Yoda and Japanese word order

One thing I have rarely seen was a simple and direct explanation of Japanese grammar.

Call it “zen attitude” if you want, but I like to keep things simple and minimal! Therefore, there are a couple of points that I want to address when discussing the Japanese language.

I have found that one of the best ways to explain Japanese is by using literal translations, sometimes accompanied by an “implicit translation” with the focus points highlighted or underlined. This is what I mean:

Japanese: Kore-wa pen desu.

English: East[-of what I speak] pen is.

Implicit translation: This is (a) feather.

The reason for this is that, while it is very good to know what people are saying in a foreign language, it is also extremely useful to know how those foreigners think and speak in their native language!

The other reason is simply that once you start thinking like a Japanese person, with Japanese word order in mind, your sentences and grammatical structures will start to flow more naturally. This natural flow of things is known as “the Force”.

In fact!? Well, no, but that helps us transition to our next point: Yoda.

Yoda is of great interest to Japanese learners because its grammatical structure is nearly identical to basic Japanese. For example:

Japanese: Watashi-no tomodachi-no kuruma-wa shiroi desu!

English: my friends’ car[-of what I speak] white is!

“Yoda Style”: My friends’ car, white!

Implicit translation: my friends’ car is white.

However, more precisely, word order in the Japanese language is classified as “subject-object-verb“. Consider the example sentence about the pen: Kore-wa pen desu.

It literally reads as “this pen is“. In that sentence the subject is the word”East” which is marked by the grammatical marker (or “particle,” as they are called) “wa”. Finally, the verb be be It is conjugated in the present tense as “is” or in Japanese as: desu.

You will hear the word “desu” in Japanese a lot. Although the correct spelling phonetically in English is “desu”, it actually sounds more like “dess”.

The Flexibility of Japanese Word Order

In the previous paragraph, I mentioned the words “grammar-marker” or “particle”. These are important aspects of the Japanese language that I will cover in a future article, so we won’t go over them just yet. For now it is enough that you understand that Japanese word order is extremely flexible because a “particle” tells you what a word is doing in a sentence.

For example, in this sentence, the particle “wa” is after the word “East” (written as “kore”) to indicate that it is the subject of the award. Take a second look: “Kore-wow Think about it.”

For now remember to just follow the path of the Force and you won’t go wrong in Japanese!

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