Not sure if this is a vocabulary or a grammar question

I try to read WK example sentences without peeking at the translation, and when I read this:

地図をよく見ても、中々ホテルが見当たらない。

I thought it meant

“Even though I often look at maps, hotels are not to be found (implying that maps don’t show hotels).”

But the actual translation is:

“Even if I look closely at the map, I can’t find the hotel.”

My question is: What hints in the sentence did I miss that would point me toward the correct meaning? In other words, what exactly makes my initial interpretation incorrect so that I can avoid the same mistakes next time?

1 Like

As for the sentence itself, よく is also the adverb form of 良い(よい・いい), so it doesn’t only mean often but also well.

To look at something well, to get a good look, to look closely.

The other part of the interpretation is asking yourself, “what is most probable?” In this case, out in the world, are there more people who talk about their habit of looking at maps, and how no maps have hotels on them? Or are there more people who are often lost, looking at a map and asking for help?

This video from Cure Dolly talks about how to deal with ambiguity in Japanese. I’ve timestamped the part where she shows her three main points on screen. She can be didactic (preachy) but I’ve found her reminder to consider probability and common sense to be helpful in the past.

9 Likes

Oooh, thank you for making this connection for me!

1 Like

I think you shouldn’t beat yourself up too hard on not catching context when no context is given. There is never a single correct translation, especially for sentences in isolation, and you may have just guessed the context wrong. I used to worry about these kinds of things myself, but then when I actually started reading I realized it was just not an issue because in the real world you usually have context.

2 Likes

Mostly I think exposure will eventually deal with this – theoretically possible but not really likely interpretations will be less likely to spring to mind the more Japanese you encounter and the more you get used to the way things are usually said.

3 Likes