I announced in the inaugural Project Mayhem post that I would be studying Fight Club, in Japanese, in order to work on my embarrassingly insufficient Japanese listening skills. Japanese Fight Club is pretty difficult for my level. I’d estimate that 50% of the vocabulary that I ran into in the first 3 scenes was unfamiliar. I’d like to stress the keyword “was”, as these words are no longer unfamiliar to me after transcribing and repeatedly watching said scenes. I’ve even been able to forego entering the lines into Anki as I have so much fun repeating them out loud that I’ve already memorized most of them.
At the end of the last post, I mentioned I’d be talking about the idea that Japanese has no vowels. Of course, this statement is ridiculous. A vowel is just a sound produced with an open mouth and the tongue not touching anywhere. Japanese has this kind of sound. What I really meant to talk about is how Japanese doesn’t divide its sounds into consonants and vowels like English does. The Japanese don’t think of “ka” as a “k” sound plus an “a” sound. “ka” is its own sound unit. So is “ta”, “na”, “ra” and the rest of them. Check out the chart here. In Japanese there is no plain “k”. Only “ka”, “ki”, “ku”, “ke” and “ko”.
Ok, ok, so what’s the point?
Well, in the second chapter of Fight Club, we get this line:
With a gun barrel between your teeth, you speak only in vowels.
Now, Japanese does have a word for “vowel”, but since most Japanese don’t think of their language in terms of consonants and vowels, translating the above line verbatim wouldn’t be natural. The Japanese version instead uses a rhetorical question:
銃を口に突っ込まれてしゃべれるやつがどこにいる。 [sound file]
Juu o kuchi ni tsukkomarete shabereru yatsu ga doko ni iru?
Where is there a person that can talk with a gun shoved in their mouth?
There are some other interesting changes. Instead of “wondering if the gun is clean”, the main character in Japanese Fight Club “worries if there are any germs on the gun.” Another line that caught my attention:
That old saying, how you always hurt the one you love, well, it works both ways.
In English, the “it works both ways” part is vague. What does it mean? Does the one you love hurt you? Do you love the one you hurt? Does the one you hurt love you? Who knows, especially this early in the movie? The Japanese is specific:
愛してるから人を傷つけるとはよく言うが、傷つけたから愛せるとも言える。 [sound file]
Aishiteru kara hito o kizutsukeru to ha yoku iu ga, kizutsuketa kara aiseru to mo ieru
Lit: We often say that it’s because you love them that you hurt a person. But you can also say that it’s because you hurt them that you can love them.
Pretty cool, huh.
And finally, testicular cancer in Japanese: kougan gan (睾丸癌 [こうがんがん]).
kougan gankanjatachi no sapo-to guruupu.
Lit: This is a support group for testicular cancer patients.
May you never contract it!
Stay tuned for Chapter 3. Subscribe to the RSS Feed if you’d like.
Topics for next time:
- Some astronomy terms
- Male Japanese speakers mumble a lot
- How to say insomnia, cornflower-blue and “grande latte enema” in Japanese
Chapter 2 Total Running Time: 1m 46s
Chapter 2 New Words: 41
Project Mayhem Total Running Time: 3m 54s
Project Mayhem Total New Words: 41
- Chapter 3 – Japanese Men Mumble
- Chapter 5 – Japanese Giants
- Chapter 4 – Swedish Furniture and Katakana Loanwords
- Project Mayhem – Learning a Foreign Language Through Movies
- Japanese Study Habits 2008