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Intermediate Japanese Language Learning with Dazai Osamu

Complimentary Japanese Reading Lessons From Maplopo Schoolhouse

Season ONE—水仙 (Page Thirteen)

 

EP13. Spotlight: ~てくれる, Dazai Osamu (太宰治), Daffodil (水仙)

Video file / Audio File / Online Intermediate Japanese Course

Read the full EP13 transcript, Spotlight: 〜てくれる | Intermediate and Advanced Japanese

Okay, let’s look at this fourth sentence here:

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

Okay… so, 家来たち.

You’re going to see this word a lot in this early part of the story, and it means “retainers.” Immediately after that, we have the particle は, of course, then… 真剣勝負, which means “real sword fight,” において which means “during,” or “in,” or “at” … and it’s worth noting here that this is a kind of a stiff version of this expression, it’s more formal… has a more formal feel to it and Dazai is maybe making a style choice here, or it’s just reflective of the time period in which he’s writing, because you could simply just say: で.

さえ, which means “even.” … and then the particle, も… and then, 本気に… seriously. Then, 戦う(conjugated to mean “fight”), and this cool little ending here, which we’ll talk about in just a bit. So. A very loose translation of this sentence would be something like: “Even in these true sword fights, the retainers didn’t honor his request to put up a good fight.” Okay, so let’s shine the spotlight a little bit here on this little baby: てくれる, and, uh, it kind of functions in the same way てあげる did, so if you remember that lesson, this part should feel a little familiar to you.

So a little read:

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

Okay… one more time.

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

Now, let’s do a little slice-and-dice surgery on this part and see how the conjugation plays out.

(Speaking Japanese)

This is the very basic part of the verb… the main verb

(Speaking Japanese)

If you were just going to leave this in present tense that’s how it would be conjugated.

(Speaking Japanese)

But, of course it’s not that simple, and we’re going to make it negative.

(Speaking Japanese)

And, not just negative but past tense negative. And there you have it. So, one more time completely:

(Speaking Japanese)

Okay! What do you think? Okay, so let’s dive into this a little bit more and we’ll give you some examples to make things… super clear.

So, てくれる. Like I said, it’s kind of like てあげる in that it’s a supporting verb, and it’s gonna support that main verb that’s just before it. And what’s kind of cool about this particular expression is that likeてあげる there’s giving and taking going on here, right? So, てくれる is this “receipt of action,” basically. Where てあげる was giving action, right? If you want to remember that てあげる is “giving” the “guh, guh” sound [making the “g” phoneme sound] might remind you of that. It works for me.

So. They’re friends… they work in combination with one another, right? So, what does this really mean? Well, てくれる is all about somebody doing a favor for the one who’s speaking (or, someone who the speaker feels close to). In other words, someone the speaker might be aligning themselves with. So, in this part of the story  Dazai is kind of aligning himself as narrator… with the lord.

Two other things to say about this to make it maybe a little bit more clear. This “receipt of action” is all about someone troubling themselves to do something for the
recipient, right? Or, they kindly do something for the recipient. The other thing that’s worth noting, is that buried beneath this meaning is this little kind of inkling of desire. The person who’s going to be receiving this thing really kind of wants this thing. It’s not so overt in some examples. But, others it is… particularly when we negate it (and when we negate it in past tense), which we’ll take a look at right now.

Let’s take a look at てくれる in its present tense form here first:

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

So… “Osamu always listens to my worries.” He’s a nice guy.

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

So, Mom’s the best, right? Right. And… “Mom always makes hot tea for me after meals.”

And, the negative: てくれない…

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

Okay. So, “Sensei, no matter what, sensei never gives any hints to the answers.” This is kind of like me here in Japan… you have to get two right before I give you hints…

Okay, so this last one here (てくれなかった) is, uh, negative past tense.

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

And this one means, sadly that: “Nobody came to pick me up.” I mentioned earlier, this idea of desire being kind of hidden in this てくれる… you really can’t feel the desire in the first example, but in the last two it’s quite clear, right? So, in the negative the students are really wanting the sensei to give [stuttering] give some hints, right? And, he doesn’t give them up. So, the desire is clear there.

And, then the last one (of course) you want somebody to come pick you up, right? And [stuttering] and, they didn’t. What kind of people are these? It sounds like parents… I might have a story like this in my, uh, my closet somewhere… um, but that’s the idea, right? There’s some desire here, and it’s not met. And that’s when you can use this expression.

So, to wrap things up and go back to the story… that little last bit that we started talking about… with fighting… the lord really wants them to show a good fight, right? And they don’t give it to him. And that’s why Dazai uses this expression.

 

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