Reading: Mini Conversations 2

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Two short conversations, with parallel English text.

Tanaka: Paul-san, morning!
Paul: Tanaka-san, good morning.
Tanaka: The summer break is coming really soon yeah?
Paul: Indeed.
Tanaka: Paul-san, what will you do during the summer break?
Paul: I will go on a vacation with my family.
Tanaka: That’s nice! Where to? Overseas?
Paul: Yes, to Australia.
Tanaka: That’s wonderful! The souvenirs…
Paul: Got it. I’ll definitely buy a souvenir back for you.
Tanaka: Thank you!

夏休み (なつやすみ, natsuyasumi) – summer vacation; summer holiday; summer break

家族 (かぞく, kazoku) – family; members of a family

旅行 (りょこう, ryuokou) – trip; travel

海外 (かいがい, kaigai) – foreign; abroad; overseas
The kanji literally means ‘outside the sea’. It’s referring to the land outside the sea surrounding your country, i.e. overseas.

お土産 (おみやげ, omiyage) – present; souvenir
The kanji literally means ‘produce from the soil’, or local produce. While the term might originally have been used to only refer to locally produced food, the present usage has no restriction on the type of souvenir.

A few things of note in this conversation. The Japanese is an extremely polite society. It is considered rude to explicitly ask for favors from others (barring extremely close friends or family), as such Tanaka did not request (or worst, demand) that Paul bring souvenirs back for himself. Instead, he only hints at the idea of souvenirs, and leaves Paul to guess his intention. Of course, the hint is quite an obvious one, and Paul understands it immediately. In other cases, the hidden intention might not be as obvious, and it might take some reading behind the lines to fully understand what the speaker is trying to convey.

Apart from reading between the lines to understand the hidden intentions, many pieces of information tend to be left out in Japanese as compared to English. This often poses challenges for English speakers who are trying to understand, or translate from Japanese to English. For example in the above paragraph, second last line: ちゃんと買えてあげますよ。 Here, exactly what Paul will purchase is not actually stated. The pronoun of who Paul is giving the unknown item to is not said either. However, from the context, we can guess that Paul will be buying a souvenir back for Tanaka. The missing pronouns can be quite confusing for new learners who are say, trying to watch a variety show, as in casual speech the pronouns get left out a lot. I’ve seen many instance of mistaken pronouns in subtitles. Learners will need to immerse themselves into the flow of the conversation to properly understand the conversation.


Suzuki: Tanaka-kun, how prepared are you for next week’s test?
Tanaka: So so. I’m finding it hard to remember (the study materials).
Suzuki: Shall we study in the library together after lessons?
Tanaka: Sure. Let’s do our best together!

来週 (らいしゅう, raishuu) – next week; coming week

準備 (じゅんび, junbi) – preparation; setup; arrangements; provision; reserve

授業 (じゅぎょう, jugyou) – lesson; class work; teaching; instruction

図書館 (としょかん, toshokan) – library

勉強 (べんきょう, benkyou) – study

You’ll notice the words in brackets in the above English translation. Again, the that Tanaka finds difficult to remember is not stated. As per the context of the conversation, we can guess that Tanaka should be referring to the study materials, or notes for his upcoming test.

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