Thursday, November 19, 2009

Secret #5 for Speaking Fluent Japanese - Hypothesis

How to go beyond the merely factual

The fifth post of the series -13 Secret Techniques to Put You on the Fast Track to Fluency in Japanese.

One of things Giles Murray is able to achieve with his book, 13 Secrets to Speaking Fluent Japanese, is a blending of authentic Japanese texts with the idea that fluency comes by stripping back your inhibitions and crafting new mental filters.

This chapter includes the production If - The Adventures of a Gaijin in Tokyo, an original 16-page manga by Tadashi Nomura of Tezuka Productions which aims to give you mastery of the subjunctive "painlessly". The manga as been been produced as animation and posted for your viewing pleasure on YouTube. Sit back and enjoy the story before we look more closely at the grammar.

What if there were more detail?

There isn't much grammatical detail given to the hypothetical structures condensed in to the brief yet entertaining manga of a romance that could have been. Reading the story of a young man's misadventure in Tokyo is hardly going to give you fine control of the hypothetical, but it is a concise way to explore a variety of important conversational devices like speculation and regret.

The claim that you'll "develop a mastery of all hypothetical forms by intensive exposure to them in the form of a custom written manga" needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Giles even concedes this in the introduction to the chapter when he suggests that for a fuller explanation of grammatical forms you read Yoko M. McClain's Handbook of Modern Japanese Grammar.

I haven't read McClain's handbook but I do have A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Sentence Patterns by Naoko Chino. Using Chino's classification system for each of the 30 sentences, I am able to break them down into 2 basic patterns with a few variations. Let's take a closer look at the 2 basic patterns and their variations with examples from Nomura's manga. The first Basic Pattern 47 is a verb pattern, identify the verb in each example and see how it changes.

Basic Pattern 47 - The Subjunctive with V-tara

The first example is where the verb ending changes with 'tara'. As is often the case with Japanese sentences this one left open ended.
kare ga resutoran ni ikanakattara...
And if he hadn't gone to that restaurant, then...

Variation 1 on Basic Pattern 47 - The Subjunctive with 'V-ba'.

The second example use the verb ending 'ba' to express speculation as to what might have happened, this time closing with the second clause.
ano otoko ni deawanakereba, resutoran ni ikanakatta deshou...
If he hadn't met that man, he wouldn't have gone to that restaurant...

Variation 2 on Basic Pattern 47 - The subjunctive with 'to'.

This next example expresses one thing happening as a direct consequence of something else It can not be used in conjunction with a command and is used in a similar way to 'when', or in this case 'if'.
nihon ni ryuugaku wo shinai to, hontou no nihongo wo oboeraremasen.
If you don't go to Japan, you'll never learn real Japanese.

Basic Pattern 15 - Subjunctive adjective sentence with 'tara'/'dattara'.

The second Basic Pattern 15 is an adjective sentence, again identify the adjective in each example and see how it changes.
hima dattara, issho ni kouen wo sanpo shimasen ka?
If you're free, will you go for a walk in the park with?

Variation 2 on Basic Pattern 15 -Subjunctive adjective sentence with 'kereba'.

This time the adjective conjugates to form an ending much like the verb in the second example above. How do you know it's an adjective?
apa-to ga semakunakereba ii no ni.
If only the apartment wasn't so small.

Variation 3 on Basic Pattern 15 - Subjunctive adjective sentence with 'nara'.

The clause ending 'nara' may be used following a noun, adjective or verb and is often used in much the same was as 'only if'. In this case the condition is already believed to be true so the guy stepping out of the car reasonably expects that his desire for English conversation will be fulfilled.
kare ga amerika jin nara, eigoryoku wo migaku koto ga dekiru.
If he is an American, I can brush up my English skills.

Getting your head around the grammar.

Wow, that was quite a bit of grammar. Don't be overwhelmed though, it's all about recognising the recurring patterns. The next step to understanding how these patterns work when expressing regret, disappointment or the hypothetical is in identifying them as they appear in the text or video.

Review the video again, listen carefully and count each time you can her the patterns described above. Stop and rewind, play it again if you need to, this is an intensive listening exercise. In the comments below you're invited to share what you find, and create your own example sentences. In class this morning we speculated what would happen if he hadn't eaten that fugu...

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