Language | WELL SAID

Endowed with the talent for understanding the Japanese structures using 'nagara ni'

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing Writers

Umare-nagara ni shite e no sainō ga aru no kamo ne. You may have been endowed with a talent for painting.

Situation 1: Mitsuo shows his mother a picture he painted.

光男: 今日美術で自画像を描いたんだよ。見て、これ。

母: よく描けているわね!いつもゲームばっかりやっているから分からなかったけど、実は生まれながらにして絵の才能があるのかもね。

Mitsuo: Kyō bijutsu de jigazō o kaita-n-da yo. Mite, kore.

Haha: Yoku kakete-iru wa ne! Itsumo gēmu bakkari yatte-iru kara wakaranakatta kedo, jitsu wa umare-nagara ni shite e no sainō ga aru no kamo ne.

Mitsuo: I drew a self-portrait in art class today. Here, look.

Mother: Gee, it’s well-drawn! You’re always playing video games so I didn’t know, actually you may have been endowed with a talent for painting.

The pattern “XながらにY” can convey a slightly different meaning depending on what word you use in place of “X,” but the structure sounds rather old-fashioned and is mainly used in formal Japanese and dramatic storytelling. The verbs that replace “X” tend to be the masu-stem of either 生(う)まれる (to be born) or いる (to stay, exist) — 生まれながらに or いながらに.

In Situation 1, Mitsuo’s mother uses the pattern 生まれながらにY, in which “Y” is Mitsuo’s talent for painting. In this case, ながらに acts similarly to “since,” as the talent is described as having been inherited or endowed since birth.

Another usage can be seen in the Bonus Dialogue with いながらに, which acts more like “while”: 家(いえ)にいながらにして仕事 (しごと)ができる。 (While I’m at home I can do my job.)

Both 生まれながらに and いながらに tend to be used with して.

Situation 2: Yuri is watching a drama on TV.

ナレーター: 彼は長い旅から戻ってくると、「もう絶対離さないから」と、涙ながらに彼女に謝った。

Narētā: Kare wa nagai tabi kara modotte-kuru to, “Mō zettai hanasanai kara” to, namida nagara ni kanojo ni ayamatta.

Narrator: He returned home from his long trip, and while tears streamed down his face, he said, “I will never leave you again.”

When “X” is a noun in the ながらに pattern, it tends to mean “while” and is often limited to the word 涙 (なみだ, tears). Therefore, in Situation 2 the phrase 涙ながらに can mean “while crying,” but with a much more dramatic nuance.

The words 涙, いつも (always) and 昔 (むかし, old days) can also replace “X” in the structure “XながらのY,” in which “Y” is also a noun. This pattern is a noun-modifying one, so 涙ながらの謝罪 (しゃざい, apology) could be rendered as a “tear-filled apology” or, if you break it down, “an apology made while tears are flowing.”

Other examples include 昔ながらの味 (あじ, taste), which means “the taste of olden days,” and いつもながらの優(やさ)しさ, “usual kindness.” In these cases, ながらの connects two things that happen or exist at the same time, such as the apology and the crying in 涙ながらの謝罪.

Bonus Dialogue: Ms. Gray is at a boutique trying on a dress.

グレイ: 少(すこ)しスカートが長(なが)いほうがいいかも…。

店員(てんいん): いえ、そのぐらいのほうが華(はな)やかで、すてきだと思(おも)いますが。

グレイ: そうかなあ。…ちょっと友達(ともだち)にも見(み)てもらいたいから、また別(べつ)の日(ひ)に来(き)ます。

店員: こちらは人気(にんき)商品(しょうひん)ですから、売(う)れてしまうかもしれませんよ。お取(と)り置(お)き致(いた)しましょうか?

グレイ: いえ、また来ますから。売れてしまったら、あきらめます。

店員: はい、では、お待(ま)ちしております。あ、お客様(きゃくさま)、一応(いちおう)当店(とうてん)の最新(さいしん)のシステムをご紹介(しょうかい)しておきます。ご自宅(じたく)やオフィスにいながらにして、試着(しちゃく)した時(とき)のイメージが見られるという画期的(かっきてき)なシステムです。うちの店名(てんめい)をパソコンで検索(けんさく)してホームページに入(はい)り、右上(みぎうえ)のカタログというボタンをクリックしてください。そこからこのワンピースを選(えら)んで「試着」ボタンを押(お)していただければ、お客様が試着なさった場合(ばあい)の画像(がぞう)がご覧(らん)になれます。

グレイ: あ、それなら今ちょうど試着しているから、写真(しゃしん)を撮(と)ってもらえますか?それを友達に送(おく)りますから。

店員: ああ … そうですね。それもいいアイデアですね。

Gray: Maybe the skirt should be longer.

Clerk: No, I think that length is more gorgeous and lovely.

Gray: I wonder. … I’d like my friend to check it for me, I’ll come again another day.

Clerk: This is a popular product, so it may sell out soon. Shall I put one aside for you?

Gray: No, I’ll come again. If it sells out, I’ll give up on it.

Clerk: I see, we’ll be waiting for you. Oh, madam, let me introduce to you our shop’s latest system. It’s an innovative system that allows you to view images of you trying on clothes while at home or in the office. Search for the name of our store on your computer, go on our homepage and click the catalog button at the top right. If you select this dress from there and press the “try on” button, you can see an image of you trying it on.

Gray: Ah, but I’m just trying it on now, so can you take a photo for me? I can send it to my friend.

Clerk: Ah … that’s right, you are. That’s also a good idea.

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