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Explaining Japanese Grammar Using the Christmas Story

Since people seem to be enjoying me explaining Korean and Spanish grammar, I decided when I unpacked my Japanese Bible that I would also explain some Japanese grammar. There are people who follow my blog who look for Japanese things because they know I have also spent time in Japan. I studied Japanese at a Japanese university, and I taught Japanese at two different universities. However, I am not always sure about being able to explain all the Japanese because I never had all the time with Japanese that I wanted. Yes, I can speak Japanese, but reading can be a problem for me. I have been looking at the Christmas story in Japanese, and have come to the conclusion that perhaps I can explain the grammar there. I will do it step, by step like I have the other grammar blogs, and I will be using Matthew 1: 18 to the end of the chapter.

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Pexels.com

Verse 18: イエス キリストの たんじよびの したいはこうで あつた。

イエスキリスト (Jesus Christ)Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

イエス-Jesus. The letters are: I,e, su. They are written in katakana. Katakana is the alphabet they use for foreign words.

キリスト – Christ. These letters are also in katakana. They are : ki, ri, su, to.

の – This is the post position article that is possessive like ” ‘s” in English. It is pronounced “no.” This is in hiragana, the basic Japanese alphabet.

This means イエスキリストの means “Jesus Christ’s.”

丹治宇の-たんじようびの-”birthday’s.” The first one is in kanji, and the second in hiragana. The pronunciation in English is “tanjyoubi.” The first letter is “ta,”た。 and the second one is merely “n.” The third letter is “shi” しwith two marks by it which makes it into “ji” じ. The next letter is “yo,” よ。That よ is pronounced a bit longer because there is a う after it. The 美 is pronounced “bi.”  All these vowels have a Latin pronunciation which means: 1)the “a” is pronounced like the “a” in father. 2) The “I” is pronounced like “ee.” 3) The “u” is pronounced like “oo” in food. 4) The “o” is pronounced like “o” in “ho ho ho.”

したい – This is pronounced “shita-i.” It means “topic.”  This is in hiragana.

は - This is a post position article or particle pronounced “wa.” If it is just a letter, it is pronounced “ha,” but since it is a post position particle, it is “wa.” It means that whatever it comes after is the subject.

こうで – This is pronounced “ko-u de” It means “this way.”

あつた – This is pronoun ced “a-tta.” The つ (tsu) in the middle isn’t acutally pronounced. It should be small, and makes the た (ta) begin with a double letter. The first letter: あ is pronounced “a.” This is a past tense of the verb, “to be” which means that it translates “was.” A more polite form that you may already know if you speak a little Japanese is ありました (arimashita) which also means “was,” but is a polite level. あつた is used here because you are reading it out of a book, not having a conversation.

In Japanese, the verb is always the last word in the sentence. It is unlike English where we put subject + verb + direct object. In Japanese, it is subject + direct object + verb.

The subject of this sentence is “The topic of the birth of Jesus Christ” because は comes right after したい which means “topic.”  Literally, the first part of the sentence word by word says, “Jesus Christ’s birthday’s topic”: イエスキリストのたんじよびのしたい。That is the whole subject.

This means that the whole verse means: “The birth of Jesus Christ’s topic was like this.”

クリスマス おめだと/ Merry Christmas. Photo by Daniel Reche on Pexels.com

That verse looked really short to me when I wrote it up there. I never dreamed it would take so much explaining for one short verse. This is just the beginning. I will explain the rest of the story, but blog by blog, verse by verse. Perhaps because Japanese is so complicated, I will need to explain just one verse per blog. I hope you guys enjoy reading the Christmas story in Japanese.

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