A friend of mine from college spoke in the most interesting fashion because she could seamlessly weave Japanese and English together in the same sentence. She would say things like, 「Meは行かないけど、Youは？」, which amused me to no end.
You see, she had attended American School in Japan, a school filled with students completely fluent in both Japanese and English, so I guess there was no problem speaking in a hybrid language that only 1% of the world’s population would understand. I know, it sounds like a great school to send your kids to because they will become bilingual automatically. The only problem is, unless you’re a diplomat or simply rich, spending a little less than $20,000 a year for tuition might be a bit tough on your wallet.
Anyway, to finally get to the point of this whole spiel, my friend and a bunch of us were chatting in the language lab when she suddenly realized that she had to leave. She promptly left the scene after saying (much to my delight) “というか、I have to go.”
Now, what did she mean by 「というか」 and why didn’t she just say, “I have to go” instead? How does adding that extra phrase change the meaning of the sentence? I previously discussed how to use 「と」 and 「いう」 to talk about the very thing itself. In this post, I’ll try to give you an idea of what 「というか」 means and when to use it.
Ok, to finally get to the point
「というか」 attaches the question marker 「か」 to 「という」, so it’s reasonable to assume that a questioning element is being added here. In fact, 「というか」 is used in order to indicate that you want to rephrase or express the same thing in a difference way. Literally, it means “I might say this or something else (in order to express what I’m trying to say) ” This expression is obviously the most useful in actual conversations when you might say something and want to rephrase yourself in mid-sentence. The order goes like this: [the first expression]というか[the same thing rephrased].
– Isn’t that not good, or to rephrase, serious shit? (read about やばい)
As you can probably tell, this phrase is great for when you’re not sure how to phrase something like the following example.
– Miki-chan is your girlfriend, right?
– Um, you might say girlfriend, or friend, or something…
That last example was very hard to translate but it should make perfect sense if you understand the fact that he is rephrasing how he defines Miki and adding the question marker 「か」 to show uncertainty.
This phrase is especially useful for people learning how to speak Japanese because I’m sure you’ve experienced plenty of times when you didn’t know the exact word for something in Japanese. With this phrase, you can throw out several alternatives that kind of get at what you’re trying to say.
というか、I have to go
Going back to the original question, why did my friend add 「というか」 when saying just, “I have to go” would have been perfectly fine? I think it’s important to realize that she was in the middle of a conversation at the time. Essentially, she wanted to rephrase what she was talking about in order to correct it into the fact that she had to go. In effect, this is equivalent to saying, “Hey, what am I talking about? I have to go.”
By using 「というか」, you can backtrack and correct things said earlier and at the same time imply, “Hey wait a minute, that’s not it!” This is especially the case when everything has already been said and you are starting a new sentence with 「というか」.
In other words, 「というか」 can also be used to correct yourself or others by rephrasing what has already been said.
– I hear that [he’s] going out with some other woman.
– That’s just another way of saying [he’s] cheating!
This is the second of three posts discussing 「言う」.