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Tweet of the Week #40: Growing Up Is Hard to Do

Learn how to use the Japanese imperative with this week's adorable tweet.

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Whether it’s “Harry Potter” or “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” the wizarding world has been obsessed with using brooms as a means of transportation since the Middle Ages. I mean, we can see the appeal. It’s cheap, eco-friendly and always comes with a sky view.

However, according to this professor, maintaining your balance, speed and direction would apparently be just like riding a roller coaster the entire way with no hands. Hmm, no thanks.

How do you break the news to your child that broomstick transport is not real?

Parenting isn’t easy when it comes to teaching your little ones the harsh realities of the non-fictional world. Those stories you’ve told them… yeah, they were actually lies. Santa? Oh, he’s the mascot of Coca Cola’s marketing department. Monster in the cupboard? Nah, that’s just a metaphor for hiding your true personality from the world. The tooth fairy? Nothing more than a salesperson encouraging you to save for expensive lifelong dental care.

The answer is: Don’t.

After trying hard for 20 minutes, whispering to himself “witch, fly, witch, fly”, Twitter user @naka’s adorable toddler looked like his dreams had been completely crushed.

ホウキでそらべないことをってしまった息子むすこがうなだれている。
今度こんどカッコいいホウキをってやるから、もう一度いちど挑戦ちょうせんしろ」とはげました。

= “Here’s my son after he learned he can’t fly in the sky with a broom. To cheer him up, I told that we’ll buy a better broom for him to try again.”

This father’s instinctive reaction was to do his best to encourage his son. But later reflecting on his blog, Naka conceded that this could have been a lesson on letting go after doing your best. “Life is hard”, he wrote, and “wishful thinking doesn’t make things magically happen”.

However, he concluded that he felt that time spent with his son and keeping the fantasy alive a little longer was more precious than teaching him a moral lesson.

And who knows? With technology and a little imagination, anything is possible!

In fact: Naka’s son isn’t alone!

Japanese parents can probably blame the Ghibli movie “Kiki’s Delivery Service for countless similar scenes of childhood disappointment.

ホウキで飛べないことをいかいている3さいむすめ = My 3-year-old daughter crying with rage after realizing she can’t fly on a broom

How to make a request using the imperative form in Japanese

On paper, Japanese grammar does have an imperative form to give orders, commands or to make a strong request. But since Japanese people value politeness and respect above all, actually using the imperative—in the right context—can be tricky.

If you’re an anime or manga aficionado, you will probably have read or heard this form being used by characters to boss others around. But in real life, Japanese people tend to prefer more delicate ways to give orders! The best way is to use the expression ください, which is polite and softer in tone.

The imperative is built with the verbs dictionary form:

  • Ru-verbs: becomes
  • U-verbs: the “” vowel to its “” variation. E.g.: 飛ぶ becomes 飛べ
  • する becomes しろ
  • くる becomes こい
  • くれる is an exception here and changes to くれ

Living in Japan, you will more likely encounter imperative orders on road signs, slogans or notice than in ordinary conversations. At least you know they’re being nice about it!

Vocabulary

Japanese Romaji English
ホウキ houki broom
de with, by means of
そら sora sky
べる toberu be able to fly
shiru know
息子むすこ musuko son
うなだれる unadareru hang one’s head
今度こんど kondo next time, soon
カッコいい kakkoii cool

kau buy
から kara because
もう一度いちど mou ichido once more
挑戦ちょうせんする chousen suru to challenge
はげます hagemasu encourage, cheer up
いか
ikari anger, rage
いている
naiteiru crying
歳娘さいむすめ 娘 sai musume year-old daughter

For more on learning Japanese

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