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Intermediate Japanese Language Learning with Dazai Osamu

Complimentary Japanese Reading Lessons From Maplopo Schoolhouse

Season ONE—水仙 (Page Eleven)


EP.11 Spotlight: ~てあげる, Dazai Osamu (太宰治), Daffodil (水仙)

Video file / Audio File / Online Intermediate Japanese Course

Read the full EP11 transcript, Spotlight: ~てあげる | Intermediate and Advanced Japanese

Let’s continue within this quote bracket  here… So, this is a really tricky sentence,  
but a really important sentence within the context of  this first part of the story. Let’s listen to it.
(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)
(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)
Let’s look at this sentence a little more  closely. The first part you have 負ける  
which is conjugated, and means “get defeated.”  Let’s skip over てあげる for just a moment…  
we’ll talk a little bit more  about that in just a second.  
Then you have ほう, which means  “side.” Then, the particle も.  
Then you have 楽, which means “effortless,”  and then なる conjugated to なった which means  
“become.” So, a very loose translation of this  for now just to give you a picture of what this  
sentence… this part of the sentence means…  is “We don’t have to try so hard to let him win.”  
Now, in my little kind of nutshell picture  of that sentence to you I use the word “we.”  
“We don’t have to try so hard,” right? But, if  you look at the sentence there’s no “we” there at  
all. What you have is this word: “side.” And, you  might be wondering: “Why does it say side there?”  
Well, the use of this word is actually  telling the reader—and telling lord  
Tadanao—as he’s over-listening…over-hearing  all this… is that they’re talking in terms of  
opposing sides, right? So, they’re on this side  he’s on this side. So, the usage of this word  
kind of suggests, uh, opposition. I promised  I would talk about てあげる. Let’s do that.  
It’s tricky, but not that tricky. てあげる  basically works in combination with a verb.  
It follows a verb and so thus  it supports that previous verb.  
When this verb 負ける, and this expression  てあげる, work together… in this instance,  
what it means (in a very strange way) is that the  retainers are “gifting” defeat to the lord. Now,  
that sounds ridiculous, and it’s very  very hard even for me to understand  
in order to explain this to you. Here’s one  example that might help kind of turn a light bulb  
on in your head. If you’re a parent… let’s say  you’re a man… (I’m a man), and I’m arm wrestling  
my child and, uh, he wants to win really bad.  My son is like dying to beat me… And… [mumbling]…  
he’s weak, right? He can’t really beat me. And  so, I kind of… I [stuttering] I lessen up on  
my… [stuttering] my strength and I “allow”  him to win, right? So, by allowing him to  
win I’m “gifting him my defeat.” That’s  what this means. I’m allowing him to win,  
I’m “giving him my defeat” and that’s precisely  what this means in this part of the sentence.  
It goes without stating, of course, that the person  receiving this action is receiving something  
favorable, or beneficial… desirable…, welcome.  This gift is a good thing—usually. Two examples:
(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)
(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)
This sentence basically means:  “I lent my friend a book.”
(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)
(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)
“I sent my girlfriend to the station.” A quick  closing point on these two examples… because  
it’s kind of cool if you really think about it.  So, the first translation: “I lent my friend a  
book,” right? You don’t really get the sense  of kind of any sacrifice taking place here…  
…as a modern English speaker… in this sentence.  “I lent my friend a book” doesn’t really seem  
like a big deal, right? But beneath the meaning of  that sentence there is a little bit of sacrifice,  
right? And if you wanted to pay attention, quite  literally, to the translation from Japanese…  
and you wanted to include this てあげる in there,  you could rephrase this as something like:  
“I allowed my friend to borrow a book.”  —something along those lines. Then you feel  
a little bit of pain there… “I had to give him  the book… that guy’s probably never going to  
give it back!” Don’t lend tools to anybody by the  way… that’s what happens. [Laughter] In the second sentence,  
this is even more noticeable, right? So, you  could make the argument this simple way… by the  
way… the simple way to translate this sentence  would be: “I sent my girlfriend to the station,  
right? But if you really wanted to get crazy about  the, uh, this honor that you’re giving to the  
girlfriend you could say that. You could say: “I paid my girlfriend the honor of delivering her  
to the station.” It’s… “Or, sending her to the  station.” You see how the injection of that  
“honor” thing just feels so, so, weird? Maybe if we  were talking in Shakespearean times this would  
work. But it’s not really something you need  to translate in… [stuttering] in modern, um, in modern times.

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