Around the world, text messaging has changed the way we communicate. Today’s youth will take messaging apps over answering a call in most situations—and Japan is no exception. But the thing is, online communication can be super tricky thanks to all the special lingo, emojis and autocorrect making it all too easy to misinterpret the meaning of a message.
According to the pictures of this pamphlet about using social networking services (SNS), some people seem to really struggle with text speak. As a result, they can end up saying exactly the opposite of what they meant to say.
— 四二一 (@yoniichi421) April 8, 2019
10:0でまいちゃんが悪い = It’s 100% Mai-chan’s fault
The pamphlet shows an extract of a group conversation on what looks to be LINE, a popular messaging app in Japan:
今度の日曜、映画行かない？= Wanna go see a movie next Sunday?
行こう行こう！= Let’s go! Let’s go!
おれも行く！= I’m going too!
カズはなんで行くの = Why are you going?
おれ行っちゃ悪いの? = Is it bad if I come?
なんだ、誤解したよ。ごめん！= Seems like I got confused. Sorry!
もういいよ カズは友達じゃない = You’re not my friend
Wow, those are some pretty harsh sentences from Mai to Kazu. But don’t worry, it’s simply a case of things getting lost in cellular translation. Here’s what Mai actually wanted to say:
カズはなんで行くの = Why are you going?
Was meant to be:
カズはなにで行くの？ = How are you getting there?
And instead of:
もういいよ。カズは友達じゃない = It’s fine, you’re not my friend
Mai chan wanted to say:
もう誤解しなくていいよ カズは友達じゃない？= There’s been a misunderstanding. We’re friends, no?
But can we really blame text messaging in this instance? User @yoniichi421 shared his doubt on Twitter and most people agreed with him. More than a few wondered just how Mai could speak her mother tongue so badly.
— 井坂P@吐き気を催す⭐邪悪 (@KillerQueen765) April 9, 2019
SNSトラブルより、まいちゃんの日本語能力の低さのが心配。= Rather than worrying about her issues on SNS, I worry about her low level of Japanese.
Mean Mai VS Poor Kazu
You’ve probably noticed that we translated @yoniichi421’s 10:0 with “100%,” but what does it mean exactly?
To understand, you’ll need to know a little bit about what happens after a car accident in Japan. When the police establish the accident report, they will evaluate using a ratio of how much responsibility is shared by each driver. For example, if both drivers share responsibility equally, the report will show 5:5.
Here, @yoniichi421 is saying that Mai bears 100% of the responsibility, while Kazu has done nothing wrong, i.e. “0.”
Making comparisons in Japanese using より
The little word より (yori) is essentially used to compare one characteristic to another. You can translate it in English as “than” with the underlying meaning of “(more) than.”
You’ll place より after the noun, adjective or verb that has “less” of what is being discussed than the other noun, adjective or verb it is being compared to:
AよりB = B (more) than A
思ったより簡単でした。= It was easier than I thought.
Still より can appear with a different word order so pay attention to constructions such as:
A は B より… = A is more… than B
カズはまいより優しい。= Kazu is kinder than Mai.
If you’re into Japanese drama, the title Hana Yori Dango (Boys Over Flowers) will certainly ring a bell:
The show’s name comes from an old Japanese proverb, 花より団子 or “dumplings are better than flowers.” The saying refers to people who choose substance over style or practicality over aesthetic. Note that in the title of the show it’s written 男子, which is usually read as “danshi” — here it’s a play on words.
You can watch the series (with English subs) on YouTube. Check here for more TV shows that will help you learn Japanese, too!
|10:0||jyu tai zero||10 to 0|
|悪い||warui||wrong, at fault|
|日曜||nichiyou||short for “Sunday”|
|おれ||ore||I (for men)|
||mou ii||it’s fine, that’s enough|
|誤解する||gokai suru||to misunderstand|
|ごめん||gomen||sorry, I’m sorry|
|より||yori||than, more than,|
|日本語能力||nihongonouryoku||Japanese language skills|
|心配||shinpai||worries, to worry|
|花より団子||hana yori dango||a saying; “dumplings rather than flowers” that means someone who chooses subsance over style|
For more on learning Japanese
- Learn Japanese with our original study materials on GaijinPot Study
- Questions about studying Japanese in Japan? Take a look at the Japan 101 section on Higher Education and Studying Japanese
- Join our GaijinPot Study Facebook group to connect with fellow learners
- Learn more about the GaijinPot Study Placement Program