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Japanese expressions 2015/7/11 08:00
My Japanese is very minimal so it is probably that I just don't hear it: Anyway, my (limited) observation and question is, to me it seems that in a couple of ways the Japanese don't have or use as many synonyms as in English? Is it just my imagination? And my lack of knowledge of the Japanese language? (It probably is!)

For example, I am always hearing people say when there is a baby/kid/pet, "Kawaii!" I never seem to hear anything else. But in English, aside from hearing, "He/she is so cute!" I also hear things like, "What a darling!" "How precious!" "So adorable!" "Such a sweet thing!" etc.

Another example is if while watching a fireworks show, people all around me will be saying "Sugoi!" [although I have also heard, "Subarashii!" used once in a case where most people might have otherwise said sugoi.] But in English, I know lots of other things can be said, like fantastic, wonderful, spectacular, amazing, super/superb, beautiful, neat, cool, etc.

Another example is I often want to say in conversation, "He/she is very friendly!" but because I don't know how to say that in Japanese, I ask my (Japanese) husband how to say "friendly" in Japanese, but he doesn't seem to give me a clear answer - as if Japanese people don't really commonly say that?!? Maybe just HE doesn't say that, so he doesn't know how to answer me, lol!

I am reminded of how I once heard a long time ago that Eskimos have (~perhaps up to 40? or anyway a high number) of ways of describing "snow" depending on the quality/type of snow it is, whereas in English, we typically just say the one word "snow."
by ME (guest)  

Re: Japanese expressions 2015/7/11 12:28
It's not that the Japanese language doesn't "have" varying expressions. It would depend on the generation (and the individuals' personalities of course), but "kawaii" has been popular as an all-encompassing adjective "used" too often. "Kawaii" has become almost the best compliment, and is used excessively (in my opinion). The same with "sugoi" for something "awesome." I believe that the word "awesome" in English was (at least for a while) used a lot too, so was "cool"?

The word "friendly" is an altogether different issue. There isn't really one word that means the same - "yuukouteki" is too stuffy (talking about attitude, while the English "friendly" is more about a person's nature), "shitashimi yasui" (something like "easy to make friends with" again sounds a bit too stuffy and lengthy), "yasashii" ("kind," is bit off), "ii hito" (good-natured person, this can be interpreted any which way) that the katakana rendition "furendorii" is used at times :)
by AK rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese expressions 2015/7/11 14:38
I totally agree with AK, and probably any Japanese native will. It's not that the language lacks vocabulary, but rather the indivisual. Japan has enjoyed one of the longest history of literature and the variety of expression it has is awes.... whoops, great.... uh, I mean, overwhelming.

In fact, I would say that "friendly" is one of those English expressions that seem to pop up too much making you want to say, "isn't there any other expressions?!" I can add Japanese expressions like "ii kanji" "kanji ii" "shinsetsu" to AK's list to express "friendly," but at the same time people might just describe a friendly person by saying that the person is "hanashi-zuki (talks a lot)" or "itsumo nikoniko shiteru (smiles a lot)" or "tanoshii (funny)" or "akarui (cheery)" and so on.

As for synonyms to "kawaii," or in other words, expressions that you might use in the same situation when seeing a baby, I can think of "aikurushii" "puni-puni shiteru" "chicchai ne," but mostly people seem to just say kawaii to a baby and wait until you can say "aa! waratta! (Hey, he smiled!)"

Synonyms to "sugoi" can be "saikou" "kandouteki" "yume mitai" "shinjirarenai" "batsugun" "iketeru" "ukeru" and so on.

But as far as fireworks are concerned, the custom is unique enough that the fireworks itself has variety. So people might shout the traditional chant of "tamaya!" or say, "a! Doraemon (Hey, that one was shaped as Doraemon!) "oodama dattane! (that was the big shot!)" or just call out the names of the types of fireworks shown below, as a Frenchman would about wine.

Hope it helps.
by Uco rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese expressions 2015/7/13 05:52
An university level ESL class text book describes the native Japanese speakers tend not to be able to express directly,
precisely, efficiently and logically to westerner's expectations due to the limitation on their verbs. They express in a round about way using a lot more modifiers. This makes the westerners, mainly English, French, German speakers, frustrated listening to Japanese talk. If you want to become fluent in Japanese, you need to learn the art of this and use different brain functions and different sentence structures. This is one of the challenges in reverse that Japanese face when they try to learn English. It is not about only memorizing vocabularies and grammars and pronunciations.
by ay (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese expressions 2015/7/13 11:20
The two examples you mention are not really words or expressions such as you imagine!!!
Kawaii and sugooi are, in spite of their appearance, nothing but cries of admiration or exclamation, often observed among younger generations, espaecially among young girls, and females who believe themselves unconsciously like a young girl.
That is, these are almost like Ah! or Oh! That’a all.
One of these examples is “Yabai” which is recently used both affirmatively and negatively, but this is used mostly by young males, boys, sometimes by young girls. This is also nothing but a cry.

On the contrary, English examples you show are expressions which represent, analytically with words, your impressions or emotions or surprises. We also have these expressions in Japanese.

And concernign the English word “friendly”, we don’ have its direct equivalent in Japanese. That is just like a Japanese word “natsukashii”なつかしい can’t find its equivalent in English. Dictionaries will reply it means “nostalgic”. You could probablely say “I get nostalgic when I see these pictures.”, but could you say to persons whom you haven’t seen since longtime, when you encounter him on the street or hear him on the phone, “Nostalgic!”. Another famous example is “Amaeru”甘える. There would be many.
Languages are thus different and, as you say, they have each their own perception of the world.
by aiglon (guest) rate this post as useful

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