Part 4: The Little Stuff
Having said that, little stuff becomes big problems.
A) Katakana Loan Words
Let’s take サンキュー .
This reads as “sankyuu,” but is actually a Japanese phonetic representation of “Thank you.” However, that is not exactly how it is used.
Japanese does not have a loan word for “thanks” (the less formal version). Because “sankyuu” is a loan word to begin with, it is automatically felt to be less formal than Japanese words for thanks, such as 有難う (arigatou, kanji version). Thus, regardless of the sounds, サンキュ- is used like “”thanks” in informal situations, or situations the speaker is treating as informal.
This is something every Japanese first grader is exposed to from manga, anime, and little kids trying to sound cool by using a little bit of English. It also finds its way into Japanese role-playing games. “Sankyuu” is treated like an honorary part of the Japanese language – but this only applies to the katakana, サンキュー.
A completely different, kanji-based “三級” (sankyuu) exists and refers to “third-rate.”
Let’s take やった！(Yatta!)
This is a word of celebration. It is technically the past tense of a very flexible, informal verb, やる (yaru), for “To Do.” This comes off as, “I did it!” but is also used the way teenagers will exclaim, “Yesss!” and so forth. This is not the Japanese はい (hai), but an affirmation of success and victory.
This, too, is known by every Japanese schoolchild. You will find reading any manga featuring young boys very difficult to understand if you do not know, or are unable to find out, what this word means. Though I have just told you what this word means, there will be others.
So What Do I Do About It?
The key is having human resources. As a professional tutor, I have a policy of answering individual questions for free. I don’t expect anyone to pay me good money if I can’t demonstrate a little knowledge and help real people with real problems.
Now, totally besides that, there’s no replacement for knowing people who know Japanese, or who have read much more manga than you have. Real-world or Internet contacts alike can be of great assistance, and ideally, are readily available for answering little questions in a way that results in big help for you.
The little things add up to big progress in reading manga better.
Article first published as How To Read Manga Better, Part 4 on Technorati.