Biggest Realizations / Mind Blows You've Experienced Learning Japanese: Emoji means what?!?!

The biggest shocker for me after learning even a bit of simple Japanese, was realizing how many Japanese learning resources and translations are just bad or flat-out wrong.

In context in Japanese, some phrases could be understood to be greetings or goodbyes for instance, just like in English we say “Take it easy” or “Have a good one” for brief goodbyes, even though those phrases have nothing to do with departing, but often in shows, anime, and language learning resources these are just translated to “goodbye” without any note, which isn’t helpful to a learner, because they are basically being given a list of 20 or 30 phrases that all mean “Hello” or “Goodbye” without actually breaking down the phrases and learning what they really mean and their cultural significance.

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It depends a bit on what you define as wrong.

If you’re talking about anime subtitles and manga translations, strict accuracy is dropped in favour of natural translations. Translating all of こんにちは, もうしもうし, うす, よう, こんちわッス and so on as “hello” or “hi” is probably the most correct thing you can do, since that is what an English speaker would say in that situation. Subtitles aren’t there to help you understand the nuances of the Japanese being spoken. They’re there so you can enjoy the show while knowing what’s going on.

For language learning resources… I can’t say I’ve really seen what you mention, but I can imagine there being cases where translations are a bit simplified. It’s a tradeoff between practicality and completeness - translations are inherently flawed anyway, and having a three paragraph explanation of the difference between さようなら and じゃあね is probably not the best way to bother new language learners - but maybe there are specific examples you’re talking about. I certainly won’t claim all language learning resources are always the best, or even particularly good, but to claim that they’re bad in general feels like a bit of a stretch.

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A little late for the party, but it seems like Japanese is full of this sort of thing.
The one I always think of is 電池, “electricity pond”. Translation: “battery”!

And if you think about it, that makes total sense; a battery can be considered a “pool” of energy.

Of course, there are plenty of other things where the kanji translation is pretty out there, but it has been a lot of fun to see how the words are represented and try to make sense of what it means.

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I haven’t read the whole thread so maybe this has been mentioned, but my mind was really blown by the Japanese word for straight line:

一文字

It literally means the written character for “one”, which sure enough, looks like a straight line. There is even a straight line in the written word.

But… which came first? I would have thought that straight lines existed before the character for the number one.

Anyways, it’s very meta and I like it!

I’m not quite sure what you mean, but there are other ways to say straight line as well.

直線
棒線
まっすぐな線

They wouldn’t prevent something like 一文字 from coming into existence.

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I could have used some specific examples, certainly, but I didn’t claim that all or most Japanese language learning resources were bad. Let me rephrase that to say, “There are a number of resources that leave something to be desired.”

A specific example would be the particle は. Most learning resources correctly identify it as a topic marker, but there are a disturbing number that label it as the subject marker. And too many resources equate です with politeness and expect you to use it all of the time, even when it would be inappropriate.

The polar opposite of saying all or most language learning resources are bad, is saying that they are all superb and should be trusted without question or examination. Neither of those extremes are true, and the Bell curve necessitates that there are some dissatisfactory resources in the pool (about 15.87% of them).

Well, to be fair, です is kind of the poster child for 丁寧語. Literally “polite language.”

Maybe I need an example of what you mean to be able to understand what the concern is. I can’t imagine many resources actually recommending grammatically incorrect uses of です like after plain verbs or something. Maybe you mean something else.

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Maybe I need an example of what you mean to be able to understand what the concern is. I can’t imagine many resources actually recommending grammatically incorrect uses of です likes after plain verbs or something. Maybe you mean something else.

It’s not that they recommend using it incorrectly; it’s that they literally only provide you です and make no mention of だ, either until much, much later in their specific learning program, or not at all. だ isn’t an advanced or even intermediate concept. And when I say incorrect, I am not referring to technical miss, but a contextual miss. です can imply emotional withdrawal/distancing and would not be correct to use in many situations, especially where informal form had already been established.

I guess I would need to see how something is laid out to judge it… been a long time since I was using beginner resources so it’s hard to remember what I encountered.

I usually reassure beginners that if you’re at an early enough stage where you are literally still unaware of major building blocks of the language, no Japanese person is going to infer deep meaning in your expressions. They’re not going to be put off by use of 丁寧語 if you’re at a level where you’re unaware of だ, because someone who is unaware of だ will be making so many other mistakes that they’ll know to be understanding generally.

Of course, there’s also the time after beginner stage where people discover だ and think it has to be used whenever です isn’t used, which comes across weird in its own way.

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And we have good old fashioned Japanese good-spiritedness to thank for their forgiving nature (in the US we certainly aren’t as forgiving about language inadequacy). I’m merely criticizing a common shortcoming in what appears to be a number of language learning resources. I do have quite a few A1/JLPT5 resources, and it’s an entirely common situation. I’m the opposite of you - I haven’t seen many advanced resources (nothing beyond A2), so perhaps these are things that are ironed out later on. It just seems to me that a “measure twice, cut once” approach to teaching formality and informality at the same time would be a step in the right direction.

I’m more used to hearing discussions about the use of ます to teach verbs, where some beginners start with the impression that ます forms are the “default” and end up asking for tips on how to convert from ます to other forms and it all becomes a bit confused.

I can appreciate the thought process of resources that want to focus on です and ます to begin with, because you’re starting with something that will always be acceptable for first time interactions. Beginners usually have lots of short first time interactions, and far fewer long, meaningful interactions. Teaching informal language simultaneously at the beginning would slow some people down, and a large percentage of people who start Japanese will never get to a stage of using the language where fully informal conversations are a normal occurrence.

I guess the important thing is for resources to make their thought processes and promises clear to people. But I’m sure many fall short in that regard.

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That’s fair, and you’re spot on about -masu (I’m too lazy to Alt~ right now). Masu and Desu are the linguistic equivalent of “It goes in the square hole”, which, if you don’t recognize the reference, I strongly urge you to look up for amusement purposes. :slight_smile: I get it - new language learners are stray sheep wandering through a pack of wolves and need to be herded. If language learning resources focused on the intent of their audience, instead of a majority of them going for what Incubus would describe as a “vague, haunting mass appeal” it would go a long way.

I’m the type that benefits greatly from being bogged down with technical information. I hit a roadblock if I DON’T understand how and why something is used, or seems to be used inconsistently. I want to see large amounts of text with furigana, romaji AND transliteration so that I can see the language in action and figure out the patterns on my own, instead of reading paragraph after paragraph of awkward exposition on grammar and sentence structure. After I have enough examples, then give me a condensed explanation, tell me about the exceptions and start loading me up with vocabulary! I realize this mindset represents a very small minority of language learners.

やった is literally “I did it”.

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I think what they mean is this:
で=Here.
も=Even.
でも=even here.
Like 日本は優しい,でも(even here)人はときどき酷い。

No, that’s not what でも means - also, if you translate that with the meaning you give for でも you get “Japan is kind (I assume this means Japanese people), even here people are sometimes cruel” which is a little contradictionary. で doesn’t really mean “here” either, but it can function as a location marker (and a bunch of other things like marking reasons, means, things used, sequences, etc. - or it can just be the て-form or conjunctive form of だ).

でも means something like “but” or “however” when used on its own, but @temeraire is saying it’s just a combination of the particles で and も, which is absolutely correct. Your line of reasoning is even roughly correct in the sense that でも in all its uses combines the (or a) meaning of で with the meaning of も, but it’s a bit abstract. Think of it as saying “even with that being the case” - or, in one word, “however”.

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yeah, I was focusing too much on one specific interpretation.
Also, for the 日本語 I wrote I meant something along the lines of “Japan has mostly nice people, but there are some cruel people here anywhere, nowhere is perfect.”
EDIT: It’s obvious, but i just realized something about 絶望.
絶: Beyond.
望: Hope
絶望: Beyond hope.

Surprisingly for me it was the word order and ellipsis in sentence. It is absolutely different in comparison with both my native language and English. Ellipsis which sometimes can just trash away 70% of the sentence, even particles and verbs… Even now I sit like some sort of philosopher and think over the sentences I see and try to guess what does it mean before checking the translation. :thinking:
Jokes aside, that’s rad. No wonder Japanese like to answer slowly and in pretty ambiguous manner. Thus now I actually like this language feature.

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