon which group you find yourself, your use of the language will change. For instance, if you are speaking to your friends--being in the same group...sometimes--you can simply say "Ohayo"--which translates to "Good morning."

However, speaking to anyone above you, a simple "Ohayo" does not suffice in Japanese. To one's teacher, for example, the appropriate phrase takes 15 minutes to recite, and translates loosely as: "The sun rose this morning with only the intention of brightening your house and guiding your way to this unworthy classroom and my unworthy presence in which I (unworthily) fail to learn (though not because the teacher is insufficient, but because the pupil is both unworthy and incompetent in a most unworthy manner) the language of your (honorable and highly regarded for their feats and whose accomplishments were both innumerable and greatest of all races) forefathers. I am but a lowly and unworthy foreigner who seeks enlightenment from your oh-so enlightened and honorable mind. Please spare very unworthy me these few minutes in which I might be lucky enough to stub my toe upon a knowlege that I shall never hope to possess myself, but will always need explained to me."

As you can see, this would obviously lead to troubles when building anything. Complicating the matter more is that the Japanese language is built in such a way that many parts of the conversation are to be assumed. Interestingly enough, the participants of a conversation are to echo each other, to be certain they have understood. The following is a perfectly normal and correct conversation in Japanese.

A: Understanding has not occurred.
B: Understanding has not occurred, right?
A: It is so, right? Understanding has not occurred, so more one time saying give.

And no one thinks this is the least bit strange...

So, I am attempting to learn this language...a language in which I'm certain no one is ever "fluent". Gambarimashou nee...