July 19, 2008

Can I get you to do me a favor? For example, could you take out the garbage for me? Or “Would you shut the door? The flys are getting in.” How you say this in Japanese is the focus of this grammar lesson. After you get the hang of the grammar constructions found below, and start using them with vocabulary of your own, then you will be beginning on the road to fluency in Japanese. The end goal is to be able to think in Japanese as well as you do in English. But is this fluency?

What will really help you get good at Japanese is if you start coming up with sentences of your very own creation.Then, you can test them to see if they are understandable even to a native Japanese person, if you can find such a place wherewith to be checked. Be creative as best you can. Make the way you learn verbs and the constructions you put them in sound unique yet meaningful. Make your sentences as out-landish as you want. The more absurd of an image you make to correlate meaning to word, the better you will remember. Whatever it might be for you to correlate meaning to pronunciation to sound, all these can increase your vocabulary retention.

Remember, it isn't always the total amount of words that makes a person fluent in a language. It quite may be the ability to think in another language. But since words make up a language then it suffices to say that in order to learn a language fluently, one must know the vocabulary. Mastery of a few thousand words and understanding how the various grammar forms are handled are only the beginning to Japanese language mastery. But these are where beginners must start. So if you are a beginning Japanese learner reading this paper right now, my advice to you is to tackle 4000 words to be memorized by you at your own pace. Now GO!

My advice to any do-it your-selfer Japanese language learner is to practice Japanese with sentences you create from scratch. Well almost scratch. Using in a sentence some grammatical construction featuring verbs which are well retained and at one's disposal, is a goal that should be sought.

There are roughly three levels of politeness in Japanese. There are There are also many shades in between these 3 rough level separations which can be obtained and implied simply by changing verb endings. There are three distinct latitudes or heights (Or depths as some may see it) at which spoken Japanese can be vocalized and interpreted, all different yet all manifesting levels of politeness.

Politeness levels are in large part determined by the age difference between locutors in a two way conversation. In Japanese, one would speak in more respectful ways to persons who are upwards of your age or older than you. It is natural to speak less formally to people who are in your same graduating class or to people younger than you, in other words, it is acceptable to speak to those of equal or lesser value in standard or plain form Japanese.

It is usually all right to speak in plain form to people your age or less, unless it is:

1. First encounters, or meetings with people for the first time.
2. Boss of your company, Grandparent or God-Father.

The shacho or boss of a company is always spoken to in the highest possible forms of polite forms of Japanese. In these constructions, aru is replaced by its specialized counterpart gozaru**, so instead of arimasu (polite aru in base (II)+masu) you would use gozaimasu.

**gozaru is the verb, to have, in super polite form of the verb aru, de aru is plain form of desu, de gozaru = de aru = desu.

Like they say, “You never get a second chance when making a first impression. Meeting someone for the first time, is a marked occasion, especially the words one chooses to use during an initial encounter with someone.

In Japan, it would be rude to automatically assume that you were acquainted with them enough to speak plain form Japanese. Plain form Japanese is exactly like it sounds, plain Japanese. The difference between saying caviar and roe. When speaking with royalty or in giving respect to your elders, would you say, “eh you want sumpen”, or would you prefer to say something like, “Would you care for an lhordoevre.” When you could have said, “How bout sumpin elsa”. Even in English you can say things in a more plain and simple or rude and crude and even polite and prim and proper. This is what is meant behind the idea of Plain form Japanese.
Plain Form Japanese is raw from the dictionary, no need to add masu or desu or mashimashita anything.

Just plain Japanese.

Mind you, plain form Japanese is just that plain so we will want to spicen up our language and flower it up a tad.

There is something to say about polite speech. Polite speech makes people feel good. It makes the person you are speaking to feel like he is important and it makes you the speaker feel good when the same type of speaking is spoken back to you. We really can’t get this same feeling in English. It is possible that some event, like a royal wedding where everything was done prim and proper, or at a wedding and you are the bride or groom, then you may feel what it is like to be spoken up to and through speech made to feel good about yourself because of polite speech.
Otherwise, I have never felt so good as when someone speaks to me in Keigo compared to not having such a thing in English America.

When first meeting someone always assume that he or she is your great uncle who had died and left you his fortune. Don't automatically assume enough familiarity with them to speak to them in the plain form or anything lower in politeness to anybody ever. You can get yourself in deep trouble. The Japanese are nice but words are a two edged sword powerful enough to cause wars, so take care to always be as polite as you can.

Remember, plain form is the type of language that is spoken to dogs. A lot of people have respect for animals I love them too, but we usually give these animals lesser lingual respect. Like wassup Dawg? How much respect a human being deserves over a dog is your decision, but remember that we are speaking in a human language. It’s easy to speak plain form Japanese but it is more difficult to speak in polite language. So take the extra time at the beginning and learn to dot your i’s and j’s, and your abc’s + 123’s. Always practice speaking in polite Japanese and you won’t have any trouble, as a matter of fact it may even be a boon.

It is important to understand the distinctions made between the levels of politeness in speech. Plain form just isn't polite. Try to avoid it by always keeping your mouth clean and you will stay out of trouble. If you are a gaijin, your mouth and manners are already out of harmony with the ancient customs and traditional courtesies already well established in Japan. When in Rome we do as the Romans do and when in Japan our feet can't stink.

In order to avoid sounding like a beast with no manners, try always speaking in Japanese at higher more respectful levels. There are two levels of speech and 2 conditions of the verbs

+ future, - future, (that is positive future and negative future)

-past, + past (ditto)

plain form

One above that level and another beneath, in all three levels. We can make sentences that are crystal clear and come out in our speech imbued with beautiful hues and hints of wonderful meanings making our Japanese not different from a samurai overlord.

In the present tense, plain form verbs always end in one of five vowels,

a, i u e, or, o which correspond to the five bases (I,II,III,IV,V) of a verb.

Verb in Base I end in a,

Verb in Base II end in i,

Verb in Base III end in u,

Verb in Base IV end in e,

Verb in Base V end in o.

occasionally, some Japanese grammar text books may continue with a 6th base and using yo^, r^. We will get to that.

The polite form of a verb is made up of a verb in base II or the i line of the syllabary and by adding ~masu. The ~masu ending is always adequately polite. Speaking in plain form or leaving the verb in dictionary form or base (III) is less polite and could be construed as very rude speech. (*In my Ghetto Grammar lesson plain form is denoted P.F.)Polite form is also categorized in degrees or levels of politeness.

In Japanese there are 4 basic states or tenses a verb can take. There are 2 present tense verb forms that are polite and 2 in the past tense, each tense having its' affirmative or + side and, or its' negative , {future/present + or - } and {past + or -}. In Japanese, the latter part of the verb is where the conjugations occur, at the tail of a verb, not the stem. There are many endings which can be constructed. Each ending can change the meaning of the Japanese words ever so subtley, yet significantly. In other words, there are many levels of politeness possible even using the same word(s).

When asking a favor of someone, you'll have to consider how polite you’ll want to sound with that person. You won't get very far by getting your boss to give you a raise when speaking to him in less polite language which equivocal to what is know as plain form Japanese. Not being careful of your politeness level can really get you into trouble. With the boss example it could give him more reason to dislike you or even fire you for insubordination. Sometimes speaking in the plain form Japanese can be dangerous, making you sound even barbaric at times, childish at others, straight out rude at times, piggish, bossy, arrogant to name a few of the ways you jeopardize your potential to speaking fluid, beautifully perfect Japanese speaking. Be mindful that respect to others is shown through the Japanese language via the levels of speech:

Politeness levels in the Japanese Language - From low to high:

1. Base speech (rude, raunchy and raw Japanese, spoken to lesser creatures, animals, underlings, fledglings and disciples.

2 . Plain form or basically neutral status speaking Japanese, or the humble and exalted levels of speech. Humble and exalted levels of speech considered from the same tree and is globally known as

3. Honorifics, exalted and humbled - Keigo and Sonkeigo

In getting a commitment for your request, use the verb ITADAKU
This is the same verb that is used in the expression, “Itadakimasu”, meaning I humbly partake. The Japanese say itadakimasu before eating like clockwork. Saying itadakimasu before a meal is mandatory, not optional. No matter what religion you might be, it was said everywhere in Japan before the Japanese eat a meal. When in Rome, Do as the Romans do. You will put itadaku in its question form of itadakemasu ka? with a verb in base TE to get a yes or no answer. Asking verb base (TE) + itadakemasu ka is the equivalent of pinning someone down and saying, However, if your demands weren't that impending, or is not in need of immediate attention, then there are 3 further choice of verbs for those requests to become actions. The verbs involved in getting someone to do an action for you in Japanese, are these:

MORAU - (to get, be given, receive),

KURERU - (to receive from) and

KUDASARU - ( to be so kind as to receive from )
with the masu ending being the highest.

• ITADAKU means literally to humbly partake of something or someone doing something for you that equates to a will you…? Or similar type English sentence.

Constructions for "Will you verb (for me)?" in Japanese.

Verb (base TE) + MORAU V (て) + もらう
Do you think you could verb for me?

Verb (base TE) +YARU V (て) + やる
I will verb for you. (This is least polite and only said amongst the closest of friends, more masculine.)

Verb (base TE) + KURERU V (て) + くれる-
Would you verb for me? (Either because I physically or otherwise can't do it myself or simply because you are kind or respected by me).

Verb (base TE) + AGERU V (て) + あげる
I'll verb for you.

Verb (base TE) + KUDASARU V (て) + 下さる
Will you kindly verb for me?

*Kudasaruくださる is one of the first learned Japanese words. It’s kanji represents the word meaning below, underneath, under, or down. The meaning is opposite to that of the word UE上 (Up, on top, above etc.)

This is where the construction for -please verb- or verb (base TE) + kudasai comes from.
Verb (base TE) + itadaku (The commitment word evoking only a yes or no answer). Equivalent to "Will you verb?" in English.

1. Will you quit smoking.
Tabako o su^ no o yamete itadakemasu ka?

2. Can I get you to turn the light off for me?
Denki o keshite moraimasu ka?

3. Could you turn the light off for me?
Denki o keshite kuremasu ka?

4. Will you kindly lend me $1000 dollars Grandmother?
Oba^chan@ ano 1 sen doru o kashite kudasaimasu ka?
おばあちゃん! あの 一千$貸してくれますか

5. Could you tell me your phone number?

a. Denwa bango o oshiete kudasaimasu ka?

b. Denwa bango o oshiete kuremasu ka?

c. Denwa bango o oshiete itadakemasu ka?

a.,b.,c. Will you tell me your phone number?

Itadaku - the yes or no verb
Itadaku頂く is special in that it forms changes from the itadaki to itadake form either Yes, or, No? Using the verb itadaku is ultimately polite yet it elicits only two answers from which to form a reply..

6. Shall I open it for you?
Akete yaro^ ka? (Less polite form V of verb yaru, downward politeness)

7. Shall I read it for you?
Yonde agemasho^ ka? (masho^ is more polite, spoken to peers and above)

8. Lets get him to pay for us.
Haratte moraimasho^

9. I wanted him to draw a picture for us.
E o kaite moraitakatta n' desu.

10. I am going to need you to come in on Sunday (too).
Nichiyoubi nimo kaisha ni kite moraitakatta no desu ga…?
That is straight out of “office space” yo!

Until next time, that’s the end of this short lesson in Japanese grammar. As always, I wish you the best in your endeavors towards better Japanese …

Ganbatte Ne!
Do Your Best!
Makurasuki. まくらすき