One of the great and convenient aspects of the Japanese language is the kimarimoku - set Japanese phrases or set expressions. If you have been studying Japanese for sometime you probably know some of them and using them when you see your Japanese friends. Naturally, many Japanese phrases are taught in standard text books and what not, but I have discovered (learned) many expressions or phrases only in certain situations one wouldn't normally experience unless they were living in Japan.
My understanding of Japanese phrases or set expressions seem to evolve to me as a student. First you learn them with some sort of basic English translation. Then you hear them and use them every day if you happen to be living in Japan. You then take them for granted and go around saying them half-heartedly and get sick of hearing the same expression or phrase in the same situation over and over, again and again, day in and day out. Then Buddha willing, you have an experience that finally brings the deeper meaning of the phrase or expression to you. It is all about the culture of the Japanese language. You can't really learn the true deeper meanings of certain Japanese phrases or expressions unless you immerse yourself into the culture. And the only way you can do that is by living in Japan for several years.
Survival Japanese Expressions
Itadakimasu - An institutionalized expression said just before beginning to eat. This is NOT a Japanese version of "grace". It is in no way similar to grace at all. It is especially appropriate to say this when you are guest. It is showing appreciation to you host for the meal they have prepared for you. At home it is just a casual "starter gun" type meaning of "Lets eat". Often, when eating with Japanese I am asked for a translation of the word in English - there is none.
Gochisosamadeshita - Just as important and ritualized as "Idatakimasu", this phrase is said to express thanks to the host after finishing a meal. This expression is also said in a less formal manner when certain private details of someone's private life is shared in a conversation. If you were to reveal the juicy details of how you met your first love your audience would thank you for sharing by say "Gochisosamadeshita".
Finally the expression of all expressions - the king of the castle expression. This is the one you will hear most often, and the one that will ponder?on for years and years. It is.....wait for it........Yoroshiku onegai itashimasu. This one is a little hard to explain because it is so rooted in Japanese culture and mentality. It is a very formalized and ritualized way of saying, "Please help me". Not help me as in "save me I am in trouble", but more of a "when the time comes help us out" kind of meaning. It can also be used as a formal request as in "please take care of it"," make it so", "please do it" and .....I think you get the idea. It is said when business relations are being formed, and if it concerns something really serious it is usually accompanied by a bow.
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