Huh? The word for “Excuse me” or “I’m sorry” can mean “Thank you?” I don’t get it…
You’ve sầu probably noticed by now that there are certain words and phrases lượt thích sumimasen(すみません) that don’t translate very well inlớn English. This happens in every language, so it’s a good idea to lớn familiarize yourself with this & embrace it if you want to sound more natural when you speak. Today, we’re going to learn the importance of interpreting the context when speaking Japanese, particularly with sumimasen(すみません).
すいません suimasen , Sumimasen すみません
Contents1 Sumimasen(すみません) Can Mean Thank You?2 Sumimasen(すみません): What Does it Really Mean?3 Scenario 2:4 Let’s Look at “Sumimasen”5 Context is Key6 Sumimasen ! Learn Japanese Online with gocnhintangphat.com?
Sumimasen(すみません) Can Mean Thank You?
Sometimes in Japanese, words that we think we know how to translate will take on a different meaning depending on context.
Context in Japanese
Japanese is known as a “high context” language. A high context language is one that conveys meaning without having khổng lồ be specific or include all information. This means that when speaking Japanese, fewer words are used to convey meaning because much of the information or feelings expressed go unstated & rely on contextual elements. This can be difficult for language learners unaccustomed to this type of communication. Often times when Japanese people speak they will say one word và the listener is expected khổng lồ infer what is meant based on unstated contextual factors. This manner of communication has its positive and negative sầu sides.
A good thing about it is that you don’t have lớn string a bunch of words together with every sentence in order khổng lồ express yourself. In other words, high context languages keep things short and sweet! However, it can be a challenge & sometimes frustrating lớn get used khổng lồ reading non-verbal cues và the general atmosphere surrounding the exchange.
In contrast, English is a “low context” language. We assume the person to whom we’re speaking will have no idea what we’re talking about unless we are specific and detailed. Sometimes, in extreme cases, we may have to spell out what we’re trying to say word for word in order to lớn make ourselves understood. If you watch a Japanese movie or show with English subtitles, you may see this in practice.
The English subtitles tover to lớn contain more words and seem khổng lồ convey much more than what the Japanese speaker on screen says. That is because English speakers need more detail to lớn understand what is going on; whereas in Japanese, sometimes just one word will suffice.
Because Japanese is a language that relies so much on context, you may find looking up words in an English-Japanese dictionary confusing. Why does one word have so many different translations? Well, that’s because in one situation it would have sầu one meaning, và in another situation it would have a different meaning.Let’s look at sumimasen as an example.
Sumimasen(すみません): What Does it Really Mean?
The word sumimasen (すみません) is a really good example of how a word changes meaning depending on the context. Sumimasen is one of the first phrases Japanese-language students learn in their studies. It’s usually translated lớn “Excuse me” or “I’m sorry” in English.
For example, if you’re shoulder-to-shoulder on a packed train và you arrive sầu at your stop, you need khổng lồ get past everyone so that you can get off. Therefore, you say, “Sumimasen,” và when people hear this, they will get out of the way lớn let you by. Another way sumimasen is used is khổng lồ get someone’s attention—most commonly when calling a waiter over to lớn your table at a restaurant. In these cases, sumimasen would mean “Excuse me.”
Another situation is if you’re at a restaurant & a waiter knocks your water glass over on the table và spills it. The waiter would then say, “Sumimasen” while he tries his best khổng lồ clean up the mess. Do you see what happened? The same word is being used in different situations. In this situation we know based on what happened that the waiter isn’t asking you to move sầu out of the way or trying khổng lồ get your attention. In this context he has made a mistake that has caused discomfort khổng lồ someone.
Therefore, it is clear that he is apologizing. Sumimasen in this case means, “I’m sorry.”On top of that, did you know that sumimasen can also mean “Thank you” in the right context? That’s right. The same word used khổng lồ express shame is used to lớn express gratitude. Whoa, right? Let’s take a look at some examples below.
Mrs. Takahashi heads over to Mrs. Sato’s house for afternoon tea. When she arrives at the door, she has a gift that she intends khổng lồ give Mrs. Sakhổng lồ. The gift is a box of individually-wrapped cakes that she brought baông xã from her hometown. She rings the doorbell, and when Mrs. Sato opens the door, she is surprised when Mrs. Takahashi hands her the box of cakes. “Sumimasen,” Mrs. Salớn says.
Huh? Why would she say “I’m sorry” instead of saying something like “Arigatou gozaimasu” (Thank you)? This is because Sumimasen is also a humble way of expressing gratitude in some contexts. Sumimasen in this situation is lượt thích expressing apology in a way. After all, Mrs. Takahashi did go through the trouble lớn buy the cakes & bring them over. What a burden it must have been on her, right? However, it’s less an overt apology & means something more along the lines of “Thank you for doing this for me despite the inconvenience.”
You’re sitting on the train, & you arrive at a stop. A woman sitting next to lớn you gets up to get off, & you notice that she left her phone on her seat. You spring up, grab the phone, & rush out the door to catch up with her. “Sumimasen,” you say. The woman turns and sees that you have sầu her phone. You h& it khổng lồ her. “Sumimasen,” she replies as she puts it back into lớn her pocket.
Wait, what? You both used the exact same word, và it meant two different things? In this situation, the woman is both humbly expressing her thanks while at the same time acknowledging the inconvenience it might have sầu caused you to lớn get up & chase her down.
You’re approaching the door to a building, và you notice there are a number of people behind you who also want khổng lồ go inside. You, being the kind và considerate person that you are, open the door and hold it open for them as they walk in. “Sumimasen,” the people say as they pass you by.
Why are they saying, “Sumimasen?” I’ll let you figure it out by interpreting the context for yourself.
In short, the major takeaway from this is that sumimasen can mean “Excuse me,” “I’m sorry,” và it’s also a humble & polite way of saying “Thank you” when someone goes out of their way to help you.Now, some of you out there might be wondering about “Gomen nasai” (ごめんなさい).
Is it okay to use gomen nasai—another word for “I’m sorry”—in these cases to also mean “Thank you?” While gomen nasai và sumimasen have similar meanings, it doesn’t work in this case. Gomen nasai isn’t as formal as sumimasen, và it’s more commonly used lớn mean the literal “I’m sorry” rather than anything else. In the Mrs. Sato situation, her receiving the gift & saying “Gomen nasai” would sound strange. In scenario 2, however, where the waiter spilled your water, if he said “Gomen nasai” instead of “Sumimasen” that would be okay because he’s apologizing—often times people will say both.