This Week I Learned – Week 1

Cartoon giant squid

I’m starting a new series this week called “This Week I Learned”. Over the next few weeks, months, and hopefully years, I’ll be sharing all the quirky things I’ve managed to pick up in my random meandering Japanese studies. I’ll try to stick to only those tidbits that you can reapply and use to improve your Japanese. If you have any feedback, I’d love to hear from you. I’d also love to hear about what you are doing to study Japanese in the comments below.

You can use がっている with animals.

I stumbled upon an interesting question over at StackExchange the other day about whether or not you can use ~がる with animals.

As you may know, at the N5 level, you learn that to express the fact that you want to do something, we use the auxiliary adjective たい to express a desire. However, this can only be used about oneself or in a question. At the N4 level, you learn that がる, an auxiliary verb, can be used to express something similar with another person. But, can it be used for animals in this way? Well, it turns out it can like in the following sentence.

Sonoinuwa nakahe iritagatteiru.
The dog wants in.

While doing research, I found this article about why animals seemed to want to eat their dead owners. A little bit higher level, but might be worth a read.

The Other Meaning of Sakura

If you have spent any amount of time in Japan, you will know that sakura refers to cherry blossoms. This week, I heard it used in a drama I’m watching in a different situation. One of the characters in the drama is looking for a date on a dating app. His co-worker takes a look at the picture and chides him by saying “さくら”.

At first, I had no idea why he would be mentioning flowers while looking at a picture of a young woman on a dating app. And I guessed it might be an innuendo for something. However, as it turns out “sakura” can refer to a decoy or fake. I guess the word comes from when, in the Edo period, individuals would be hired to come to a performance and shout out in a big scene. This momentary boost of excitement would last only a few moments and ripple through the audience, much like cherry blossoms. And also like cherry blossoms, it was free for them to see the play.

The often misunderstood word for understanding – 分かる

This seems like such a simple verb, and is often listed in the dictionary as ‘to understand‘. However, it is probably best translated as ‘to be understood’. It is intransitive, so the thing being understood is marked with the が particle and the agent doing the understanding is marked with the に particle.

So, the following sentence would be incorrect.

わたしが この情報じょうほうを かる。
Watashiga konojouhouwo wakaru.

Here is the corrected sentence.

わたしに この情報じょうほうが かる。
Watashini konojouhouga wakaru.
I understand this information. (lit. This information is understood by me.)

What ダイオウイカ means

I’m always a pretty big fan of ANN News on YouTube. They have great short little videos of the news and the transcript is included in the description of the video. This makes it incredibly easy to get some higher level listening in. You can give the video an initial listening and try to get the main idea. Then, take a look at the description and look up any words you happen to not know.

And I admit, before watching the video, I’ve never encountered the word ダイオウイカ before. It’s not a word that comes up often in conversation. It happens to be the Japanese word for giant squid and a fisherman happened to catch one of the largest ever in Shimane last week.

It’s said that they killed it though. I agree with the one commenter “Dum Bo”.

きたダイオウイカを 展示てんじしてくれる水族館すいぞくかんが いつか あらわれることを 夢見ゆめみてる。
(I) dream of an aquarium displaying living giant squids someday.

That’s it for this week. I hope to make this a pretty regular thing. Let me know what you think in the comments below. Would you like to see a giant squid in an aquarium?


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