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Intermediate Japanese Language Learning with Dazai Osamu

Complimentary Japanese Reading Lessons From Maplopo Schoolhouse

Season ONE—水仙 (Page Sixteen)

 

EP16. Spotlight: たしか, Dazai Osamu (太宰治), Daffodil (水仙)

Video file / Audio File / Online Intermediate Japanese Course

Read the full EP16 transcript, Spotlight: たじか | Intermediate and Advanced Japanese

And… let’s pull apart the fourth paragraph.

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

A loose translation of this sentence would be: “I remember the story line being something along the lines of that.”

Did you notice that little ている there at the end? That was the spotlight from before, right? So, it pops up a lot.

Okay, so the word that we’re looking at here, now, is たしか. And, it basically means “certain.” And, “sure.” That’s the core meaning of this word.

It’s a subjective judgment, as well: based on your experience, others assertion, or declaration, or objective data. So, because it’s a subjective judgment, it’s inward facing, right? And, it’s coming from your experience… your memory. And, because memory is pretty fuzzy most times, uh, it’s less reliable. And a lot of times, in English we might simply express that by saying something like…, uh: “If memory serves me correctly…,” or, “I think…,” or “…something along those lines…,” right?

That’s what we’re going to see in these next few examples. But before we get into the examples, let’s take a quick look at Dazai’s sentence again here really quickly.

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

So, you’ll note that he uses たしか to start off the sentence. But, at the end of
the sentence he says: “remember.” So, he’s basing this assurance on memory, which, as we know, is a little shaky sometimes, right? So, that little nuance—his inclusion of “remember”— is telling us, as a reader, that maybe he’s not so sure about the story line, but, he thinks he’s got it. Okay? So, let’s take a look at, uh, two examples here:

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

So.

“For lunch the day before yesterday, I think I had udon.”

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

“Today is Spring Equinox Day, isn’t it?”

So, the nuance in both of those sentences should be fairly obvious, right? In the first one, uh, the [stuttering] the writer, the speaker, or us…, uh, we’re saying: “I think I had udon yesterday, but, uh…, (or the day before yesterday), but I’m not sure.” And, in the second sentence we’re saying: “I think today is…” (well we’re not really saying, ‘I think’).

We’re saying: “Today is Spring Equinox Day.” And then asking you to confirm that for us, right? “Isn’t it?”

And so there’s that nuance that you’re looking for. “Think” in the first one, and “isn’t it?” in the second one. That lessens the assuredness of たしか.

This is a pretty handy expression actually, and once you kind of internalize it (as maybe something you can use when you’re not sure of something), you’ll find opportunity to use it a lot. So, for example, this week we were walking around in this little forested area and I was telling Reiko that lichens—on trees (this kind of, like, growth that happens on trees)—only appears on the western side of a tree. Because of some sort of, like, sun positioning, or whatever.

And at first, I was quite proud of myself… and remembering this… and, (I took some botany classes)… and then I started to doubt myself. Like, hmmm, maybe I’m wrong… and as we walked through the path a little bit and we started to see lichens maybe appearing on the opposite side of the tree, then I was definitely not sure. So, maybe it was something else… moss. I don’t know.

But, uh, たしか would have been a great way to have expressed that. Uh, that [stuttering] that internal doubt I was having as I was trying to be so sure about something I was not sure about at all.

[Soft Jazz Music Bed Playing]

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