Hello everyone! みなさん, こんにちは！ Do you often say げんきですか and しつもんがあります to your teacher? Sometimes textbooks and even teachers tell you unnatural expressions, just to make the grammar simple and more understandable.In this article, I will show you how to sound more natural instead of those phrases. Here we go!
1. げんきですか → Comments on weather
One of the most popular Japanese textbook is called ‘げんき’. Other textbooks also introduce げんきですか as ‘How are you?’ but in fact, it is more like ‘How have you been?’ It is usually not used with people with whom you meet on a daily basis and to someone who you have never talked to. for example, when you send a first message to someone you found on social media.
Your teacher is always asking you, ‘げんきですか’? Perhaps it is because you guys only see each other once a week. It is also possible that your teacher has lived in a Western country for a long time and is too used to asking "How are you?”. Usually teachers and students just greet ‘きょうも よろしく おねがいします’
So how do people greet each other? We talk about the WEATHER all the time!
If you are actually walking together, comment on the weather with '-ね'.
・きょうは さむいですね- It is cold today.
・だんだん あったかくなってきましたね - It’s getting warmer and warmer.
・すごい あめですね - It is raining so hard!
・ほんとうに むしあついですね - It is really hot and humid.
When they say xxxね to you, you are supposed to agree with them like ‘そうですね’, ‘ほんとうですね’ even if you do not actually think so, just like you wouldn’t say ‘I am so tired’, when asked ‘How are you?’. This is because the purpose of this conversation is not to actually debate the weather, but to share feelings and feel friendly towards each other.
This is a conversation I once had with a Russian student in Tokyo in November, where it was like 60℉/ 15℃.
Me: きょうはさむいですね/ It's cold today.
Russian student: いえ、きょうは ぜんぜん さむく ありません。No, it's not cold at all today.
I know, of course, that this student was just being honest and did not mean to attack me or anything. But if you were as honest as she was, you might make your Japanese friend feel awkward.
What if the two of you are in different places, like you and your italki teacher?
For example, you can say,
・そちらはさむいですか？ - Is it cold over there?
・そちらは なんど ぐらい ですか？ - What is the temperature like over there?
・さむそうですね - It seems it is cold over there. (Judging by the teacher’s clothing)
2. こんにちは → やっほー！/ よ！to Friends
こんにちは! is a polite greeting and is not used between friends. However, how to greet casually in Japanese is actually a difficult question.
Used by everyone: おはよー！/ おつかれ！*
Mainly used by people who self-identify as women: やっほー！
Mainly used by people who self-identify as men: よ！/ おう！/ うっす！/ おっす！
*おつかれ→exept in the morning
Male variations are mostly used verbally. In texting, they do not say hi/ hey, especially to those they talk to often. You can jump straight to the main topic or if you are texting on the app LINE, it is also very common to start a conversation with a sticker (スタンプ).
3. しつもんがあります → あ、ちょっと すみません
Do you say "しつもんがあります" a lot to your teacher during class? You may be surprised to learn that Japanese speakers rarely say this in a conversation. These are the phrases that take its place.
ちょっとすみません and ちょっとごめん are also used as ‘One moment please’, ‘One second please’. As you may already know, in Japanese you do not normally say ’1びょう まってください’ or ‘1ぷん まってください’.
I'm so sorry! This is not your fault, it is the fault of Japanese textbooks. Probably you learned ‘because’ is ですから.
First of all, から is a friendly style and ので is used in formal speech. When speaking in honorifics, use ので, instead of ですから.
Secondly, usually when you end a sentence with から, it means you are angry, begging something desperately. There is a nuance that he really wanted to say something afterwards, but held back from saying it.
Your mom: ねえ！！！もう行くよ！！ (Hey! We have to get going!)
You: いま行くから！(I’m coming now!! JUST WAIT A MINUTE!!)
Mom: 電車行っちゃうから！！ (We’ll miss the train!! HURRY UP!!)
As I capitalized the ‘hidden message part’, this ending with から has a strong tone. It is used almost exclusively between families and couples.
So, how can we fix it?
A: 日本のどの街(まち)が一番(いちばん)好(す)きですか？/Which city in Japan do you like the best?)
B(Formal)京都(きょうと)ですね。歴史(れきし)が好きでして…/ I like Kyoto. Actually I like history.
B(Casual) 京都(きょうと)かな。歴史(れきし)が好きで…/ I’d say Kyoto. Actually I like history.
In conversation, it is very common to end a sentence with 'て/ でして' when giving additional information.
In a written style you can say 歴史が好きなので、京都が好きです。
So when ですから/ ますから is used？ It is mainly used by teachers, doctors, authorizations to explain, convince or warn something to others. It is also used in cooking YouTube videos to explain the procedure. In other words, when the speaker has more authority or knowledge than the listener.
e.g. At a platform
(まもなく いちばんせんに でんしゃが まいります。あぶないですから きいろいせんの うちがわに おさがりください)
A train will be arriving soon on Track 1. Please move back to the inside of the yellow line.
In a cooking tutorial video
(たまごの しろみは あとで つかいますから とっておいて ください)
Save the egg whites for later use.
5. 〜ません → 〜ないですね…/ 〜ないんですが…
In conversation, saying ‘〜ません’ sounds a bit harsh and unfriendly. It sounds nicer if you say the following.
(Do you do anything on Christmas in China?)
(Not so much in China (as you might have guessed…)
Do you eat raw fish in your culture?
Not so much…(which means No, we don’t.)
When you end a sentence with んですが… it adds the nuance ‘Can you help me with it?’, ‘Is there anything you can do with it?’ or ‘hmm…let’s see what is happening…’
Teacher: 聞こえますか？ -Can you hear me?
You: えーっと…まだ聞こえないんですが… - hmm…Not yet…(Please check if your microphone is connected properly?)
Teacher: 画面、見えますか？- Can you see my screen?
You: あ、すみません、まだ見えないんですが… - I can’t see it yet… (Let’s wait for a bit…)
At the end of the んですが…, the intonation is lowered, and extended for about 1 second. If you don't lengthen the が, you will sound angry, so be careful!
In the written style like an essay, it is totally okay just to end the sentence with ません。
中国(ちゅうごく)ではクリスマスは特(とく)に何(なに)もしません。 - In China, we don't do anything special for Christmas.
I hope you'll try the phrases you learned today with your italki teachers! If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments. Thank you for reading!!