Study Japanese with the Japan Times

27 Aug

Occasionally the Japan Times newspaper has a Japanese language lesson.

Here is one of their recent lessons:


ii-yo! (Okay!)

Situation 1: Mitsuo is stopped by his mother as he is about to leave the house.

母: 光男、出かけるなら、この手紙、ポストに出して行ってくれる?

光男: いいよ!

Haha: Mitsuo, dekakeru-nara, kono tegami, posuto-ni dashite-itte-kureru?

Mitsuo: Ii-yo.

Mother: Mitsuo, if you’re going out, will you post this letter for me on the way?

Mitsuo: Okay!

Today, we will introduce the meanings and usage of the adjective いい (good). Its pitch-accent is high-low, so the pitch of the first い descends to the second い sharply, whether the sentence-end intonation is rising or falling. It expresses that something is good and is used with 給料 (きゅうりょう, salary), 頭 (あたま, brain), 性格 (せいかく, character) and いい男 (おとこ, man)/女 (おんな, woman) is a casual way to say a man is handsome or a woman is pretty. The negative form is よくない, which is based around よい the old form of いい.

Mitsuo uses いい to mean OK in Situation 1; in this usage the sentence-end particle よ is added, spoken with a rising intonation. Note that いいよ with the falling intonation means “No.” Also, いい and the more polite いいです are used to decline someone’s offer, e.g., when someone suggests you have another cup of coffee.

Situation 2: Mr. and Mrs. Okubo see a man in his late-40s weeping bitterly on TV.

妻: この人、ほんとに県会議員なの? いい大人が、まるで子どもみたいに泣いている。

夫: まったく、いい恥さらしだなあ。経費を何に使ったか、ちゃんと説明すればいいのに。

Tsuma: Kono hito, honto-ni kenkai-giin-nano? Ii otona-ga marude kodomo-mitai-ni naite-iru.

Otto: Mattaku, ii hajisarashi-da-nā. Keihi-wo nani tsukatta-ka, chanto setsumei-sureba ii-noni.

Wife: Is this man really a member of the prefectural assembly? He is weeping bitterly, like a child.

Husband: He has really embarrassed himself! He should clearly explain what he spent the money on.

いい is often used for sarcastically reproaching someone, as in the wife’s いい大人 (おとな) (a man old enough) or as in the husband’s いい恥(はじ)さらし (literally, wonderfully disgraceful). Here is another example of reproaching: いい歳(とし)をして、そんなに激(はげ)しい運動(うんどう)をするなんて! (Despite the fact that you are already quite old, you’re doing a difficult physical exercise like that [I don’t think you should!]).

Bonus Dialogue: Mr. Mita asks why Mr. Sere looks a little down.

セレ: じつは、昨日(きのう)、ゆりとけんかしちゃったんだ。

三田: けんかの原因(げんいん)は?

セレ: ぼくたちの将来(しょうらい)のこと。ぼくが長男(ちょうなん)で、ゆりが一人(ひとり)っ子(こ)だから、いろいろむずかしい問題(もんだい)があって。

三田: ふうん、セレくんとゆりちゃんは、仲(なか)がいいから、けんかするんだな。

セレ: ぼくは、けんかなんかしたくないのに…。国(くに)の両親(りょうしん)のこととか、なにも考(かんが)えないで暮(く)らせたら、どんなにいいだろう!

三田: まあ、いい大人(おとな)が、そういうわけにもいかないだろう。結婚(けっこん)したら、問題があるのは当然(とうぜん)だ。ふたりで問題を乗り越(こ)えて、はじめて本当(ほんとう)のきずなができるんじゃないか。

セレ: ああ、ほんとだ! 三田(みた)くん、すごい。感動(かんどう)したよ。

三田: うん、ぼくも、自分(じぶん)のことばに感動している。でも、どうして、ぼくのことばに感動してくれる人(ひと)は、いつもセレくんだけなんだろう…?

Sere: Actually, I had a fight with Yuri last night.

Mita: What caused it?

Sere: It was about our future. I’m the eldest son in my family and Yuri is an only child. We seem to have a lot of problems.

Mita: I see; but you love each other, so that’s why you fight.

Sere: I don’t want to fight. I’d be so happy if we could live without thinking about things like our parents living in different countries.

Mita: Well, adults can’t live like that. After you marry her, like all marriages, naturally, there will be problems. After you get over them together, don’t you think you’ll be able to make a true connection?

Sere: Oh, you’re right! That’s great, Mita! It’s touching!

Mita: Yeah, I was impressed myself. But Sere, I wonder why you’re the only one who is ever impressed by what I have to say.

(This lesson is from the Japan Time online, here).


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