Explaining Japanese Grammar Using the Christmas Story 日本語

Here I am again to explain some Japanese grammar. The Kanji you see in the title is “Nihongo” which means Japanese language. The first two kanji alone mean Japan (Nippon). If you want to say someone is a Japanese person (日本人), it is pronounced “Nihonjin.” The 人 part is pronounced “jin” here, but in other words, the same kanji can be pronounced “hito” which also means “person.” The second kanji in 日本語all alone means “book,” and is pronounced “hon.” The first kanji in 日本語 is 日 which means “day” and all alone is pronounced “nichi.” 日本の is pronounced “nippon no” and means it belongs to Japan. 日本ができますか?Means “Can you speak Japanese?” However, literally, it means, “Can you do Japanese?” The “you” is left out and assumed. It is pronounced: “Nihongo ga dekimasuka?” If the answer is “yes,” you say, はい、日本語ができます。(hai, Nihongo ga dekimasu.)  If the answer is “no,” you say, いえ、できません。(I-e, dekimasen.)

The kanji she has her painbrush on means “big.” Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

We started with plain and simple Japanese language, and I taught you to read a few kanji. Now, let’s go on with the Christmas story in Japanese. We are in verse 20 (二十)of chapter one of Matthew.  Those kanji mean “twenty,” and they are pronounced “niju.”  Remember, the vowels are pronounced like the vowels from a Latin language.  The Portuguese were in Japan for a long time, and probably, they got the pronunciation of the letters from them.  They don’t call the way we write the English alphabet.  They call it Romaji which means “Roman letters.” ろうまじ、

Verse 20: かれが ことを おむいめくらし いた とき じゆの つかいか うめに おらわれて 言った “ダビデのこ ヨセフよ しんぼい しないで マリヤを つまとしてむがえるがよい。そのたいないに やこって いろものは せいれいに よるのである。

もんだい ありました。(mondai arimashita) -There was a problem. Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

かれが – “He.” かれ is pronounced “ka-re.” It means “he.” が after it is a post position article or particle that is pronounced “ga.”  It means that かれ (he) is the subject, and that there is special emphasis being put on this subject. 

ことを – “Thing” or “matter.” こと is pronounced “ko-to.”  It is the part that actually means “thing” or “matter.”  を (wo) or (o) is the post position particle that tells you that こと is the direct object.

おむい めくらし いた とき- “it was thinking time that had come” or “when he considered.” おむい (o-mo-i_ means “thinking.” If you want to say “I think,” say おもいます (o-mo-i- ma-su). めくらし (megurashi) means “had come around.” いた (i-ta) is the past tense of います (imasu) which means “is.” 時 (to-ki) means “time.”  When you want to say “when,” you simple put this after the verb of the clause, and it becomes “when.” 

じゆの – “the Lord’s.” じゆ(ji-yu) means “Lord.” の is the post position particle that is like apostrophe “s.” It is the possessive.

じうの つかいが きました (jiyu no tsukai ga kimashita) -An angel of the Lord came.Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

つかいが – “messenger.” つかい (tsukai) is the part that actually means “messenger.” が is the post position particle or article that makes つがい the subject. If you put じゆのつかいが (ji-yu-no-tsu-kai-ga) together, it means “angel.”

かれが ねて いました (ka re ga ne te i ma shi ta) He was sleeping.Photo by Marcelo Moreira on Pexels.com

うめに – “in a dream.” うめ (u-me) means “dream.” に (ni) is a post position particle that means “in.” This is a prepositional phrase. に is the preposition, and うめ is a noun that is the object of the preposition.

おらわれて – “came down.” おりる (o-ri-ru) is the verb for “to descend” or “to come down.” Often, when a verb ends in る (ru), when it is conjugated, the change it to ら (ra). われて actually means “had been” which means it is a past tense, not simple past tense, put present perfect which means it happened over a period of time in the past and stopped in the present.

つかいが しんぱい しないで くだい と 言いました。(tsu-ka-i ga shi-n-pa-i shi-na-i -de ku-da-sai to i-i-ma-shi-ta) – The angels said, “Don’t worry.)Photo by Anastasia Zhenina on Pexels.com

言った – “said.” 言った has a kanji in it. If it were all in hiragana, it would be いった (i-tta).That つ in the middle is not pronounced because it is small. Theつ actually makes the た (ta) be pronounced with a double “t” instead of just one. This is a past tense that is used inside of the sentence. If you were to say it at the end of a sentence, you would sayと 言いました。(to i-i-ma-shi-ta). That “to” is like a quotation mark. Everything that comes before it is what was said. However, here in the middle of the sentence, they didn’t use it. In the Bible, they actually have a mark that looks like part of a bracket before and after what was said, but my computer won’t make that mark.

ダビデのこ – “the son of David” or “David’s son.” ダビデ (Da-bi-de) is in katakana, the alphabet used for foreign words. の (no) is the post position particle that is the same as an apostrophe “s.” 子 is the actual kanji was used for こ (ko). “Ko” with this kanji means “child” or “girl” or “son.” If it is on the end of a girl’s name like 麗子, it means “girl.” This kanji is actually pronounced “reiko” it is the Japanese name that I was given when I was a student in Japan. Every Japanese has a kanji, and this is my kanji. I didn’t know what it meant when they gave it to me. However, I know now, but I won’t tell you what it means. The point is, “ko” can mean “girl,” but it can also mean “child” or “son.”

ヨセフよ -”for the use of Joseph” or “Dear Joseph.” ヨセフ (Yosefu) is in katakana which means that it is a foreign word.  Unless the Japanese give you a kanji, your name will be written in katakana. Since よ (yo) which is also ususally small here. It is still pronounced “yo,” but it is is on the end of the name, it means, “for the use of Joseph.” Basically, that angel was sent just for Joseph, the son of David. Either that, or the angel used a term of endearment when he spoke to Joseph because if you put a よ on the end, it could also mean “dear.”

しんぽい – “worry.” しんぱい (shi-n-pa-i) is the noun for “worry,” and if you add する (suru) to the end of it, you have the verb for “to worry.”

しないで – “don’t do.” しないで (shi-na-i-de) comes from する (suru) which means “to do.” If you conjugate it, します (shi-ma-su) means “do” or “does.” My teacher used to say, しないでください。(shinaidekudasai) which means “please don’t do it.” That ください part meant “please.”  しない (shinai) means “don’t do.” The で (de) is added before you say “please.” However, there is no “please” here. It is more of a command than a request. This is called the negative “te” form of する。In essence,しんぱいしない means “don’t worry.”

マリヤを – “Mary.” マリヤ (ma-ri-ya) is the katakana for “Mary.” It is written in katakana because it is a foreign word. を (wo) or (o) is the direct object post position particle。

しかいは マリヤを けっこんしてください と 言いました。(shi-ka-i wa ma-ri-ya wo ke-kkon- shi-te-ku-da-sai to i-i-ma-shi-ta.) –The angel said, “Marry Mary.”Photo by João Jesus on Pexels.com

つまとして – “make a wife.” Again, して (shi-te) comes from する (su-ru) which means “to do.”  します (shi-ma-su) is the form for “do” or “does.” It can also mean “make” or “makes.” して (shi-te) is the “te” form. If I told you to do it, I would say してください (shi-te- ku-da-sa-i) which would mean “please do it.” However, the “please” ください (kudasai) is left out, so it is not being polite, but saying “do it.” つま(suma) means “wife.” と (to) means “and.” However, it is not used here like an English “and.” It seems to be putting つま and して together. In Japanese, you can change a noun to a verb by adding する to the end of the noun.

むかえる ‐”to welcome“ or “to be a good way.” みかえ (mi-ka-e) all by itself means “a road” or a “way.”  If you put the る (ru) on the end, it becomes a verb that means “to be a good way” or ” to welcome.”

がよい – “well.” The が (ga) can either be a post position particle or can mean “yourself.” よい (yo-i) means “well” or “good.”  This is reinforcing “to welcome.” The angel is telling Joseph that he will do well by welcoming Mary as his wife.

その たい ない に – “that not wanting.” その (so-no) means “that” before a noun. If you want to say “that” without a noun after it, say それ (so-re). たい (ta-i) means “want.” ない (na-i) is a negative. に (ni) is a post position particle that can me several things in English. The two most common meanings are “to” and “at.”

やこって – “that you are going to do.” The pronunciation is: ya-ko-tte. The つ is not pronounced, but it makes a double “t” on “te.”

いるものは – “the thing that is there.” いる (i-ru) means “is.” もの (mo-no) means “thing.” はは (wa) is the post position particle that makes りるもの the subject.

せいれいに – “conceived.” The pronunciation is “se-i-re-i-ni.”

やるの – This can mean many things. However, I don’t know the word for “Holy Spirit” in Japanese, and I am inclined to think it means “Holy Spirit” because で (de) comes after it, and “de” can mean “by way of” or “using.” We all know the baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit. The pronunciation of やるので is “ya-ru-no-de).

ある – “to be” or “is” or “am” or “are” or “there is” or “there are” or “have” or “has.” ある (a-ru) comes from あります which is the simple present tense of this verb that is used in conversation at the end of a sentence.

Let’s put this all together: “When his time for consideration had come, an angel of the Lord came down and said, “Joseph, son of David, don’t worry. Take Mary as your wife. The thing that is conceived is from the Holy Spirit.”

Wow! All I can say is that Japanese really gets convoluted! No wonder they feel the need to keep adding alphabets to help it make sense, but by just adding the alphabets, they can make it even more complicated. I have heard so many people say that Japanese conversation is easy, but the writing is something else, and I have to agree. If there is hiragana next to the kanji of what I am reading, I can usually figure it out. However, even with that, they don’t use the same forms for everything on the page as they do in writing. They have to really push their kids in school to teach them to understand because of the all the kanji. I left a lot of the kanji out above because I was wanting to explain what was there, not overwhelm anyone. I don’t know many kanji, but I know a few. Sometimes, I leave one in because I think it might be easy enough to remember. For example, the kanji for 言った (i-tta) has part of the kanji from 日本語 (ni-hon-go). You can see how they are both related in meaning. 言葉 (ko-to-ba) is the kanji for “language” or “word.” You can see the same kanji beginning it as you can see beginning 言った(i-tta). You can also see  言 inside of  日本語(ni-hon-go) which means the Japanese language. There is sense to the kanji even if we think of it as complicated. After that 言 in 日本語(ni-ho-n-go), you also see 五 which means 5. Under the 五, you also see 口 (kuchi) which means “mouth.”  It looks like 日本語 could have originally meant “five mouths talking in Japan.” That is the way kanji works. I always found kanji interesting even though I never had enough time to study it as much as I wanted.

これは私の 日本語 の せいしよ です。(kore wa watashi no nihongo no seishyo desu.)(This is my Japanese Bible.)

Okay, there you have a little more Japanese and the grammar in one more verse of the Christmas story explained as well as I can. Here are some important Biblical words we have talked about: イエスキリスト (e-i-su-ki-ri-su-to), Jesus Christ..じゆ(jiyu), Lord. じゆのつかい (jiyu no tsu-ka-i), an angel or a messenger of the Lord. かみ (ka-mi) – God. せいしよ (se-i-shyo) – Bible. Take care until next time. また (ma-ta), see you again.

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