Please shed light on some Japanese reading for me

I am teaching myself the current Minna no nihongo Chuukyuu book, but this reading passage has my brain in a knot.

The full passage here

僕はアメリカから日本へ来て、もう5年になる。しかし、いまだに外来語が苦手だ。カタカナのことばは僕みたいな外国人には簡単だと思っている人がいるが、とんでもない。まるで宇宙人のことばのようだ。

まず、発音が紛らわしい。日本人は英語と同じだと思っているかも知れないが、全く別の言葉としか思えない。僕自身もそうだけど、ほかの国の友人の中にはコーヒーとコピーの違いがわからない人もいる。

また、使い分けも複雑でよくわからない。初めて日本へ来たころ、レストランで「ご飯、ください」と言ったら、「ライスですね」と言われた。「アドレスは?」と聞かれて、住所を教えたら、相手がびっくりしたことをある。「アドレス」は日本語では「メールアドレス」の意味なんだそうだ。それに「アポ」とか「プレゼン」のような言葉になると、何が何だかわからない。

最近は「アイデンティティ」とか「コンプライアンス」などのことばも使われている。日本語でうまく言えないから、使われるのかもしれない。しかし、日本語で言えるのに、外来語を使うのは問題だ。例えば、よく「ポリシー」と言う人がいるが、「考え方」とか「やり方」と言ったほうがずっと正確で分かりやすい場合が多い。

もちろん、僕は外来語に100%反対なのではない。だれでも普通に使っている「シャツ」や「パソコン」などをいまさら変える必要はないと思う。

外来語は日本語になくてはならないものだが、使いすぎはよくない。「バランス」が取れた使い方を考えなければならないと思う。

The paragraph I'm struggling with

最近は「アイデンティティ」とか「コンプライアンス」などのことばも使われている。日本語でうまく言えないから、使われるのかもしれない。しかし、日本語で言えるのに、外来語を使うのは問題だ。例えば、よく「ポリシー」と言う人がいるが、「考え方」とか「やり方」と言ったほうがずっと正確で分かりやすい場合が多い。

As far as i understand, the paragraph discusses how loanwords are useful for people who can’t speak Japanese well (?), but even knowing them does not mean you can utilize them in a spot-on way. But these two sentences are so confusing grammartically:

日本語でうまく言えないから、使われるのかもしれない 。しかし、日本語で言えるのに、外来語を使うのは問題だ。

In the first one, does it mean that “(Some people) can’t speak Japanese well, that’s why these loanwords are used (by them).”? Because the subjects are seriously missing in this sentence, as Japanese speech patterns are, I don’t know who it is talking about. The first part before the comma seems to be talking about a person, and by the passive tense in the second part, i reckon the subject is loanwords. If so, can two clauses with different subjects be strung together like that?

Actually looking at the second sentence does suggest the part

日本語で言える

is referring to a person, but i think i still need clearer explanation :weary:

Somehow reading Japanese materials has been a challenge for me. I can understand the phrases or look them up in the dictionary, but together in a sentence they look obtuse to me. I don’t remember having this difficulty with English though… Is it normal?

Thank you for reading up to this point :smiling_face_with_tear:

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It’s not that they can’t speak well, it’s that they are words that you can’t say or express well in Japanese.

Then they continue to the fact that, even though other words can be said in Japanese, some people still choose the foreign ones.

日本語でうまく言えない
(The words) can’t be said well using Japanese

日本語で言えるのに
Even though (the words) can be said using Japanese

使われるのかもしれない
Might be why (the words) are used (by people)

Yes, it is very normal.

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As @Kazzeon said, it’s referring to (some) loanwords.

I guess that’s not forbidden in the absolute, but that’s not the case here.

Still refers to loanwords :sweat_smile:

I guess so? I definitely had a phase when, even though I could understand all individual words (potentially using a dictionary), I still couldn’t make sense of the whole sentence. That went away after I gained more experience reading.

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I didn’t look at the whole passage but it must be talking about people in general. In the context of loan words.

日本語でうまく言えないから、
Because (they) can’t say (them) well in Japanese
使われるのかもしれない 。
(loan words) are probably used.
しかし、日本語で言えるのに、外来語を使うのは問題だ。
However, it’s a problem that foreign words are used even though (they) can be said in Japanese.

That’s my take on it. But I gave up actively learning Japanese about 20 years ago. :sweat_smile:

One way that I found to help get past this phase is to check the meaning against something, either an official translation or even just DeepL. You can, of course, post on this forum, but that’s usually not practical all the time.

Otherwise, as noted, more experience is required.

Aye, agreed.

Indeed. What I find more common is a topic introduced in one sentence and then several sentences or even paragraphs relating to the topic. Sometimes there are callbacks to remind the reader what the original topic was but not often. I remember flipping back and forth alot like, “wait, what are we talking about here again?” :laughing:

I’d say that’s probably a good chunk of the intermediate phase. And you can still get tripped up sometimes afterwards.

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Now that I had someone confirm the meaning of those sentences, there are a few questions that are still lingering for me. I’m wondering why both sentences

are used with the active voice when they’re referring to 言える , which means “to say (?) well”. I find it hard to imagine 外来語 as the subject of the sentence in that sense. I’m sorry if I’m digging deep in the grammar but the sentences sound vague to me when i read them :frowning_face:

And i don’t get how this sentence would add to clearer meaning as an example:

例えば、よく「ポリシー」と言う人がいるが、「考え方」とか「やり方」と言ったほうがずっと正確で分かりやすい場合が多い。

My point is, since the author is comparing two opposite situations - using loanwords because there’s no suitable replacement in Japanese and using loanwords even when they’re currently many Japanese words with the same meaning. The sentence is illustrating the second case so in my mind, the situation the author describes (current Japanese words are more preferred because they are more straightforward) does not explain why having loanwords is a “problem”. Surely with better native words, the loanwords will almost certainly be less preferred i.e. one could skip them and use the Japanese ones.

I hope i got the point acrossed there. Thank you for answering :kissing_closed_eyes:

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Ah! I see the problem, then! It is indeed grammar. When using the potential form (such as 言える), the element that would usually be marked as an object in English is usually marked with が in Japanese. That’s why the potential form is sometimes translated as “can be […]” instead of “can […]”
For instance, the first example on this grammar site uses 漢字が書けます。If you want to keep 漢字 as subject, it would become “kanji can be written” in English (but it’s more natural to say I can write kanji).

That’s an example of the point the author is trying to make. There are people using, for instance, the word ポリシー (wrongly, as in, not with the actual English meaning) while they could just (correctly) say 「考え方」or「やり方」(which is not only what they meant, but also easier to understand).

You would assume that, but people tend to find it more “trendy” to use loanwords. That’s definitely a “problem” in my native language as well (it’s common to ridicule people who use too many loanwords, though).

(That being said, I agree that the author sounds a bit too extreme to me :sweat_smile:)

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I wouldn’t say trendy, as that feels like it’s a fad. It’s more like saying eloquent instead of speaks well because this happened to English ages ago and yet we still think latin words sound fancy. :wink:

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:flushed::kissing_closed_eyes:

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If you think about it, at some point 音読み words were 外来語 too.

You could even argue that they still are, they’ve just been there longer. :thinking:

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That’s how I meant it :sweat_smile: I had in mind people who use the word “meeting” when they could just say “réunion”, for instance.
I feel like eloquent conveys more information than just “speaks well” (the ability to be not only articulate but also persuasive), so it would fit the other case (something that isn’t easy to say otherwise). In Japanese, I don’t think コンピューター is going anywhere, but using ノー instead of いいえ? Maybe not super necessary.
That being said, I haven’t noticed that much of a problem in Japanese, contrary to the author.

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I’m still grappling with the potential form’s grammar here. So I forgot i did study that the potential form can be preceded with が as in your example sentence, but in

isn’t the subject a person (translated into “I can write Kanji”)? Whereas with

the sentence is talking from the 外来語 perspective… :disappointed_relieved: Please tell me what i’m missing

No? No one is mentioned in 漢字が書けます。
If 漢字 was obvious from context, you could drop it, making it just 書けます (the same way it became 言える in your text).
Both sentences work exactly the same way.

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If you look again at the site that @Naphthalene linked to, the actual sentence is:

わたしは漢字が書けます

That 私は is what makes it mean that “I can write Kanji”. In the absence of that, it’s just “Kanji can be written” and you have to rely on some kind of context get further information.

Let’s go further and make it look like the sentence we want to figure out:

漢字チョークでうまく書けない
Kanji can’t be written well with chalk

Ok, so let’s look back at our original.

日本語でうまく言えない
can’t be said well with Japanese

Hmm, we need a subject.

Right, so the previous sentence is:

最近は「アイデンティティ」とか「コンプライアンス」などのことばも使われている

The closest we have to something that looks like it could be the subject or topic is ことば since the word marked by は is just a time reference.

So let’s slot it in:

ことば日本語でうまく言えない
The words can’t be said well with Japanese

I know I went super basic on each of the steps, but I wanted to explain it properly. Hopefully it helped. :slight_smile:

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That’s too funny. I remember reading that text about a week ago, because I’m also using the Minna no Nihongo Chuukyuu book right now (just finished lesson 5 yesterday). And we also have the same WK level. It’s as if you’re me a week in the past.

The part you mean could be translated like this:

“Maybe these words are used because you cannot say them well in Japanese. However, it is a problem that loanwords are used even though they could be said in Japanese.”
Note: “these words” referring to “「コンプライアンス」” and “「アイデンティティ」”, because they were omitted in the above sentence.

“書けます” is a potential verb. This is also explained in Minna no Nihongo Shoukyuu Lesson 27, but the particle that is appended to an object for a potential verb becomes が instead. But the subject is still the person that can write Kanji, not the Kanji themselves.

“日本語でうまく言えない”, is from the “「アイデンティティ」とか「コンプライアンス」などのことば” perspective, because that’s the subject of the previous sentence which was omitted in this one (there is no が particle because も is appended, which replaces が).

I mean, it’s been the same for me. The Minna no Nihongo Chuukyuu texts are grammatically very challenging (I was particularly struggling the the lesson 5 text). You have to really dissect every sentence, take notice of every grammar point and clear up every possible ambiguity, if you want to be able to understand sentences as complicated as that. Japanese sentences are so vastly different that you really have to re-program the way your brain thinks. And it takes some time to do that, but we’ll both get there if we just keep on reading.

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Yeah that seems to be the normal intermediate → advanced barrier that everyone goes through.

“I know what the pieces mean, why don’t I understand this? :sob:

In addition to this, you also need to be able to hold more of the information in your head as you read.

Like this. That whole concept is what you have to remember in order to make sense of the following sentence.

And if you think about, if you came across it in English:

Words like “identity” and “compliance”

You shortcut that and just think “those words” in your head, and even deeper “the concepts represented by those words”, because that’s ultimately the gist of what’s being said.

その言葉The concepts represented by those wordsが日本語でうまく言えない

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Thank you for the breakdown, it certainly helped :innocent:

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That’s crazy! Maybe we should become study mates or something. But you went from Lesson 2 to Lesson 5 in one week? That’s wow… I know the time we spend studying in a day could be different but the fact that this book is challenging like you said makes it so impressive :face_with_spiral_eyes:

Well, looks like i’m in for a years-long marathon here because i’m that kind of person who dissects every single element of a sentence because i can’t stand it when there’s something i don’t understand when i should :slight_smile: It certainly is challenging to learn Japanese from the English language’s standpoint. I wonder if coming from any other language makes it easier to learn it though, because my first language couldn’t help either :dotted_line_face:

Anyway good luck with your learning! I’m glad i have someone with the similar course

This made me laugh :joy: We have the same problem here with my native language but not as severe. I wonder if Japanese people feel uncomfortable when we rely too much on loanwords? Or even between themselves considering the increasing use of them these days?

This is actually an interesting topic. I’ve always wondered why words with Chinese orgins aren’t considered loanwords in Japanese. Is it because they’re so integrated with the language, like they’ve been there since “forever” so they feel like part of the language already? And also because 外来語 can only be represented by Kana, so they seem more or less “limited”.

My native language has close ties with Japanese and also borrows like 70% percent of it from Chinese, and we also have words from English and a smaller portion from French. Sometimes the Chinese-originated words are so used that we literally forgot they are loanwords. And if it suddenly dawns on someone and they remind us, it will take a long pause for us to remember :smiling_face_with_tear: So i guess it’s the same sentiment with Japanese people

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