Now Featuring 1級 Grammar, Everyday Japanese That You Won't Find in the Book, and Language and Cultural Trivia!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Answer to The China, Korea, Japan question is finally up!

Question I got from JetDaisuke. What's the deal with Western movies and TV confusing Asian cultures?

Your comments really helped me with the answer to this one, so please, check it out:


Tori-kun said...

Wow.. How did you learn to speak so fluently? I have the UNICOM 3kyuu Grammar book now; some grammar points are rather easy, but the conditionals are f.e. difficult to understand at some points..
How did you do?

Blue Shoe said...

Nice video, man. Mentioned you here, FYI: http://www.jadij.com/2011/04/just-another-week-in-japan-1st-edition.html

Bobby Judo said...


A combination of living in Japan and using the UNICOM books actually. I really liked them. When you get to 2kyuu, we've actually posted explanations of all the grammar points on this site! Hope they help.

@Blue Shoe,

Thanks for the shout-out. Much appreciated, even though you tagged it with "struggling." Can't really deny it. It's just become less of a priority I guess.

Tori-kun said...

Hm.. As you can read in here (http://forum.koohii.com/viewtopic.php?pid=143095) I'm really in a trouble right now, Bobby.. Turns me said, because I told myself always grammar can wait, as everybody said it's easy compared to kanji and took my time getting used to readings of kanjis and vocabulary. Kind of regret it now. Wish you could somehow motivate me :)

You're my rolemodel, that's for sure :D

Bobby Judo said...

Sadly, motivation is something that's hard to get from external sources. You seem like you have enough motivation on your own, you're just hitting a few walls. Don't stress about it too much. Grammatical differences are kind of like poker hands: when you've experienced them enough times, over and over again, you get a better sense for how they work/play out.

It seems like you've got good explanations for everything but the difference between ている and てある。 I'll take a crack at explaining how I got my head around てある、because they are very different.

ている is, as you said used for an action that is continuing currently, as in "We are married" or I'm in the process of doing my homework.

てある means "it has been done by someone with some specific purpose."

For example, let's say I'm working at the restaurant, and someone is asking me about the prices of the different kinds of beer. If I happen to have free time, I'll answer them. If I'm busy however, I might say "すみませんけど、メニューに書いてある: I'm sorry, but they're all written in the menu." In this case, there is no continuous action. The prices were written in the menu, and now, that's where they are. Someone wrote them there for a reason. The reason was so customers didn't have to ask me the price. Here are some other examples that might help make てある more clear.

教室に入ったら、皆の机の上に、赤いマーカーが置いてあった:When we entered the classroom, red markers had been left on everyone's desk. (Someone has left the markers there, and though we don't yet know why, they were obviously left there with some purpose.)

Now imagine you're the teacher, and you KNOW why you want the students to use red markers. "授業が始まる前に、赤いマーカーを配っておいた:Before the lesson started, I passed out red markers (in preparation for something). There's your usage of ておく。

Now let's try contrasting ている and てある。

あのおじさんは自分の家の窓を板でふさいでいる:That man is (currently in the act of) boarding up his windows.

あの家の窓は板で塞いである: That house's windows have been boarded up (by someone for some reason).

I hope that helps.

Tori-kun said...

Thanks for registering especially for that here! You're welcome, bobby! Your explanations were really helpful, but let me...

あのおじさんは自分の家の窓を板でふさいでいる:That man is (currently in the act of) boarding up his windows.

あの家の窓は板で塞いである: That house's windows have been boarded up (by someone for some reason).[/quote]

The examples above you gave are a bit irritating. The first one is clear: it describes the english equivalent of the progressive form. The action the man performs is now, right now he is doing it. This usage is clear to me, thank you very much!

As far as I understood you, -tearu carries indeed the nuance that someone - but the actual "agent" is left out like in your 2nd sentence, right? - performed an action (having a result in the present not changing) with an intention (your example with the beer was quite good explaining it I found! Thank you so much for that one!). I'd really like to hear the explanation of the second sentence (above) compared with the same sentence just using -iru (not for "progressive form", but for the usage of something is enduring something) instead of -aru...

-teoku is the easiest one amongst them, I think.
-teshimau means an action has finished.

Could you say, f.e.

私はこの本を読んでしまった。 - I finished reading this book (completely. this action cannot be undone. You know what's written in the book and this "can't be erased from your memory making you not knowing what's written in there", right?)
私は宿題を出来てしまった。 (宿題をできる - to make one's homework, right? I assume this.) - I finished doing my homework. Can you say it like that?

Bobby Judo said...

I think you're making it unnecessarily complicated.

I'm not sure what you mean by "having a result in the present not changing," or by "enduring something."

But I think this is what you asked for:

That house's windows are boarded up.
(In this case, they have been and continue to be boarded up. This sentence carries no meaning about who boarded them or why. It's merely an observation.)

That house's windows have been boarded up.
(In this case you ARE implying that someone has boarded them up with some purpose.)

Recall your examples from the forum "窓が開いています”
The window is open.
Again, just an observation about the state of the window. Notice that you have to use an intransitive verb because no one is acting on the window. It's just open.

The window has been opened.
Here, the state of the window is the same, but you have to use a transitive verb, because you're implying that someone opened the window with a purpose. Maybe you're noticing that other people must also think it's hot in this room. Maybe you're a cop observing how a criminal must have escaped. I dunno.

The whole point of てある is that it lets you add extra information: an action has been done by someone, and they had a reason for doing it. Even a sentence like "彼は窓を明けている: He is opening the window" says nothing about his reasons for opening the window. In that case, he might not even have a reason. てある implies an agent, and a motive.

For てしまう, again, you're making it too complicated. てしまう has two uses:

1: done regrettably
2: done completely

It takes context to know which meaning.

You can say "この本を読んでしまった。" to mean "I have finished reading this book in it's entirety.

For your homework example, you usage of grammar is fine, but I think your wording is a bit unnatural. I would say ”宿題をしてしまった。” I finished all of my homework. (By the way, in English we say "do my homework," not "make.)

The regrettable aspect is all context. For a sentence like "隣のばあちゃんの裸姿を見てしまった、” it should be obvious.

For a sentence like "1人でピザを食べてしまった、" it could be regrettable, it could be completely, or it could be both.

Bobby Judo said...

I say you're making てしまう too complicated because, 本を読んでしまった probably just means "I finished reading this book completely."

It has nothing to do with "I'll always remember its contents forever, it can never be erased from my memory."

Tori-kun said...

I love you man XD Thanks for clarifying it!!!! Why didn't you become a teacher?

Bobby Judo said...

No problem. I'm really glad I could help. I guess I could always fall back on teaching if things don't work out, but my dream is to have a restaurant someday.

For my own personal learning style, people can talk about grammar and try to explain things all they want (the forum thread you linked is really long), but the easiest way to understand something is with concrete examples.

Good luck with Japanese, and don't be a stranger here, or on YouTube!

Tori-kun said...

What d'you mean by "don't be a stranger"? You give the easiest explanations! Scrolling through the long thread I only can tell that your explanation was the best structured and comprehensible.

Bobby Judo said...

"Don't be a stranger" is an English idiom that means "Let's meet again soon." Or "Come back soon."

Tori-kun said...

Darn.. Since my English is as much as Japanese only self-taught, it's really bad at some point so no chance concerning idioms haha..
Have a good evening and stay healthy.
ところで、僕も料理するには興味がある. (Thai-kitchen) :D

Tori-kun said...

In Chapter 16 of the Genki 2 textbook ~時 gets introduced. It seems to be quite confusing to english speaking people concerning the usage of tenses and the proper translation of those, hm. I tried to figure out something before finally asking in here (again), so that's my conclusion (I hope it's correct. Again, please correct if you find mistakes, t hanks!!!).

- 4 possible time-combos possible, namely (the first phrase being the one with ~時 = [A], the other one after the "," being [b])

- Equivalents in Japanese (f.e.)
1) 学校に行くとき、りんごを食べる。
2) 学校に行くとき、りんごを食べた。
3) 日本語を学んだとき、中国語を学ぶ。
4) 日本語を学んだとき、中国語を学んだ。

- the translation of toki with "when" is sometimes a bit vague I found, so "A dict of Basic Jap. Grammar" tells us the phrases can be translated with "before..." (for [A]=present tense) or "after..." (for [b]=past tense)
1) 学校に行くとき、りんごを食べる。 - When I go to school (present tense), I eat an apple. (-> Before I go to school, I eat an apple)
2) 学校に行くとき、りんごを食べた。 - this one is troublesome for me; I can't think of a way translating it. It's incomprehensible for me.

- the following examples for past tense can be really well translated with "after..." I find:
3) 日本語を学んだとき、中国語を学ぶ。 - (right) After I learnt Japanese, I will learn Chinese.
4) 日本語を学んだとき、中国語を学んだ。 - (right) After I learnt Japanese, I learnt Chinese. (both happenings are already in the past)

Well can't do anything with the second sentence and would like somebody to explain it to me. I understood that if the time reference [A] occurs after B it will be in present tense, irrespectible if [b] is in the past/present tense (Japanese tenses).
I also understood that if an event was in the past, [A] has to be in the past and if [A] is current or yet to happen it has to be in the present tense...

Liz said...

To me, your gestures and facial expressions are 1/2 Japanese, 1/2 American.

It was actually a bit startling that you didn't have an accent when you spoke English.

Fakir said...

I quite like your thought-out and patient prose, but I'm afraid I disagree on a semantic level.

When you say these things shouldn't be called racism because they're not violent or 'malicious', I think that's a confusion on your part about the word 'racism' (as well as ignoring sociological malevolence). Racism is simply a belief that there are these walls of distinction between humans called 'race'. That is, seeing a tribe identity before seeing their human identity. If you look at someone and have decided that such a person is "Chinese" or "Black" or anything else, that is racism.

Such distinctions are malevolent beyond mere physical discrimination. Categorizing people in this way is a way of simplifying the world to make it easier to understand. That is to say, to restrict the world to fit into your preconceived notions, rather than the other way around, and expanding your thoughts and welcoming new ideas. It's a way to keep the rest of the world at bay, static, while you can remain the same as well.

Racism is the denial of humanity, subtly, individuality, change, and reality in this world. People are more complicated and intricate than the labels we put on them. To keep insisting that a person (or peoples) is this way or that way, is quite a malevolent thing to do, IMO. Such insistence only engenders its manifestation: people tend to become what they're told they are, either from fatigue of resistance or simply due to the mailability of the human character. So, racism is a socially constructed idea, rather having any actual basis outside such systems—not having any genetic base.

As you may have experienced, being a foreigner in another country, such as Japan, your actions and words are taken to represent the entirety of your birth country and its peoples. However, people do tend to focus on that which confirms their beliefs (あっ、やっぱりアメリカン人だな) and gloss over those that don't register, perpetuating their prejudices. Funny how in the face of overwhelming evidence (someone before one's eyes) people still insist on singing the songs of radical difference and prejudice sung to them by society. How horrible to think you are only allowed to act a certain way. How horrible to reduce millions of individuals to such baseness, stripping people of their uniqueness and character.

Also, the movie reference about the Nigerian-born actor playing an American isn't all that troubling to me. After all, America is a land of (recent) immigrants; not speaking Standard American English has no basis in whether you're considered American or not (there's quite a few Americans who speak no English, and many more who deviate from SAE). For an easy example, Arnold Schwarzenegger was gov. of CA, despite not having been born in the USA and not speaking SAE. American, right? In my view, any citizen of America is just as American as anyone else; there are no Chinese-Americans or Irish-Americans, just Americans.

I guess this is my bias, but humans all over the world are more similar to each other to a higher degree than any difference could ever account for. We must always be careful when making cross-cultural analyses else we might be focusing on the superficial issues rather than seeing the deeper, more common structures in human societies.

I don't expect such thinking to be readily accepted by everyone, but I always try to encourage a broader view than whatever a person might hold before (e.g. moving from 'racism' to 'nationality'), as you seem to do too, encouraging a more cosmopolitan world.

I really do appreciate your use of non-absolutist language, especially in such vague contexts of "America" or "Japan" (I always find it quite amusing when people speak with such confidence about what this 'America' thing is or is not). Thanks for the video, ideas and inspiration to keep studying Japanese (n.b. this wasn't written in Japanese) :P Sorry for my scattered thoughts.