Japanese Language and Culture

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Words from Class, Page 60

I take a weekly class at the Fort Worth Japanese Society to keep myself motivated and for some much needed interaction and community.

After a little free-form conversation about what we've done during the week, we work on one page from the book 「10才までに覚えておきたいちょっと難しい1000のことば」. This is a book of vocabulary that parents purportedly would like their children to be able to understand by the time they are 10 years old. Being parents' wishfulness, most 10-year-olds would not understand all the words in the book. They are, after all, ちょっと難しい (chotto muzukashii). It's certainly sufficiently challenging for us. We get one page of five words per week, and as homework we write a sentence for each word, which we then share and have corrected at the following class.

Although vocabulary seems like one of the most straightforward things to learn about a language, as I've mentioned in the self-study guide, except for simple nouns, it often is not. We sometimes go a bit astray when trying to use this vocabulary. We write sentences which seem like they should work, but sound 不自然 (fushizen) — unnatural — to a native speaker. The difference between our usage and natural usage is sometimes sufficiently subtle that it can be challenging for a native speaker to explain exactly why our usage doesn't work, but after a little hashing out with examples and trying to arrive at a more precise definition, a sense of the correct usage becomes a little more clear.

This is the kind of information that you usually can't get out of a Japanese-English dictionary, and sometimes not even out of a kokugo dictionary, so I'll try to share what I and my classmates have learned on a weekly basis. Here are the words for this week.

先決 (senketsu)

When there is a situation where a set of decisions must be made about what to do or how to proceed, the one which takes first priority is 先決. 先決 can also be something that should be decided before doing anything else. To use this word properly, the noun phrase in the sentence being equated to 先決 needs to be expressed as a question to be answered or a decision to be taken. My first attempt at a sentence was (note, * is used to denote an incorrect example):

* 宝くじが当たったら、どこに引っ越すのが先決だ。
* takarakuji ga atattara, doko ni hikkosu no ga senketsu da.
If we win the lottery, the first decision is where to move.

The problem here is not strictly one of misuse of 先決, because the sentence would have a problem even if something else came after が. Either way, どこに引っ越すの should be in the form of a nominalized question and so should end with か instead of の. So the correct sentence is:

takarakuji ga atattara, doko ni hikkosu ka ga senketsu da.
If we win the lottery, the first decision is where to move.

Using a nominalized question like this with 先決 is one natural usage where that question implies a decision to be made. You can also directly express that something is to be decided using 決める (kimeru) or 決断する (ketsudan suru) or the like.

sono hōshin wo kimeru no ga senketsu da.
Deciding that policy is the first priority.

You can't use 先決 to mean the first priority of a set of actions to be taken. It must refer in some way to a decision, which should be clear looking at the meaning of the kanji.

偽る (itsuwaru)

偽る means to lie, falsify or deceive. Using 偽る to describe what is being lied about or falsified can take two patterns.

The first pattern is ~と偽る (~ to itsuwaru) — in this case, the part before と is like a quotation, and so that is the lie being told.

The second pattern is ~を偽る (~ wo itsuwaru) — in this case, the part before を is an object which is the thing being falsified, so it is a statement of the actual truth of the situation which is being falsified or lied about.

My original sentence was:

* スポーツ選手がステロイドを飲むのを偽っても、そのうちに付けが回ってくる。
* supōtsu senshu ga suteroido wo nomu no wo itsuwatte mo, sono uchi ni tsuke ga mawatte kuru.
Even if athletes lie about taking steroids, sooner or later it will catch up with them.

Exactly what is wrong with this is hard to explain, but when you see the two ways it can be corrected to make it more natural, it should be a little more clear. First using the と pattern:

supōtsu senshu ga suteroido wo nonde inai to itsuwatte mo, sono uchi ni tsuke ga mawatte kuru.
Even if athletes lie and say they don't take steroids, sooner or later it will catch up with them.

In this case, the lie being told is expressed as an indirect quote. Now using the second pattern:

supōtsu senshu ga suteroido wo nonda koto wo itsuwatte mo, sono uchi ni tsuke ga mawatte kuru.
Even if athletes cover up having taken steroids, sooner or later it will catch up with them.

Incidentally, the phrase 付けが回ってくる (tsuke ga mawatte kuru) means literally "the bill will come around." The word 付け means "tab" as in credit one receives so as not to have to pay for something immediately. This expression is used figuratively to mean that someone will eventually have to pay the price for their misdeeds.

日ごろ (higoro)

The simple definition given by the book is いつも (itsumo), which is pretty inadequate to trying to understand the correct usage of this word, and it's very easy to confuse it in usage with 毎日 (mainichi), or 普通 (futsū), etc. I still don't have nearly as good a handle on this word as I'd like, and I think it will require some experience.

日ごろ describes something which is habitual or usual, and functions very much like 普段 (fudan). It seems to tend to apply to broad categories of action or behavior, and be less applicable to specific activities.

日ごろ is often used in the form 日ごろの and the word it describes is typically a category of habitual action or behavior, so such phrases as the following are typical of natural usage.

日ごろの行い higoro no okonai habitual behavior
日ごろの言動 higoro no gendō habitual speech and conduct
日ごろの食生活 higoro no shokusēkatsu usual dietary habits
日ごろの準備 higoro no junbi routine preparation
日ごろの備え higoro no sonae routine preparations (e.g., for a disaster)
日頃の努力 higoro no doryoku daily effort
日ごろの態度 higoro no taido usual attitude

saigai no higoro no sonae wa ima made ijō ni taisetsu desu.
Everyday disaster preparedness is more important than ever.

日頃から (higoro kara) means "routinely" or "on a routine basis."

ひそか (hisoka)

ひそか means "secret" or "surreptitious." The key thing to avoid confusing is that it is a na-adjective (形容動詞) and not a noun, so it cannot be used equivalently to 秘密 (himitsu) or 内緒 (naisho). It is frequently used adverbially in the form ひそかに to describe an action which is pursued secretly.

sono kaisha wa hisoka ni kabu wo kaishimete tekitaiteki kigyōbaishū wo shikaketa.
That company secretly bought up the stock and pursued a hostile takeover.

環境 (kankyō)

Much more straightforward, 環境 maps pretty closely to the English word "environment." It can refer to one's immediate surroundings, to an environment in a broader sense, and also to the natural environment.

daigaku to kaisha no kankyō wa zenzen chigau.
The environments of a graduate school and a company are totally different.

osen ni taishite kankyō wo mamoranakereba naranai.
We have to protect the environment from pollution.

Tags: FWJS Class  Vocabulary  



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