The second circle of conjugation hell

A day in the life of a language learner. On Friday as I walking down the hallway at work, I walked passed one of the cleaning staff on the way out. I said “konnichiwa (good afternoon)”, as you do, but she must have been lost in a train of thought. She snapped out of it, realising I was talking to her, and said “Gomen nasai! (Sorry!) Wakaranakatta!”

Wakaranakatta? Oh that’s right, that’s one of those tricky conjugated verbs.  Conjugation is fairly regular in Japanese compared to English, but you still need to learn the rules.  To work out what it means, you have to:

  1. Determine that the base verb is wakaru (to understand, or to realize).
  2. To make the verb negative in this case, you change an “u” sound at the end to an “a” sound, then add “nai” to the end. So, you get wakaranai (I don’t understand).
  3. To make the negative verb in the past tense, you have to drop off the “i” sound at the end, and add “katta”. That gives you wakaranakatta (I didn’t understand).

Oi vey. Methodically working all this out in the middle of a conversation really does not cut it – you’ve just got to keep hearing words until you understand the word as one unit.  Over, and over, and over again.

Then, maybe I could have understood that she was trying to say that she didn’t understand.


Every syllable is sacred

This happened to me tonight at dinner while eating shabu-shabu.

One of my co-workers brought his new baby.  To make small talk, I wanted to ask how old his new arrival was.  Instead of saying “ikutsu” (how old), I said “ikura” (how much).

How much?

How much for the baby?

Takeaway point: offering to buy someone’s baby in Japan is absolutely p*ss funny, apparently.