You’ve Got Mail: Surprising Japanese Netspeak Verbs

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Photo by Becca Takano
July 28, 2017

One of the more interesting things about the Japanese language is that it has a lot of verbs. Whereas English is often content to simply know who does what to whom, Japanese is a language that needs to know exactly what happened to the person and often whether it was done in a polite way or not.

One of the more interesting examples of this is email Japanese. I am one of those people who erase any remotely suspicious unread email, so when one day my girlfriend asked me what I was doing as I deleted mail after mail, I came up with いたずらメールだせばいい (these are spam, it’s better to delete them) as an explanation.

Almost as soon as the words came out of my mouth, her face turned up in that way that told me I’d said something wrong, but she was too polite to tell me. Finally, she couldn’t bear the temptation to one up me any longer and had to correct me. メールを削除さくじょ する was the correct form, she explained.

削除 する?!

This is one of the trickiest things about email Japanese. Instead of a lot of the verbs that we learners are used to, the language that Japanese people use for emailing often uses special verbs. Take for example the verb for attaching a file: most learners would guess that it might be つける or something like that, right? Nope! ファイルを添付てんぷする is the correct verb!

The language that Japanese people use for emailing often uses special verbs.

Even the basic verbs can be tricky. To talk about creating an email Japanese people use the verb 作成さくせいする. As if this wasn’t tricky enough already, this verb is often combined with the adjective meaning fresh or new, 新規しんき, to create the monster compound verb: 新規作成しんきさくせいする (to create a new email message).

Similarly, while even beginners are familiar with the verb おくるfor sending physical mail, for email the verbs are 送信そうしん する for sending and 受信じゅしんする for receiving email. In addition, because of the nature of email, you will also have to remember 転送てんそうする for forwarding an email message and 返信へんしんする for replying to one.

Finally, the other tricky verbs are the ones for saving data (保存ほぞんする) and compressing a file to save memory (圧縮あっしゅくする).

While it is easy to think that a lot of these words are too specialized to be useful, with email basically ubiquitous now, all learners will be hearing and using these verbs a lot. Luckily, any time spent learning these terms also has the added benefit of learning some incredibly useful kanji, all of which will come up for the JLPT N2 test.

So, while I may not be the trendy, young and internet-savvy person I envision myself to be, by spending the time learning these terms — at least I can sound like one!

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