Japanese sentences and strange translations or hard to understand translations

I am now currently at level 5 and I encountered a sentence, when reading the sentence in Japanese it sounds very strange to me. But when reading the English sentence makes sense for example.

Japanese: “ちょっとは空気をよんでください。”

English: " Please just take the hint."

I put the sentence into gtranslate and the literal translation of the sentence is " Just have a look at the air." or “Please read the air for a moment.”

So I’m comparing the Japanese sentence with the literal translation and then the professionally translated one. I’m trying to wrap my head around how they get that translation.
in English the sentence mean’s “Please take the hint” in the transliteral sentence it’s “Please read the air for a moment.” How does the sentence become “Please take the hint” in English? There’s no indication of the word “hint” in the original sentence.

I’m not an expert in translation so I’m trying to understand the process in how they translated the original Japanese sentence to the professionally translated sentence which is “Please take the hint”

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This is reading the atmosphere, or taking into consideration how other people act or react to something to understand how one should act.

空気 also has as meaning mood; situation, because of this example.

“Please read the mood/atmosphere for a moment.”

It’s an idiomatic expression.

But yeah, WK does include the “atmosphere” meaning as well.

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That’s actually a good translation, though. “Reading the atmosphere” means “reading the room.”

So, “Learn to take a hint,” “Read the room a little,” “Learn to read a room,” etc. All good natural translations.

I’ve posted about this before, but learners need to be really careful trying to learn grammar from translations, unless they specifically know they’re translated to illustrate the original grammar (which would make them pretty bad general translations, but you might encounter ones that try to be a little more faithful to the mechanics of the source in, say, a textbook, JLPT prep guide, etc.).

If it’s out in the wild, it’s probably not privileging the original vocabulary or grammar, but finding a natural equivalent in English–which can involve creative idiom replacement, tense-changing, added or dropped words to convey the same overall tone (there are plenty of times when ちょっとs and んじゃないs don’t need to be carried over directly), etc. These are all things that usually make for a better translation, but a worse Japanese-learning tool.

Translations are good for learning translation, and sometimes contextual use (like here, this example could teach you that 空気を読む is idiomatic). They’re rarely good for learning grammar.


But yeah, instead of merely answering this specific question, I thought of some tips for parsing translations you don’t understand.

First is a general application of what I posted above, which is check a dictionary to see if one of the phrases is an expression. You might have to search for various forms, or change the particles, to get the entry in question. Searching with one part of it and then an asterisk will show all entries that start that way and you can try to see if any expressions turn up, as well.

Second, try googling for “[part you don’t understand] + grammar”. Often you will find many blog posts or forum discussions on the grammar point if it is in fact one.

Third, consider that the English itself might be an idiom, even if the Japanese is not, and what the core of that idiom means.


I highly appreciate your tips. I’m not the best at expressing myself at times nor, how to word things correctly. All the tips help a lot.

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