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In Japanese, ‘sorosoro’ shows what’s coming slowly and carefully, or what’s coming up

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing Writers

Nande sonna-ni sorosoro aruite-iru no? (Why are you walking so slowly?)

Situation 1: At the office, Ms. Gray notices Mr. Mita is moving at a snail’s pace.

グレイ: 三田さん、なんでそんなにそろそろ歩いているの?

三田: きのう、本棚を動かそうとしたら、ぎっくり腰になっちゃって、こんなふうにしか歩けないんだよ。

Gurei: Mita-san, nande sonna-ni sorosoro aruite-iru no?

Mita: Kinō, hondana o ugokasō to shitara, gikkurigoshi ni natchatte, konna fū ni shika arukenai-n dayo.

Gray: Mr. Mita, why are you walking so slowly?

Mita: When I was trying to move a bookshelf yesterday, I strained my back, so now I can only walk like this.

Today we will introduce some of the uses of the adverb そろそろ (slowly). It communicates that an action is done not only slowly but also deliberately or carefully, as with Ms. Gray’s sentence in Situation 1. The form そろそろと can be used instead for the same effect. Example: 初(はじ)めてスケート靴(ぐつ)をはいたときは恐(こわ) くて、手(て)すりにつかまってそろそろと歩(ある)くことしかできなかった。 (I was afraid when I wore skates for the first time, and all I could do was hold on to the rail and walk slowly and carefully.)

Situation 2: Mr. Tian and his client Mr. Suzuki have been talking for an hour.

鈴木: あ、もうこんな時間だ! そろそろ失礼しなくては。

ティエン: お時間を取って下さって、ありがとうございました。今日は、とても有意義なお話ができましたね。

Suzuki: A, mō konna jikan da! Sorosoro shitsurei shinakute wa.

Tian: O-jikan o totte-kudasatte, arigatō-gozaimashita. Kyō wa, totemo yūigina o-hanashi ga dekimashita ne.

Suzuki: Oh, it’s already that time! I must be leaving soon.

Tian: Thank you very much for taking the time. Today we had a very worthwhile talk, didn’t we?

In Situation 2, そろそろ is used to show that it is almost the time for something. This meaning is more common in conversation than the “slowly” definition in Situation 1. More examples: そろそろ海水浴(かいすいよく)の季節(きせつ)です。 (It’ll soon be the season for taking a dip in the sea.); そろそろ夫(おっと)が帰(かえ)ってくる時間(じかん)だ。(My husband will be home any minute.); もう5年(ごねん)もつきあっているんだから、そろそろ結婚(けっこん)しない? (Since we’ve been going out for as long as five years, why don’t we get married?).

Bonus Dialogue: High school student Mitsuo is talking with his mother at home.

光男: そろそろ夏休(なつやす)みだなあ。

母: そうよ。光男(みつお)もパソコンゲームばかりやっていないで、夏期(かき)講習(こうしゅう)に行(い)くとか、そろそろ受験(じゅけん)勉強(べんきょう)を始(はじ)めたらどう?

光男: 夏期講習なんか、意味(いみ)がないよ。自分(じぶん)で考(かんが)えて自分で問題(もんだい)を解(と)くことで、若者(わかもの)は成長(せいちょう)するんだ。

母: それは正論(せいろん)だけど、自分(じぶん)だけではなかなかできないから、みんな夏期講習に行くん でしょ。

光男: みんながやっていることを疑(うたが)いも持(も)たずにやる人間(にんげん)は、大成(たいせい)しないんだ。母(かあ)さんは、息子(むすこ)がビル・ゲイツになる可能性(かのうせい)を応援(おうえん)しないの?

母: 別(べつ)に、光男に大成してほしいわけじゃなくて、普通(ふつう)に大学(だいがく)に行ってほしいだけ。そろそろ夢(ゆめ)からさめて現実(げんじつ)を見(み)てほしいなあ。

光男: こういう母親(ははおや)がいるから、日本(にほん)にビル・ゲイツが育(そだ)たないんだ…。

Mitsuo: Summer vacation is nearly here.

Mother: That’s right. But instead of just playing video games, how about starting to study for the entrance exam soon, by going to summer classes or something?

Mitsuo: Summer school is pointless. Thinking by yourself, solving problems yourself — that’s how young people grow.

Mother: That’s a sound argument, but people can’t always do everything by themselves. That’s why everyone goes to summer school.

Mitsuo: If you don’t question what everyone does, you can’t achieve greatness. You won’t even entertain the possibility that your son will be the next Bill Gates.

Mother: I don’t particularly want you to be a great man — I just want you to get into university like a regular person. Mitsuo, the time is coming to wake up from the dream and see the reality.

Mitsuo: Mothers like you are the reason why there’s never been a Bill Gates raised in Japan.