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SOUNDING NATURAL IN JAPANESE

Ki: more than a feeling

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Daijōbu. Ki-ni shinai-de. (That’s OK. Don’t worry.)

Situation 1: Mr. Sere and his girlfriend Yuri are talking after a small argument.

ユリ: ねえ、私、ちょっと言い過ぎちゃったみたい。ごめんなさい。

セレ: ああ、さっきのこと、気にしているの? だいじょうぶ。気にしないで。

Yuri: Nē, watashi, chotto ii-sugichatta mitai. Gomennasai.

Sere: ā, sakki-no koto, ki-ni shite-iru-no? Daijōbu. Ki-ni shinaide.

Yuri: Well, I might have gone too far. I’m sorry.

Sere: Oh, are you worrying about what you said earlier? That’s OK. Don’t worry.

The word 気(き)has many meanings, such as “mind,” “mood” and “feeling,” and there are a lot of expressions that use 気. Today, we will introduce the proper uses of 気にする and 気になる, which are heard in daily conversation. X (person) はY (something) を気にする means X worries about Y or X is anxious about Y, and expresses someone is anxious about something or becomes sensitive about something. For example: 小(ちい)さな間違(まちが)いは気(き)にしないでどんどん話(はな)したほうが外国語(がいこくご)は上手(じょうず)になる (You’ll make progress in foreign languages if you speak without hesitation and ignore small mistakes). XはYを気にしている is used to express a state of being, for example: 彼女(かのじょ)は人(ひと)の評価(ひょうか)を気(き)にするタイプだ (She’s the type that always worries about other people’s opinions). 気にしないで(ください)is often used to cheer someone up, as in 小(ちい)さな失敗(しっぱい)なんか気(き)にしないで (Don’t mind small failures), or to convey the speaker’s concern toward someone’s thanks or apology. Example: 「いつもお手数(てすう)をおかけしてすみません。」「そんなこと、気(き)にしないでください」”I’m sorry to be so troublesome.” “Never mind/Don’t mention it”).

Situation 2: Ms. Tamachi and her colleague Ms. Gray are talking about what Mr. Mita said, or rather didn’t say.

田町: 三田さん、さっき何か言いかけたでしょう?気になるなあ。

グレイ: うん。途中でやめると、よけいに気になるね。

Tamachi: Mita-san, sakki nanika iikaketa-deshō? Ki-ni naru-nā.

Gray: Un. Tochū-de yameru-to, yokei-ni ki-ni naru-ne.

Tamachi: A little while ago, Mr. Mita was going to say something, but he stopped. It makes me nervous.

Gray: Yeah. Since he suddenly stopped, it’s a worry.

X (person) はY (something) が気になる means that Y gets on X’s nerve, that X cares or minds about Y, and expresses that X becomes anxious or uneasy because of Y. 気になる and 気にする are similar in meaning: 気にする is used when someone pays attention to Y intentionally, while X (person) はY (something/someone) が気になる sounds like X worries about Y spontaneously. It is also used to express that X is interested in or attracted to Y. 仕事で、ちょっと気になるタイプの人が私の課に入った (Someone who is just my type has joined my section at work).

Bonus Dialogue: In the restroom, Mr. Mita is looking in the mirror carefully. His colleague Mr. Sere happens to come in. Mr. Mita talks to him.

三田: きのう、髪(かみ)を切(き)りに行(い)ったら、ちょっと短(みじか)くなりすぎちゃったんだ。すごく気(き)になるよ。

セレ: 気分(きぶん)が変(か)わっていいんじゃない? 気にすることはないよ。

三田: でも、ちょっと太(ふと)って見(み)えるんだ。

セレ: そうかなあ。気にしすぎだよ。…あ、わかった! きょうはNF社(しゃ)の今井(いまい)さんに会(あ)いに行(い)く日(ひ)だね。それで、気にしているのか。

三田: えっ、まあね…。今井さんはちょっと気になるタイプだからさ…。

セレ: そうか。じゃ、外見(がいけん)を気(き)にするよりも、見積書(みつもりしょ)のほうに気を配(くば)ったほうがいいよ。今井さんはきびしくチェックするからね。

三田: あっ、そうだ。まだちゃんと見直(みなお)していなかったよ。[たちさる]

セレ: だいじょうぶかな。そっちのほうが気になるなあ。

Mita: I had a haircut yesterday, and it’s too short. It really bothers me.

Sere: Don’t worry. It’s good to change your look.

Mita: But it makes me look a little fat.

Sere: I wonder. You worry too much. Oh, I got it! Today you’re going to NF company to meet Ms. Imai. That’s why you’re so stressed.

Mita: Eh? Well, yeah. She’s kind of my type.

Sere: I see. Then you should pay attention to the estimates in the document more than your appearance. She checks them carefully.

Mita: Oh, you’re right. I haven’t looked them over yet. (He leaves.)

Sere: I wonder if the documents are OK. That’s what I’m more worried about.