Language | WELL SAID

Take your Japanese to the point where you can even use 'sae' and 'made' correctly

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing Writers

Wattsu-san wa, konna muzukashii kanji made kakeru no ne! (Mr. Watts, you’re able to write such difficult kanji!)

Situation 1: Ms. Tamachi is surprised by the memo Mr. Watts has written in Japanese.

田町: ワッツさんは、こんな難しい漢字まで書けるのね!

ワッツ: いやあ、ぼくは漢字が大好きなんです。漢字オタクというか。

Tamachi: Wattsu-san wa, konna muzukashii kanji made kakeru no ne!

Wattsu: Iyā, boku wa kanji ga daisuki nan desu. Kanji otaku to iu ka.

Tamachi: Mr. Watts, you’re able to write such difficult kanji!

Watts: Nah, I just love kanji. I’m what you may call a kanji nerd.

The particles まで and さえ both emphasize degree, the former expressing the limits of time, space, quantity and so on. By attaching it to a noun (X), the construction Xまで can translate to “until X”:

きのうは8時(はちじ)まで会社(かいしゃ)にいた。 (Yesterday I was in my office until 8 p.m.)

駅(えき)まで自転車(じてんしゃ)で行(い)った。 (I went to the station by bicycle.)

Xまで can also mean “even X,” and is mainly paired with verbs in the affirmative. For example, the Xまで construction in Situation 1 conveys Ms. Tamachi’s pleasant surprise that Mr. Watts is able to write not only easy kanji but some difficult ones as well. Another example of this structure would be:

彼女(かのじょ)の名前(なまえ)は、日本(にほん)はもちろん、海外 (かいがい)まで知(し)られている。 (Her name is well-known in Japan, of course, but even around the world.)

The construction can also be used with a verb in its te-form, as in: 彼(かれ)は試験(しけん)でカンニングをしてまでいい点(てん)を取(と)ろうとしたのだ。 (He wanted to get good grades so badly he was even tried to cheat on the exam.)

Situation 2: Continued from Situation 1.

ワッツ: 日本のアニメを見る前は日本の場所さえ知らなかったんですけど、今は日本文化についてもかなりわかるようになりました。

田町: そうなの?すごい進歩ね!

Wattsu: Nihon no anime o miru mae wa Nihon no basho sae shiranakatta-n-desu kedo, ima wa Nihon-bunka ni tsuite mo kanari wakaru yō ni narimashita.

Tamachi: Sō nano? Sugoi shinpo ne!

Watts: I didn’t even know where Japan was before watching Japanese anime, but now I’ve come to understand Japanese culture considerably.

Tamachi: Oh really? What amazing progress!

The construction Xさえ translates as “even X,” and is mainly used with verbs in their negative forms and when expressing extreme examples:

ベトナム語(ご)は簡単(かんたん)なあいさつさえわからない。 (As for Vietnamese, I can’t even understand the simplest of greetings.)

さえ can also take the place of まで in affirmative sentences: 妻(つま)の誕生日(たんじょうび)さえ忘(わす)れてしまった。 (I even forgot my wife’s birthday.)

Bonus Dialogue: Junior high student Takako is chatting with her classmate Madoka.

まどか: うちのお兄(にい)ちゃん、料理(りょうり)ができるようになって、イタリアン、フレンチだけじゃなくて、タイ料理まで作(つく)れるようになったの。味(あじ)にうるさいお母(かあ)さんまで、おいしいってほめるの。

たか子(こ): いいなあ。うちのお兄ちゃんは目玉焼(めだまや)きさえ作れないの。これからは男子(だんし)も家事(かじ)ができないと、もてないよね。

まどか: うん、ちょっと前(まえ)にはお父(とう)さんがやり始(はじ)めたんだけど、道具(どうぐ)にこだわったの。すごくいい包丁(ほうちょう)まで買(か)って。

たか子: うわ、すごいね。

まどか: でも、なかなかうまくいかないから、料理には興味(きょうみ)がなくなったみたい。今(いま)はキッチンにさえ行こうとしないよ。

たか子: ほんとにしょうがないね。男(おとこ)の人(ひと)って、ちょっとうまくいかないとすぐにめげちゃうんだから。お兄ちゃんは続(つづ)くといいね。

Madoka: My older brother has reached the point where he can cook not just Italian and French, but even Thai dishes. Even my mom, who’s a fussy eater, says they’re delicious.

Takako: Oh, nice! My older brother can’t even make fried eggs. From now on boys who can’t do housework aren’t gonna be too popular.

Madoka: Yeah, a little while ago my dad started cooking but he was real particular about the tools. He even bought some great kitchen knives.

Takako: Wow, that’s super.

Madoka: However, he never got very good at it, so it seems like he’s lost interest in cooking. Now he won’t even go into the kitchen.

Takako: It really can’t be helped. Men get discouraged easily if they don’t get good at something quickly. I hope your brother will keep up with his cooking.

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