Different Methods of Expression Between Japanese and English

In western countries, most people like to be called by their first names when they meet a person for the first time (e.g. “Hi, John!”). On the contrary, in Japan, people do not like to be called by their first names soon after they meet someone, as they think it sounds too friendly and makes them feel uncomfortable. It is common for people to refer to people by their family name, eg: “Mr. Smith.” This is just one example of the different ways of thinking that are shown in the expression of Japanese and English languages.

When we translate the sentence “Watashi wa anata ni ai ni ikimasu” into English, it becomes “I will come to see you.” However, upon hearing these words, Japanese people will probably have a feeling that something is wrong. Japanese people think it is more natural to use the word “go” instead of “come” and will create a sentence like “I will go to see you,” because it is I, myself who will go to see you. So it is difficult for Japanese to understand why the word “come” is used in English.

Why does this happen? In the Japanese language, things are expressed from the speaker’s viewpoint, therefore it is natural to say “I will go to see you.” On the contrary, in English, things are expressed from the other person’s viewpoint, so the expression will become “I will come to see you.” Since will Japanese never say “Watashi wa anata ni ai ni ki-masu (I come to see you),” it will be translated as “Watashi wa anata ni ai ni iki-masu (I will go to see you).”

In case of a couple comprised of a short Japanese man and a tall western woman, the Japanese man will surely say this way to his friends, “She is taller than me.” On the other hand, the western woman will probably say, “I am taller than him.” If his partner was a Japanese woman instead, she will definitely say “He is shorter than I.”

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