How to understand the intended meaning in Japanese?

Hi there! So I was doing my lessons today and came across this example sentence for the word 料理人: コウイチからの手紙を読んで、料理人になる決意を固めました。

I always read the Japanese sentence first and try to understand the meaning before looking at the English translation. So I did the same in this case and what I understand from this sentence is this: “After reading Koichi’s letter, I hardened my resolve to become a cook.” The translation WaniKani gives, however, is this: “My position as cook was confirmed by Koichi’s letter.”

How is this possible? Is there something wrong with the WaniKani translation? I don’t think so. It’s really disheartening to not understand the actual meaning when I feel like I know everything I’m supposed to know to understand it.

This is what I struggle with the most these days, especially when I try to read manga. I know the words and the grammar, I can read the kanji, but the meaning I deduce with the knowledge I have is often slightly off and sometimes completely wrong.

So my real question is how can I acquire the fluency to understand the intended meaning in Japanese beyond the grammar points and the individual meaning of words?

I guess the short (or the only) answer is to read lots of native material and immerse myself into the language more? But I just wanted to hear your opinions on how to overcome this issue and see if there are others struggling with it.

Finally, I bet this subject was brought up before but I just didn’t know how to search for it, so I started a new thread. Please feel free to provide links to older threads.

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Uh, weird, I basically understand that sentence the same way you do. :thinking:
It’s not unheard of to find mistakes in the example sentences, so you could send them an email to check?

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I don’t read much of example sentence so I never see this. I have the same interpretation with you though :thinking:

Yes. Once you get the “hang” of it, it gets natural over time. I still struggle though, and my style is just to skip what I don’t know temporarily (not for everyone) and just get immersed as fast as possible. My usual style is to read a manga/article, understand some lines, skip trying to understand other complicated sentences, then later I’ll just realize “Oh that’s what it meant”. I just stop when I really can’t get the gist of what I’m reading anymore or if I encounter a completely new word.

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Ugh, I feel you. I think in this case both would be possible since the subject (who does the 固める) is not explicitly specified by the が particle, so you would probably have to decide based on context. However, I seem to run into such dilemmas even when reading contextualised material which is very annoying. The only way I could think of tackling this is more exposure, howerer, and as such I am also interested in what else people have to say. :slight_smile:

Isn’t it 私が?Also, I’m finding it hard that the translated text has “confirmed” wherein 固める is used and not 確認する

Not a fan, but google translate agrees with us:
image

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Also 決意を固める is a set expression. I would translate it by “to harden one’s resolve”, but the translation feels suspiciously literal, so I wonder if that’s actually correct English.

https://thesaurus.weblio.jp/content/決意を固める

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I’m aware, but still that translation is closer to what I understand from that sentence than “My position as cook was confirmed by Koichi’s letter.” I don’t completely trust google translate but it helps sometimes

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The nuances are gone, but the translation from Google is basically how I understand it too. I was just adding to your mention that word usage didn’t line up.

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I think the first で clause is acting as an adverb. It is not like the sentence is trying to convey two actions in succession, but rather it is one of the uses of the て conjugation. I have yet to learn the use of から meaning after, but doesn’t it need to be after the Te form of a verb?
Again, that is one of the strange uses of the Te form I learnt on Genki. For example:

バスに乗って、触媒に行く。

(I go to work BY bus) Not “I get on the bus and then go to work.”

Don’t feel bad, I would’ve never guessed those meanings, too. And as for the second clause, it beats me how we went from “determination” to “post”.These things have also happened to me while learning English and had no other choice but to comply and memorize usages.

Well, there is no 私が in the sentence as far as I can tell and moreover note that there is no "料理人: " either. The example sentence is: コウイチからの手紙を読んで、料理人になる決意を固めました。

I was imagining that what they means was コウイチからの手紙を読んで、こういちは私が料理人になる決意って固めました。Notwithstanding, considering that 決意を固める is a set expression I am butchering the sentence too much here and I am therefore inclined to believe that the translation given by WK is faulty.

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According to Jisho, one of the meanings of 固める is “to make secure; to stabilize; to settle down; to strengthen (belief, resolution, etc.)”. Also, 決意を固める is a set expression. I don’t think being suspiciously close to the English translation necessarily makes it wrong. Most likely, 固める is using this more abstract meaning.
To me, the sentence reads “I read the letter from Koichi, and my determination to become a cook was strengthened [by the letter]”. I agree that the translation definitely seems incorrect.
I like WK’s sentences in general, but I wish they wouldn’t stray so much from the Japanese meaning. Take this sentence; aside from the problems addressed in this thread already, there’s no mention of 読む anywhere in the English sentence, and nothing in the Japanese sentence about “position as cook”. This one might be worth sending them an email about.

One thing to note: As far as I have noticed, quite a few of the example sentences are translated non-literally.

As far as the rational for why they choose to do that…I am not sure what it is. It may be due to the fact that literal translations can often sound stilted, but I lean towards literal translation especially for sentences that are supposed to be useful for learning how a new word works. That is just my personal view though. Not sure what the rational of the wk folks is. Might be worth shooting them an email and asking if you are concerned. Maybe they have a good reason.

As far as translation here, if I was being literal, I would say something like: “Having read Koichi’s letter, I became even more determined to become a cook(lit. my determination to become a cook hardened).”

This particular example sentence might need a retranslation??? :turtle: :man_shrugging: :pizza:

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I don’t know if this is why, but for me the non-literal translations have been really really helpful to show me some “real” differences in the way that things are said and particularly in the way the word is used. If it’s too literal a translation I may not get the ordinariness of a word or understand the connections it makes with familiar concepts. Also it’s good for me to see natural language translations I think. Helps me examine the sentence a bit more and not just skim it and comprehend the parts and delude myself into thinking that I understood it.

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Agree. This recently made me laugh: 悪女 (evil woman):
あの悪女、耳だけはいいんだよな。

That bitch sure has good ears!

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I read it the same way you and @Naphthalene did. It’s certainly not unthinkable that we’re wrong, as learners, but I think this one is worth a staff email. It wouldn’t be the first example sentence translation to make it through with a mistake, even given the overall non-literal approach.

There are thousands upon thousands of them, written by real humans, so auto-pilot slip-ups are bound to happen. But in general:

This is the answer, along with abandoning all preconceived notions from your native language.

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I have read through this thread with interest and must say that I admire you guys to interprete the example sentences at level 11, 13 or 14! Those of you at level 60, I understand and hope to be there one day.
I reached level 13 and I am already proud if I can read the sentences and I don‘t question the translation.

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Are you wondering about the English translation used in Google translate? If you are, it is correct English.

Not entirely related to this grammar point, but I had to share this gem from Rubin’s Making Sense of Japanese because “being in the twilight zone” so perfectly describes my trying to understand Japanese :man_facepalming:t4:

Almost invariably, when a student has trouble finding the subject of an active verb, he or she will panic and quickly transform the verb into an English passive to make the problem go away. And when the all-important connection between subject and verb is lost, the sentence enters the twilight zone.

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Whenever you find anything odd with WaniKani’s sentences, mnemonics, anything at all (maybe you just wanna say hi to @JenK and wish the staff a nice day), shoot them an email at hello@wanikani.com . Sometimes the translations are wrong (like this one). Sometimes they have typos, sometimes they use a slightly wrong meaning for a word. In all cases, they always reply fast to emails and clarify things.

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Thank you all for the very engaging discussion! @Naphthalene @maggiekarp @TamanegiNoKame @iansacks @jneapan I sent an e-mail to WK about this. Let’s see what will come of it.

And I think I’m the exact opposite. I feel like I have to understand every little thing in a sentence. I think I fear missing out on stuff that will make it difficult for me to understand the rest of the story/article.

That might be my mistake. I should have used quotation marks, but what I wanted to say in the first post was basically “I came across an example sentence for the word ‘料理人’ and here it is:…” So yeah, the example sentence is definitely without "料理人: "

Hahahahahaa! I love this! Thanks for sharing. Okay, I’m already feeling less alone in having trouble finding the subject.

So thank you all again for your replies. For the example sentence I posted in the first post, many of you suggested sending an e-mail to the WK team to check whether the translation is accurate. So next time I’ll try to come up with other examples from the manga I’m reading to better explain the problem I have. Cheers!

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