〈30〉 ◆ chap 3 " The Japanese expressions & their secrets ! "
part 14. “yes” and “no” in opposition ?
" To be, or not to be, - that is the question."
This is a famous line from that Shakespearean tragedy Hamlet. Translated as
“ikirubekika, shinubekika, sore ga mondai da!”(Life or death, that’s the question),
and is familiar to many Japanese.
Yes or no is indeed the ultimate choice between two options.
Not only “Life or death?”, but also “Like it or not?" , "Is it good or bad?”, “For or against?" , "Do you want to pay or not?" , "Are you getting married or not?”…
All of these are decisive questions, and all of them also demand a final answer.
Come to think of it, when talking to foreigners with whom it is difficult to
communicate, you have to confirm “YES or NO ?”or “SÍ o NO ?”by saying it out loud. Failure to do so is likely to have unexpected consequences. (Beware especially in the case of the Japanese, who value modesty! )
This is because these important "yes" and "no" are
in some cases, the opposite is true in Japanese.
Of course, "yes" is “hai” in formal Japanese, and “no” is “iie”. In informal Japanese, there is also the strange word “un” to "yes”, and “uun” to '“no”. (Incidentally, the accent in “uun” is CEC, in short, low-high-low. Try sliding the final '“n” up a bit if you can!)
For example, it happens when a question is asked like this.
"Don't you go to your company, tomorrow?"
“ashita anata wa kaisha ni ikimasenka?”
"Yes, I'll go to my company, tomorrow."
“iie, watashi wa kaisha ni ikimasu."
"No, I'll not go to my company, tomorrow."
“hai, watashi wa kaisha ni ikimasen.”
Yes, the English reply is clearly "Yes”, but in Japanese "No”(iie), and even though the answer is "No" in English, but the answer in Japanese would be "Yes”(hai) .
If this were an informal conversation,
“Hey, aren't you going to work tomorrow?”
“nee, kimi wa ashita kaisha ni ikanaino?”
“Yeah, I’m going to work.”
“uun, boku wa kaisha ni ikuyo”
“No, I’m not going to work.”
“un, boku wa kaisha ni ikanaiyo”
In any case, "Yes" means “iie” or “uun”, and "No" means “hai” or “un”. What a surprise, it is the exact opposite in Japanese.
Why does this strange thing happen?
Perhaps Westerners' sense of "Yes and No", or ”Si y No" is completely different from that of Japanese. For them probably it is an absolute measure, with a positive being a positive and a negative being a negative at all times, whereas for the Japanese it may only be a conditional or limited concept.
From another angle, the Japanese may have a tendency to view and understand
the sentences “…… ka?” (formal) as a statement of “Is …… correct?".
Hence, in the case of “Tomorrow you will not go to work” or “You will not go to work tomorrow”, If the sentence is correct, they answer “hai” or “un”, and if it is wrong, they answer “iie” or “uun”. As you can see, be careful when the question is in the negative form.
However, there is a slight exception to this rule, so this should also be noted.
It happens in the following cases!
For example, in English, "You are Japanese, aren't you ?" or "Eres japonés, no?” in Spanish, or when a man asks a woman out, "Would you like to go somewhere for a cup of tea?"
This is considered to be a question of some sort of confirmation rather than a negative form, so in this case in Japanese, "Yes" should be answered with “hai”, and "No" with “iie”.
Incidentally, the English phrase "You are Japanese, aren't you ?" in Japanese is “anata wa nihonjin desu ne, sou desu yone?(sou desho?)” , and the answer can
be "hai, nihonjin desu.” Also, as for the question, "Would you like to go somewhere for tea?", you can directly affirm or deny, "Yes, fine!”(hai,iidesuyo) or "No, thank you!”(iie,kekkou desu). (in this case, “kekkou desu” is not OK, but NO!. In other words, it means something like “I'm fine, thank you!” in English. Be careful !)
For the difference between these two types of questions, you need to listen for a little intonation. You will have to get used to this by talking to a lot of Japanese people.
The best way to improve your Japanese is to communicate with as many Japanese people as possible!
See you next time!
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