[9] Combining Two Words to Make a Sentence

“Kore, nani?” (This, what?)

The study of any language begins with learning words. Sentences are combinations of two or more words. For instance, if you say “toire, doko?” (Toilet, where?), it will be understood that you are looking for a toilet. In a similar way, you can apply any combination of words together, as in, “eiga, iku?” (Movie, go?) or “are, hoshii.” (That, I want). Simply by putting two elements together, you can make a sentence that reflects your thoughts.

Add Other Elements Later to Sound More Fluent in Japanese

Later you can make yourself sound more fluent, by adding other elements. If you add the element “desu ka” to “toire, doko?,” as in “toire, doko desu ka,” you’ll sound more polite. Furthermore, by putting “ha” – a unique functional word in Japanese – after “toire,” your Japanese sentence will sound even more smooth. Even if you don’t add any of these words, the meaning will not change.

Word Order Is Flexible

Take the sentence “eiga, iku?” Even if you replace “iku?” with “iki masenka?” or “ika nai?” to change the nuance, its meaning will stay the same. By adding explanatory words such as “ashita” (tomorrow) to make it “ashita, eiga iku?” (Tomorrow, movie, go?), you can express your thoughts in more detail. In Japanese, even if you change the word order, “eiga, ashita, iku?” (Movie, tomorrow, go?) or “ashita, iku? eiga.”(Tomorrow, go? movie.), the meaning usually remains the same.

The Main Objective is Communication

In academic Japanese language education, sentences like “ashita, eiga wo mini shibuya e iki masen ka?” (How about going to see a movie in Shibuya tomorrow) are used, explaining which word is the subject and which is the predicate, and further explaining that “wo” and “he” are postpositional particles that have particular meanings. However, in a casual everyday conversation, we often start by saying, “eiga iku?” (Movie, go?), which is the core of our message, before adding further information, such as “ashita” (tomorrow), and “shibuya de” (in Shibuya).

The Academic Approach Means Not Seeing the Wood for the Trees

Infants learn words without any academic knowledge. Japanese beginners should start by learning everyday words to make simple sentences that express their thoughts. “Not seeing the wood for the trees” is a well-known proverb in Japanese. The saying applies exactly to the current state of Japanese language education. Acquiring the ability to communicate in Japanese should come first.

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