Work in Japan Advice Board
Correct Japanese Expressions That is also Odd
There are many Non-Japanese students attending Japanese Language school like ours, Human Academy. Examples include, exchange students aiming for Japanese Universities, Domestic Companies, Foreign-Affiliated Companies, families living in Japan, and many more.
All of the students are having fun while learning the Japanese language. However, sometimes we hear expressions that sound odd from a Native-Japanese perspective.
So, this time I would like to share some examples of “odd expressions” I run into. Also, it may sound odd to me, but I would like to share how the Native-Japanese will hear these expressions as.
「今やっています」(Imma yatteimasu)= I am doing it now
Your Boss: “Are you done with the documents for today`s meeting?”
You:「今やっていますよ。」= “I am doing it now”
This may just be from my experience but, I think this expression comes out based on the English, “I am working on it”. Also, many may think there is nothing wrong with this usage.
However, this example is asking a situation of a document for a meeting, so the usage of “今やっていますよ” in this example may sound negative. It may sound negative from a Natives` perspective because we will take as one of the following:
l How annoying, I am currently working on it.
l I am working on it right now, can you not see?
For the situation above, suggested answers would be, “I will finish by 3PM” or “I am sorry for making you wait, I will finish soon”. These answers will sound more positive from a Japanese`s perspective.
・ ～先生！ ～様！ ～部長！
・ (～Sensei！ ～sama！ ～buchou！)
Your boss or professor: “You look a bit pale today, are you okay?”
You: ”Yes sensei, I am fine.”
Your boss or professor: “But, you look a bit weak, please rest.”
You: “Thank you sensei! But I will work hard sensei!
This is definitely coming from the usage of “sir!” Depending on the country, when speaking to someone superior the term, “sir” is used. Therefore, using “sensei, buchou, sama” in a sentence is definitely coming from the thinking and usage of “sir”. From my perspective, Japanese people will not be offended but may consider it odd.
・ 私にくれた方がいいです=You should give it to me
You: “Hello! Oh, what a beautiful necklace! You should give it to me!”
The expression above, I often hear as well. It may be due to the difference of thinking and the expression of giving and receiving.
Asking a certain student from South America, one should not say “Please give it to me.” As a joke but rather, “You should give it to me.” would be a polite expression.
The difference of culture is very interesting、but however, in the Japanese language, one should use “I want it too” or “The necklace is beautiful” for this situation.
There are many more Japanese expressions that may be correct when written but may sound odd to a native. My thought is by understanding the Japanese culture; one is able to learn the language correctly and more smoothly.
On the other hand, I am also thinking like this. As the 2020 Olympics will be hosted in Tokyo, there will be many visitors from across the globe. We, the Japanese Native should not be too concerned with the culture and be obsessed with the correct Japanese expressions. I believe we, the Japanese people need to change as well.
Human Academy Japanese Language School - Chief Manager
After graduating, Mr.Tanaka taught Japanese in a number of countries in the ASEAN region including Malaysia and Brunei.
He then taught at a Japanese school for foreign students in Japan for 10 years before making a transition to school management.
As the role of Japanese language teaching changes, Mr.Tanaka focuses on Japanese teaching methods that fit the needs of students today.