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Shinagawa-san-wa dokoka-ni iku-n-desu-ka?

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Shinagawa-san-wa dokoka-ni iku-n-desu-ka? (Will you go somewhere, Ms. Shinagawa?)

Situation 1: Ms. Gray and Ms. Shinagawa are chatting about their plans for the New Year’s holiday.

グレイ: 品川さんはどこかに行くんですか。

品川: ええ、沖縄に行くんです。暖かいところに行きたいから。

Gray: Shinagawa-san-wa dokoka-ni iku-n-desu-ka?

Shinagawa: Ee, Okinawa-ni iku-n-desu. Atatakai tokoro-ni ikitai-kara.

Gray: Will you go somewhere, Ms. Shinagawa?

Shinagawa: Yes, I’ll go to Okinawa, since I like warm places.

Today, we will introduce the proper use of the particle は. Precisely speaking, Xは can be translated as “talking about X” or “as for X.” The speaker marks the topic of the sentence (= X), and says something about the topic. Therefore, in the pattern of XはY, Y is the information that the speaker wants to focus on. Until a new topic appears, the speaker can omit Xは in successive sentences as in Situation 2.

Situation 2: Continued from Situation 1.

グレイ: いいですね。ダイビングをするんですか。

品川: いえ、ダイビングはしないんです。沖縄の音楽を聞きに行くんです。

Gray: Ii-desu-ne. Daibingu-wo suru-n-desu-ka?

Shinagawa: Ie, daibingu-wa shinai-n-desu. Okinawa-no ongaku-wo kiki-ni iku-n-desu.

Gray: That sounds good. Do you dive?

Shinagawa: No, I don’t dive. I’ll go there in order to listen to Okinawan music.

In a negative sentence, the speaker marks the word that he/she wants to negate clearly with は, as in ダイビングは, not ダイビングを. The particles を and が change to は, and other particles such as で, へ, から and まで change to では, へは, からは and までは respectively. Example:「日本(にほん)で運転(うんてん)しますか。」 「いいえ、日本ではしません。」(“Do you drive a car in Japan?” “No, I don’t in Japan.”)

Situation 3: Continued from Situation 2.

グレイ: 夏に北海道か沖縄に行こうと思うんですけど、どっちがおすすめですか?

品川: 北海道は山や湖がすばらしいけど、沖縄は海がきれいですね。

Gray: Natsu-ni Hokkaido-ka Okinawa-ni ikō-to omou-n-desu-kedo, dotchi-ga osusume-desu-ka?

Shinagawa: Hokkaido-wa yama-ya mizuumi-ga subarashī-kedo, Okinawa-wa umi-ga kirei-desu-ne.

Gray: I’m want to go to Hokkaido or Okinawa this summer. Which do you recommend?

Shinagawa: The mountains and lakes in Hokkaido are wonderful, while Okinawa’s beaches are beautiful.

When the speaker contrasts X and Y, the pattern of XはA(だ)が、YはB(だ), is used. Example: 日本(にほん)には温泉(おんせん)があるが、私(わたし)の国(くに)にはない (There are hot springs in Japan, but not in my country).

Bonus Dialogue: Little Mariko is chatting with her parents.

まり子: どうしてクリスマスにはローストチキンを食(た)べるの?

父: 外国人(がいこくじん)が七面鳥(しちめんちょう)を食べるのを見(み)て、チキンを食べるようになったらしいよ。七面鳥は日本(にほん)にほとんどいないからね。本(ほん)に書(か)いてあったよ。

まり子: そうか。お父(とう)さんはいろんなことを知(し)っているね。すごい。

母: でも、本を読むだけじゃなくて、うちのことも手伝(てつ)だってほしいんだけど。

父: わかった、わかった。正月(しょうがつ)だけはのんびりしたいんだけどなあ。

まり子: お父さんはいつものんびりしているよ。

母: そうよ。まり子はちゃんと見ているのよ。じゃ、お父さん、お願(ねが)いね。

Mariko: Why do we eat roast chicken at Christmas?

Father: We began to eat it after seeing foreigners eat turkey, since there are few turkeys in Japan. I read that in a book.

Mariko: Really! Dad knows a lot of things. Great!

Mother: But I’d prefer he helped more with the housework, rather than read books.

Father: OK, OK. I want to take it easy at home for the New Year’s holidays.

Mariko: Dad always looks relaxed.

Mother: That’s right. She’s watching you carefully. So, Dad, pretty please, help.