One thing I’m aware of when I read native material is that that I may pass over a grammar point I don’t know yet (and there’s a lot of them) without giving it much attention (especially when I’m disconnected from the Internet with no way to look it up). And sometimes I’ll think I know the meaning of what I read, but it actually has a separate meaning I’m unfamiliar with (such as the first time I learned that 遊びに行く doesn’t necessarily involve playing).
Hopefully these bits that I write will help others discover new grammar or help reinforce grammar they’re in the process of learning.
Page 72 (bis) grammar, and origin of おやつタイム
Upon enter the zoo on page 72 (bis), ペンギン says, 「思ったより広いね」
Here, the N4 grammar pattern 「Verb + より + Adjective」 is used to state something is “more than”. In this case, it is more 広い (spacious) than something. The something is 思った (thought), the past-tense of 思う (to think). ペンギン expected the 動物園 to be smaller than it is, but it turns out it is more 広い than he 思った it would be.
シロクマ says, 「まずパンダ館へいこう」
There are a few grammar points to be familiar with here.
The first is the N4 grammar point, placing まず before a phrase. This has the meaning of “first” or “to start with”.
Next, the N5 pattern 「Noun + へ + いく」 is used, meaning “to go to/toward Noun”.
Finally, いく (行く) is in its casual volitional conjugation (N4). In grammar, volition is “the act of using your will to make a conscious decision”. Think, “I will”, “I shall”, “let us”. This conjugation is done by changing the final う sound into おう, so いく becomes いこう. (Note that for る verbs, る is replaced with よう, such as 食べよう.)
If we translate 館 as exhibit, we get, “First of all, let’s go to the panda exhibit.” To be a little less stiff in English, I might write this as, “Let’s head over to the panda exhibit first.”
The overhead speaker mentions おやつタイム for the zoo’s polar bear.
According to the Japanese Wikipedia page on おやつ (which I am blindly trusting without looking up any sources), the time of day spanning from 2PM to 4PM used to be as 八つ時 (8 o’clock) from an older way of counting time. Thus, the やつ is the number eight, and in this usage coincides with the afternoon hours.
Back when Japanese typically had two meals a day (rather than the standard three meals of our current age), workers such as farmers would have a snack in the afternoon. Thus, おやつ came to refer to this afternoon snack. In moden times, おやつ still refers to a snack, but it can be during any time of the day, and can be used to refer to any meal other than breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
(Thank you Google Translate for helping me through that. You’re crazy more often than not when translating Japanese to English, but you were a big help here.)
シロクマ is interested in seeing the zoo polar bear diving for snacks. For context, imagine you’re visiting the zoo and an overhead announcement says, “Zoo staff will be taking their snack break at 1:20 PM. Please head over to the food court to enjoy the staff standing in lines and sitting at tables.” Who among us wouldn’t head over to see that?
His response to the announcement is, 「見たい！ スゴそう」 This give two more grammar points to know.
First is the たい form of a verb, which is N5 level. This is used to express your own desire to do something. Since シロクマ “wants to see” the polar bear’s diving form, he says 見たい. For this conjugation, you take the stem of the polite form of the verb and append たい (見ます -> 見 -> 見たい).
The second is そう. This is appended to an adjective to say something “seems” to be that adjective. The adjective here is スゴイ (すごい), meaning “amazing”, so シロクマ is saying the announced event “seems amazing”. In English, we might say “sounds amazing”. This conjugation involves dropping い at the end of the adjective, and appending そう (すごい -> すご -> すごそう).