27 July 2010


Here're some new Japanese words (and characters) for you, if you don't know these yet.

たんじょうび おめでとう!
Tanjoubi Omedetou!

That means...


Literally, tanjoubi means "birthday," and omedetou is a greeting that could go by itself which means "congratulations."  So if you combine the two, you could get how it becomes "Happy Birthday!"  It's not strictly or literally a 1-to-1 translation, which is apparently so in the culture here.  People don't celebrate their birthdays here, or at least not just with anyone, not just with officemates or fellow students or what.  Two locals have recently had their birthdays without any hint of anything.  Otherwise, people don't announce their birthdays nor do people announce their birthdays for them (unlike what HR people do in the Philippines).  IF they do celebrate, they would be with close/long-time friends or family only, and it is the celebrant who is treated out.  Much like the practice in the rest of the world.  I think it is only in the Philippines were the celebrant treats everybody else out!

Lastly, sometimes an "o" is added at the beginning of a word for more "politeness."  So tanjoubi could be otanjoubi.  Like cha (green tea) and kane (money) are usually called ocha and okane.  By the way, this "politeness" thing in the Japanese language - I sort of get it, because it's almost like the "po" we use in the Filipino language, but like the "po" in Filipino, sometimes I just see it as either a discriminatory thing (i.e. who is in authority and who is not) or used without intention (i.e. some people would sarcastically use "po" even to those he/she doesn't need to use it for).  You would notice service people - bus drivers, cashiers, etc - use "polite" words, but usually only them.  But in Nihongo classes, foreigners are always taught the "polite" way.  So when we go out into the real world of Japan, you would find that what you studied in class is not anywhere useful.  One classic example is, "wakarimasu ka" which means "Do you understand?" or "Do you know?," and is the "medium polite" way of saying it (yes, there is an even more polite way of saying it).  Instead when somebody approaches you with the question, you would hear "wakatta ka" - which you wouldn't understand unless someone taught you that beforehand, but otherwise it would not be taught in Nihongo class!  So in some sense, it feels like we foreigners are being taught/told to be polite when speaking in Nihongo to Nihonjin(s) or Japanese citizens.  Well, I guess that has merits of its own.  Many Japanese appreciate your efforts to try to communicate to them in their native tongue (and most specially when you're not Asian because if you are, at first you might pass as Japanese to them and therefore beforehand they expect you to actually speak in Japanese).  They would extend their kindness to you if they notice you are not so well-versed in Nihongo or Japanese matters.  But if you get to a certain level of fluency, that extension of kindness is also left behind.  Lastly, of course the best way to learn a language is to be around Japanese-speaking people always. That's how babies learn, remember?  I'm still a Nihongo baby!

Well, like P-Noy having spent just 3 weeks in his 6 years in office, I am but only around 3 months into my 3 years stint here.  Let's see what happens.  :-)

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