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Sonna-ni kataku naranaide-kudasai

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Sonna-ni kataku naranaide-kudasai (Please don’t be so nervous.)

Situation1: Ms. Gray is interviewing a college student who wants to become as a part time worker.

学生: おはようございます。鈴木はるかと申します。

グレイ: グレイです。あ、そんなにかたくならないで。面接は、まず日本語でしますからね。

Gakusei: Ohayō-gozaimasu. Suzuki Haruka-to mōshimasu.

Gray: Gray-desu. A, sonna-ni kataku naranaide. Mensetsu-wa, mazu Nihongo-de shimasu-kara-ne.

Student: Good morning, ma’am. My name is Haruka Suzuki.

Gray: I’m Gray. Oh, please don’t be so nervous. I’ll interview you in Japanese first.

Today, we will introduce the meanings and usage of the adjective かたい (hard/stiff/stable, etc.). The basic meaning of かたい is that an object is solid or hard, such as in この肉(にく)は、かたくて食(た)べられない (This meat is too hard to eat).

Its antonym is やわらかい (soft). When a person feels strained, his or her body becomes stiff, so the expression かたくなる (literally: to stiffen) is often used to mean being nervous, which is how Ms. Gray uses it in Situation 1.

Situation 2: At home, Mrs. Okubo is showing a picture of a young man to Mr. Okubo. Mayumi is their niece.

妻: ねえ、この人、まゆみちゃんにどうかしらって、姉が持ってきたの。かたい仕事をしているし、けっこうイケメンだし、悪くないんじゃない?

夫: そうか。まゆみも、もうそんな年頃か。

Tsuma: Nē, kono hito, Mayumi-chan-ni dō-kashira-tte, ane-ga motte-kita-no. Katai shigoto-wo shite-iru-shi, kekkō ikemen-da-shi, waruku-nai-n-ja nai?

Otto: Sō-ka. Mayumi-mo, mō sonna toshigoro-ka.

Wife: Honey, my sister has brought me this photo of a man she thinks might be suitable for Mayumi. He has a good, stable job and is rather handsome. He’s not bad, don’t you think?

Husband: I see, well, Mayumi is already at that age.

This wife’s use of かたい shows how this adjective can be used to describe something abstract, rather than an solid object or thing. Examples of かたい仕事 (しごと) (stable, secure job) are teacher, government employee, certified public accountant, etc. There are other expressions using かたい, e.g., 頭(あたま, head) がかたい (stubborn), かたい信念 (しんねん) / 意志 (いし) (firm belief/will), かたい約束 (やくそく) をする (make a firm promise), etc.

Bonus Dialogue: Mr. Imai has been a senior friend of Mr. Mita since their university days and is a member of a client’s company.

今井: 三田(みた)くん、グレイさんの携帯(けいたい)番号(ばんごう)を教(おし)えてくれないか。

三田: ぼくが教えるわけにはいきませんよ。

今井: そんな、かたいこと言(い)わなくてもいいじゃない。教えてよ。

三田: だめですよ。自分(じぶん)で聞(き)いてください。

今井: 三田くんが、そんなにかたい人(ひと)だとは思(おも)わなかったよ。

三田: ぼくは、これでも、口(くち)がかたいと自負(じふ)しているんですよ。今(いま)の話(はなし)、だれにも言わないから、安心(あんしん)してください。

今井: いや、むしろグレイさんに、ぼくの気持(きも)ちを伝(つた)えてほしい。一度(いちど)お茶(ちゃ)でもどうですかって、聞いてくれないかな。

三田: それはかまわないけど…、今井(いまい)さん、取引先(とりひきさき)の人でしょ。グレイさんは、仕事(しごと)とプライベートを分(わ)けて考(かんが)える人だから、きっとだめだと思いますよ。

今井: (ひとりごと)三田くんなら、うまく間(あいだ)をつないでくれると思ったのに、案外(あんがい)頭(あたま)のかたい男(おとこ)なんだなあ…。

Imai: Mita, will you tell me Ms. Gray’s cell phone number?

Mita: I’m not in the position to be able to do so.

Imai: Don’t be so rigid. Please tell me.

Mita: No. Please ask her directly.

Imai: I never would have imagined you’d be so difficult.

Mita: Whatever you may think, I’m proud of being someone who can keep a secret. Please be relieved that I won’t tell anyone about what you just said.

Imai: Well, in fact, I’d like you to tell her my feelings. Would you ask her if she could have a chat with me over a cup of coffee?

Mita: I don’t mind doing so, but since you’re a member of our client company she might say “No,” since she thinks that official business and personal affairs are two separate things.

Imai: [To himself] I expected that Mita would find a way to bring me and her together, but he’s more stubborn than I thought.