「〜のは難しい」vs「〜にくい」Genki explanation

Hello,

When I studied with Genki, it explained something like…

(~やすい and ~ にくい focus on psychological ease or difficulty of doing something, not on physical difficulty or statistical success rate)

However, after seeing it numerous time out in the wild, I am leaning to this explanation of it.

Which would you go by?

I mean, the dictionary definition of にくい as a suffix is

動詞の連用形に付いて,…するのがむずかしい,なかなか…できないなどの意を表す。

(emphasis added by me)

Of course, you can still have nuance with them, but it’s more like にくい is a subset of のがむずかしい if anything. Meaning のがむずかしい should be acceptable for にくい. Though perhaps not always the other way around.

EDIT: Sorry if I’m missing something referred to in your link. I can’t access it on this network.

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No, no problem. The main message of the article was this:

さて、みなさんは今までに「日本語は話しにくい」とか、「日本語は読みにくい」とか言ったことがありませんか?これを聞くたびに、私は何かがおかしいと感じています。他の場面でも「~にくい」の使い方には間違いが多いです。その理由は単純です。

「~にくい」= “difficult to do” とのみ覚えているからです。
でも、それだけでは足りません。もう一つの条件が必要になるんですよ。それは何でしょうか?

例えば、蟹(かに)ってどんな食べ物でしょうか?味はいいけど、殻を割ったり、外したりしなければいけないので、面倒臭い食べ物ですよね。

A 蟹はおいしいけど、食べにくい。
次の例は、もうお腹がいっぱいなのに、どんどん食べ物が出て来て、全部食べることができない場合です。

B お腹がいっぱいだから、全部食べるのは難しい。

Aは蟹の形や殻のせいで、食べるのが難しい。蟹の特徴に問題があります。
Bは食べ物自体に問題はありません。お腹がいっぱいで、食べられないのは能力、他の言い方をすれば許容範囲の問題です。

もう一組の例をあげます。
日本人はワインや日本酒を一口飲んだ時に感想として、よくこう言います。

A このワインは飲みやすいね。
これは「このワインの味や香りが良いので、おいしく飲める」という意味で、ワイン自体の性質のおかげです。

一方、1本のワインを1人で飲むことはできないけれど、2人ならできる場合、

B 2人ならワインを1本飲むことは簡単です。
これはワイン自体の質には関係なく、能力や許容範囲の問題です。

つまり、Aの「~にくい」を使う場合は、その物の性質や特徴のせいで、「~するのが難しい」ということで、「~やすい」はその物の性質や特徴のおかげで、「~するのが簡単」ということになりますね。

I’ve honestly just thought of it through English equivalence, which remarkably - at least in this case - seems to hold up.

I’ll use one of the examples in that article. 日本語は話しにくい。“Japanese is difficult to speak.” That doesn’t sound right to me even in English. Because it’s like… Huh? There are certainly a lot of people in Japan who prove otherwise! Doesn’t make sense to give that kind of intrinsic attribute to the language.

On the other hand, ~難しい ("~is difficult") to me just has a different nuance. Continuing again with the direct English, “Speaking Japanese is difficult” I think has some implied meaning like “for me” or “for learners” or “at this moment” or whatever. It just makes more intuitive sense.

A relevant example and conversation point I’ve had with native speakers is on Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s short story In A Grove. この本は読みにくい. This is a difficult to read book. To me it’s a more universally agreed upon characteristic of the book - due to say the grammar and vocabulary of a book written before the war. Agreed upon even by native speakers. Whereas “Reading this book is difficult” just has a different meaning… like maybe it’s because I haven’t studied enough, or the lighting is dim, whatever.

Maybe to articulate this better, at least in the case of “this book is difficult to read” vs. “reading this book is difficult” (読みにくい or 読むのが難しい) we change the “target” of the difficulty. In the former case, “difficult to read” is an adjective applied directly to the book itself whereas in the latter case, “~is difficult” is applied to the act of reading it.

I think that holds true for another one of that article’s example’s of “crab is difficult to eat” or “eating (all this) crab is difficult.” The former is an inherent characteristic of the crab, and the adjective describes the the crab itself. Whereas the latter case applies to the nominalized version of the verb - the act of eating it, due to some current circumstance.

Not sure if that’s a great explanation but it’s how I think of it.

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