Cool Compound – 確認


I’ve got an article in the Japan Times today titled “Keep calm before carrying on when speaking Japanese.”

The idea for the article was prompted by a recent experience at work. One of my Japanese coworkers asked me to proofread an email—a request to meet with someone—and it was immediately apparent that the guy needed slow way down: He had jumped into the core of the request before doing the basics (e.g. introducing himself, saying where he works and what his role is).

When using a second language, it’s easy to fall into this trap. We get so focused on figuring out the linguistic gymnastics for whatever the main point is—which is important, because it is main, ya know—that we forget all the bells and whistles of language that help us sound ordinary. And sounding ordinary is what will give the listener the opportunity to understand what it is we want/what it is we want to say before we even ask/say it. It’s powerful.

確認(かくにん) is one of these words, and using it to presage a question gives your listener the ability to shift into a question-answering, information-providing mindset. Thinking back, I think I may have said ちょっと確認したいんですが more than any other phrase in Japanese. Highly recommended phrase.

The key is to stay mindful of your situation. Conversation is a give and take. What have you done today (in Japanese or in English) to help your listener understand what you are trying to communicate?

2 thoughts on “Cool Compound – 確認

  1. Loved this post. You got me thinking about how my ESL students do this all the time and consequently suck at getting things done in real situations. Also, I don’t know about others, but for me it’s the bells and whistles that make speaking another language so enjoyable. That’s how you really connect with people, even if it happens on a unconscious level.

    I will be using ちょっと確認したいんですが first chance I get! Thanks!

  2. Thanks for the comment, Seb!

    Yeah, this is something (I think) that’s easier to notice in others rather than in yourself. Watching others make the mistake can help avoid it. Also, watching others do things the right way, use the right set up phrases and other words, can also be super helpful. At its base, language is imitative until you get to a certain level. Interesting.

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