steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

The Order of Things

There are many difficult aspects to learning Japanese as a native English speaker, but I think one of the hardest is word order. Japanese is a language with left-branching syntax, whereas English is most the other way round: think of the difference between "the woman who stole my jacket" and "the my-jacket-stealing woman." While the difference in pattern isn't too hard to grasp in principle, in practice when the sentences get a bit complicated it's hard to construct them properly in real time.

That's why it seems worth recording, as a mark of progress, that yesterday when I was talking to a friend on Skype and she asked me whether I'd taken a photo of the Mona Lisa when I visited the Louvre in 1986, I was able to reply that I thought the postcards on sale in the gift shop were probably clearer than any I could have taken from the back of the crowd around the painting. And I was able to do it in real time:


Picture-before-crowd-behind-taken photograph is shop-sold-postcard than clear not think.

It may not be brilliant Japanese, but the word order at least is more or less right.
Tags: language, nippon notes
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