Words waiting to come to life

As a short follow-up on memorable moments in language acquisition, I’ve noticed that sometimes you learn a new word and suddenly you hear it all around you.

Some words or expressions that I’ve wrote about before because I simply couldn’t believe they were not taught or used in most textbooks are 「別に」、「なんで」、「他に」 and 「やばい」.

What words have you learned recently that you can’t imagine getting by without once you’ve learned it?

A commenter left this interesting link about the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. Now lets see if I hear people talking about this phenomenon all the time. 🙂

18 thoughts on “Words waiting to come to life

  1. Not a single word per se, but the てやろうか construction is very useful and fun 🙂 Conjugate a verb to te-form and append やろうか, and it makes a very masculine “Shall I…” which has a kind of suggestive innuendo. E.g. キッスしてやろうか “Shall I… kiss you? ;)”

  2. The first and last words in the 4 you mentioned I can understand the books not having, but the middle 2 I agree with. 「なんで」 is just taught too late. Korean textbooks are even worse about teaching this kind of stuff, AND they start with the speech level that you would only use to high superiors or customers, etc. You’ll never need to use that form until you’re on the job or are going to your friend’s place to meet his grandparents.

    There’s actually a healthy number of words in Korean that I still don’t know but hear several times a day when I’m around enough Koreans. Why don’t the textbooks teach them? They’re not even colloquial… and interestingly enough since I’ve memorized most of the lyrics in a certain rap song I’m hearing lots of the words in my teachers’ lectures. Who’d of thought a rap about not having a loved one could be applied to formal education? 😀

  3. Not recent, but 「けっこう」 took me a while to get comfortable with its use when all I understood of it was in 「けっこうです」 – seen in just about every phrase book. I probably use it daily now.

    My study is informal, so maybe they do usually teach this.

  4. やばいis one of the first “bonus” words I learned when I came to Japan.

  5. I’ve never taken an official Japanese course with textbooks and all (though I will start on the 17th). However, my boyfriend taught me a lot of phrases that I’m happy to know.

    I used to have a really hard time expressing my anger in Japanese, because I didn’t know simple expressions like “you’re so mean!”. I only knew “ばか”, “ふざけないでよ” and “止めてよ!”

    “[insert name here]のいじわる!” If I never knew this, I could never express my anger towards him! haha.

    やだ is also helpful as a snappy way to say “no”.

    I like learning “reflex” and “emotional” expressions, because they let me express more of how I feel. When I don’t know how to express how I’m feeling, I feel so unspoken, and frustrated.

    Oh, and learning from him that マジで is really not cute, and unlike me to say. It’s kind of rough, or at least, it’s slang. I never say slang like “that’s wicked cool” or “sweet” in English, so saying マジで is not my personality. It’s useful to learn how something actually sounds to a native speaker of Japanese. Is it too rough for me to say this? Does saying this match my personality?

  6. While not exactly the same thing, I never stopped using the hand gesture where you wave your face in front of your hand, basically saying “no,” or used when when you want to humbly deny a compliment or something… it’s been 2 years since I left Japan and I still find myself doing it

    japanese-specific body language might be an interesting topic for the future!

  7. Andrew, I’ve never even been to Japan and I catch myself doing that on occasion. I guess I’ve been exposed to so much Japanese media that the gesture unknowlingly lodged itself in my brain. Luckily, I haven’t taken to bowing while speaking on the telephone.

  8. > What words have you learned recently that you can’t
    > imagine getting by without once you’ve learned it?

    I recently discovered the word canicular and now cannot believe, as much as I loathe summer weather, that I managed to study English as a first language for nearly thirty-five years before finally acquiring this undeniably useful word.

    Incidentally, the Baader-Meinhof article neglects to mention that interesting tidbits of information often travel around like gossip. You’ll hear about the same thing from three different people in two days because they all heard about it from friends or family members who became aware of it via the same radio program, or heard about it from the same mutual friend, or whatever. People love to repeat interesting things that they recently found out about. This doesn’t explain every occurrence, but it happens more often than you might think.

    For instance, if this is not the first time you’ve heard someone mention the word “canicular” recently, it could be because it was featured as word of the day by a major dictionary site some time last month.

  9. For me it was もったいない = “what a waste”. It actually came up in conversation with 2 Japanese friends who don’t speak English and they had the hardest time trying to explain it to me. I finally found out the meaning (thanks to rikaichan!) and now I hear it all over the place.

  10. Without a doubt, なるほど did this to me. (It mostly means “Now I see.” or “I see.”) A few years ago, I studied abroad in Tokyo for 4 months and swear I never heard it the entire time. But I caught it once up here in Hokkaido, and now I can’t stop hearing it. My coworkers say it, it’s on TV all the time, and makes up about 50% of my conversation. とりあえず (“for now”), another word out of nowhere, makes up the other 50%.

Comments are closed.