Study Japanese with Japan Times

18 Mar

The Japan Times newspaper has a regular feature that teaches grammar and/or phrases of the Japanese language.

This is from their site (here) the day before yesterday:

Learn ‘nantoka’ any way you can

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Chikatetsu-de ikeba, nantoka maniai-sō-desu. (If I take the subway, I’ll only just make it in time.)
Situation 1: Ms. Shiba is speaking on the phone with her colleague, Mr. Tian, who is on his way to a client’s office.

芝: 今、JRがかなり遅れているみたいですから、他のルートで行ったほうがいいですよ。時間、大丈夫ですか。

ティエン: かなり大回りになるけど、地下鉄で行けば、何とか間に合いそうです。

Shiba: Ima, JR-ga kanari okurete-iru-mitai-desu-kara, hoka-no rūto-de itta hō-ga ii-desu-yo. Jikan, daijōbu-deshō-ka.

Tian: Kanari ōmawari-ni naru-kedo, chikatetsu-de ikeba, nantoka maniai-sō-desu.

Shiba: The JR-line train seems to be late. So, it’s better for you to use another line. Is there enough time?

Tian: If I take the subway, I’ll only just make it in time — even though it takes a long way around.

Today, we will introduce the adverb 何(なん)とか (in any way) and some related expressions. The adverb 何とか is used with a verb (X) and expresses that X has happened or is going to happen, barely, as in Mr. Tian’s sentence in Situation 1 or as in: 少(すく)ない年金(ねんきん)で、何とか暮(く)らしています( I only just get by on a small public pension).

Situation 2: Mr. Mita talks to his colleague Mr. Sere.

三田: セレくん、今夜、帰りにちょっと飲まない?新しい居酒屋ができたんだ。

セレ: いいけど、三田くんは明日までに報告書を書かなくちゃいけないんじゃない?

三田: まあ、何とかなるよ。ちょっとだけ、飲んでいこうよ。

Mita: Sere-kun, kon’ya, kaeri-ni chotto nomanai? Atarashii izakaya-ga dekita-n-da.

Sere: Ii-kedo, Mita-kun-wa ashita-made-ni hōkokusho-o kakanakucha-ikenai-n-ja-nai?

Mita: Mā, nantoka naru-yo. Chotto-dake nonde-ikō-yo.

Mita: Hi Sere, why don’t we go and have a drink on the way home? A new Japanese pub has opened.

Sere: OK, but don’t you have to write a report by tomorrow?

Mita: Well, I can manage it somehow — let’s go for a quick drink.

何とかする is a suru-verb that means to solve a problem by any means necessary, as in: お客(きゃく)さんが来(く)るんだから何とかしてよ (Tidy up in any way you can, because a guest is coming soon). The te-form of this verb 何とかして, when used with a verb, functions as adverb and can replace 何とか, as in 何とかして彼(かれ)を助(たす)けたい (I want to help him in any way I can). 何とかなる is an intransitive verb used to indicate that something is happening, or is expected to happen, naturally and without effort, as Mr. Mita uses it in Situation 2.

Bonus Dialogue: Mrs. Okubo and her son Mitsuo are talking at home.

母: あしたは三者(さんしゃ)面談(めんだん)ね。憂鬱(ゆううつ)だな。

光男: 心配(しんぱい)することないよ。ぼくは、ちゃんと単位(たんい)が取(と)れて、3年生(さんねんせい)になれるから。

母: 3年生になれても、来年(らいねん)、大学(だいがく)に入(はい)れるかどうか、心配。

光男: そんなことより、ぼくが3年生になれることを喜(よろこ)んでよ。悠太(ゆうた)は、音楽(おんがく)を一科目(いちかもく)落(お)として、進級(しんきゅう)できないかもしれないんだから。

母: 音楽1科目だけなら、何(なん)とかならないの?

光男: 担任(たんにん)の先生が、音楽の先生に追試(ついし)をたのんでいるんだけど、音楽の先生は、なかなかオーケーしてくれないんだって。

母: 芸術家(げいじゅつか)は、気難(きむずか)しいからね…。でも、きっと担任の先生が何とかして下さるわよ。ああ、光男が何とか進級できてよかった。

光男: 母さん、ぼくは、「何とか」じゃなくて、ちゃんと進級できたの。まちがえないで。

Mother: Tomorrow we’ll have a school meeting with the teacher — I don’t like it.

Mitsuo: You don’t have to worry, Mom. I got the credits and will be able to be in the third grade.

Mother: Even if you are allowed in the third grade, I wonder if you can enter a university next year.

Mitsuo: Don’t worry about that, just be pleased that I’m allowed into the third grade. Yuta failed one subject, music, and may not progress.

Mother: If it’s only music, can’t he manage?

Mitsuo: The class teacher asked the music teacher to give a make-up exam to Yuta, but she seems unwilling.

Mother: Artists are difficult people . . . Perhaps the class teacher will do something for Yuta. Well, I’m relieved that you just made it to the third grade.

Mitsuo: Not “just” — I was allowed into the third grade with no problem. Get it right, Mom.


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