Tuesday, November 29, 2005

ていうか (teiuka)

This is a great phrase to learn even if you can't say anything else at all in Japanese. I absolutely love the phrase, and I wonder why my Japanese teacher at Uni never thought to include it in a lesson.

Maybe because it's not Mombusho Japanese (all-Japanese site - consider yourself warned).

ていうか can be translated in a lot of different ways. It's a slang expression for all practical purposes, and, like English slang, is fluid and easy to slip into conversation.

Some possible meanings are:

"you know..."

When I hear the phrase on Japanese television, it feels like "you know..." most of the time. Sometimes "you know..." doesn't work in my head in English, so I think of ていうか as "like..."

A few simple examples are:

ていうか、お風呂に入りたいですけど (teiuka, ofuro ni hairitai desu kedo)
You know, I'd like to hop in the shower but [something is stopping me - probably the person being spoken to]

ね、ね、これ何?(ne, ne, kore nani?)
ていうか、それは。。。え~っと。。。分からん(teiuka, sore ha... e~tto... wakaran)
Hey, hey, what's this?
Like, it's like... umm... I dunno.

ていうか、マックの代わりにモスバーガーに行こうか(teiuka, makku no kawari ni mosu ba-ga- ni ikou ka)
Actually, let's go to Mos Burger instead of McDonald's.

You can see quickly that ていうか is used to introduce a thought or what I like to think of as stalling for time.

The Japanese are famous for this. Go anywhere, meet anyone, and within the first 5 minutes you will hear a "stalling" expression like: え~っと、あのね、あのぉ、さあ、and of course ていうか.

I should point out that ていうか usually flows with whatever follows it - that is to say, it is NOT used in the same way that English speakers use "ummm" to stall for time when collecting thoughts or when lost for words.

So, if you're just starting out with Japanese, try to insert ていうか into your next conversation lesson and maybe score some brownie points with the teacher -- excuse me, 先生.

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