Ep. 1 Commentary - Meeting at the Station: Part 1 "First Phone Call"


Dialogue

トビ:

もしもし。
Hello?

ディエゴ:

もしもし、トビ?
Hello, Toby?

トビ:

うん、()だよ。
うん、 おれ だ よ。
Yeah, it’s me.

ディエゴ:

()いた?
ついた?
Are you here (yet)?

トビ:

うん、()いたよ。()どこ?
うん、 ついた よ。 いま どこ?
Yeah, I’m here. Where are you?

ディエゴ:

改札前()だけど。
かいさつまえ だけど。
I’m in front of the ticket gates.

トビ:

え?()もだよ。
え? おれ も だ よ。
Huh? Me too.

ディエゴ:

あ、いたいた。
Ah, I see you.

トビ:

みんなはどこ?
Where is everybody?

ディエゴ:

まだみたい。
Looks like they’re not here yet.

トビ:

そっか。
Oh (I see)

それ?
なに それ?
What is that?

ディエゴ:

それって?
What’s what?

トビ:

そのタオル。
That towel.

ディエゴ:

これ?マフラーだよ。
This? It’s a scarf.

トビ:

それがマフラー?
That’s a scarf?

ディエゴ:

()たり()じゃん。
あたりまえ じゃん。
(Yeah,) obviously.

トビ:

ふ~ん。
Hmmm.

ディエゴ:

なんだよ?!
What?!

トビ:

べつに。
Nothing.

ディエゴ:

もしもし?
Hello?

()いた?
ついた?
Are you here?

うん、今改札前()だよ。
うん、 いま かいさつまえ だ よ。
Yeah, I’m in front of the ticket gates.

はいは~い。
OK, cool.

ミキ:

ああ、お腹空()いた!
ああ、 おなか すいた!
Aaah, I’m hungry!

はやく()こう!
はやく いこう!
Let’s go!

トビ:

()めましてトビです。
はじめまして トビ です。
Hi, I’m Toby.

ミキ:

ミキです。よろしく。
I’m Miki. Nice to meet you.

ねえーディエゴ、はやく()こうよ!
ねえー ディエゴ、 はやく いこうよ!
Hey, Diego, let’s go already!

餓死()する!
がし する!
I’m gonna starve to death!

ディエゴ:

ほかのみんなは?
Where’s everybody else?

ミキ:

もうお()だって。
もう おみせ だって。
They’re already at the restaurant

だからはやく()こうよ!
だから はやく いこうよ!
So let’s get going already!

ディエゴ:

じゃあ()こう。
じゃあ いこう。
OK, let’s go.

ミキ:

うん!
Yeah!

ごはん!ごはん!
Food! Food!


Commentary Transcript

Okay, so, as always, I’ll start by breaking down every single sentence of this dialog.

I imagine that some absolute beginners out there watched this first episode and thought that I was a psycho for giving them such a difficult smattering of Japanese for the first lesson.

Those of you at a slightly higher level will probably think that it’s really simple, and I think that this is a key point about Japanese—it seems really difficult at first, but then once you figure out what people are actually saying you realize just how simple this language is… especially if we’re talking about everyday, casual Japanese, which is what we’re looking at in this episode.


First Phone Call

So right at the start, we have Toby, and he’s standing outside the ticket gates, looking totally lost. I know how he feels, because I’ve been in that same position so many times. Who knows how many hours I’ve spent standing outside the ticket gates of train stations in Tokyo, waiting for people.

Then his phone rings, and it’s his friend Diego. Sweet. Here are the first few lines of dialogue:

トビ:

もしもし?
Hello?

ディエゴ:

もしもし、トビ?
Hello, Toby?

トビ:

うん、()だよ。
うん、 おれ だ よ。
Yeah, it’s me.

When Toby answers his phone he says もしもし, which is what Japanese people say when they answer the phone. I should probably look up the etymology of this phrase or something so that I can tell you a cool story about its origins and all this weird stuff that it used to mean. Instead, though, let’s just memorize it as it is: もしもし is just that thing that people say when they answer the phone in Japanese.

If it were going to be translated into English, it would probably just be “Hello?” The actual word for hello in Japanese, though, is こんにちは, and it would sound really strange to answer a phone saying that, because it would be like picking up your phone and saying “Good day!”… which, I’m pretty sure 99.9% of you are not doing, yeah?

When I first wrote this line, I wrote もしもし with a question mark. For one thing, it sounds like a question to me when I hear people say it. Just listen to Toby:

But then Rei, this genius Japanese girl that I’m blessed to share my life with, was like, you should delete that question mark. もしもし has no meaning. So there’s no reason to put a question mark after it? I have no idea.

Note: I have since had other Japanese people tell me there should be a question mark here. Since we're getting some conflicting info, I guess that means we don't have to worry about it. ^_^

Notice, then, that Diego also responds with もしもし. I think that this is really interesting, because もしもし does not mean hello, but Japanese people will say it back and forth like twenty five times when they have a bad phone connection. I think my record is like ten もしもし. Not bad, right?

So if you ever get a phone call, and the person is talking way too fast for you to understand, then just hit them with a もしもし, and maybe they’ll ask if you can hear OK.

Recapping, so far we have もしもし, and then Diego comes back with もしもし、 トビ?, and then Toby says うん、俺だよ

There are four parts to this tiny little sentence.

うん means “yeah,” and it’s a super common and casual version of はい. To practice saying it, you can say “dune” a few times. Then drop off the “d” うん, うん,うん. Sometimes Japanese people will almost completely skip the “u” sound, to where it almost just sounds like ん only. Here is a sample from the shadow looping track that accompanies this dialog:

Also, check out this bonus shadow track (which is not in the commentary video):

俺 is a casual, masculine form of the word “I.”

For those that don't know, there are a whole bunch of ways to say “I” in Japanese. Over time, we’ll look at all of them.

When I first learned the word 俺, my Japanese teachers made it sound like the rudest word in the Japanese language, and never under any circumstances should I use it ever, because it’s so brutish and uncouth.

Then I moved to Tokyo, made some friends, and ALL of my male friends were using it all the time. Personally, anytime that I’m with my friends, I say 俺. There are a few times when I don’t use it, though, opting for the more polite 僕. For example:

  • When talking to anyone in a professional setting.
  • When talking to my students.
  • When writing articles in Japanese.

Long story short, Toby is saying 俺, because he’s talking to his friend Diego, and they have a casual relationship.

だ is the casual form of the copula です, and it expresses state-of-being in Japanese. If you have no idea what that means, then please go check out the giant Bunkai Beast Grammar Guide, which gives a detailed, in-depth explanation about expressing state-of-being using だ and です

Essentially, saying トビだ is the same thing as saying “Toby is.” Or, if we put that into more normal English “It’s Toby.”

Then he adds よ to the end of the sentence. よ is an emphatic marker. When I first learned that, way back in Japanese 101 class, I thought that meant that it was like an exclamation point in Japanese. It’s not really that dramatic, though.

Yes, we can use よ for emphasis, but in this case it’s being used because Toby is teaching Diego something. He’s asserting that yes, indeed, this is him. Maybe we should call よ and assertion particle, yeah? At least, that’s what it’s called in the grammar guide. So please check that out for more information.

うん、俺だよ
yeah, I is [asserting]

Wow, that sounds ridiculous. Luckily we can translate it into this much more natural English:

“Yeah, it’s me.”

So altogether we have:

  • Hello?
  • Hello? Toby?
  • Yeah, it's me.
  • もしもし?
  • もしもし、トビ?
  • うん、俺だよ。

OK cool, let's keep moving…

ディエゴ:

()いた?
ついた?
Are you here (yet)?

トビ:

うん、()いたよ。()どこ?
うん、 ついた よ。 いま どこ?
Yeah, I’m here. Where are you?

ディエゴ:

改札前()だけど。
かいさつまえ だけど。
I’m in front of the ticket gates.

トビ:

え?()もだよ。
え? おれ も だ よ。
Huh? Me too.

ディエゴ:

あ、いたいた。
Ah, I see you.

Next we have our first verb: 着いた

This is the casual past tense of the verb 着く, which means to arrive. Anytime a verb ends with く, in the past tense casual form, we change it change to いた.

I think that one good way to remember this is that you just need to cut く in half and rotate it a bit to look like い.

One of my favorite things about Japanese is that we can make one-word sentences.

If Diego were speaking English, then he'd say something like “Are you here yet?” Four words. This is because we don't make use of contextual information in English quite as much when forming sentences.

So what Diego is really saying is “Arrived?” And we know from context that it means “Have you arrived?” In the translation, I wrote “Are you here (yet)?”

Toby also responds back with a nice, short sentence:

“Yeah, arrived.”

More naturally: “Yeah, I am here.” And then he says 今どこ?

今 means “now” and どこ means “where,” so really Toby is saying “Now, where?” But in natural English we'd say “Where are you?” or “Where are you now?”

I'd like to point out that this level of sentence shortening is not nearly as common when using formal Japanese.

For example, how do you think this dialogue would go if Toby and Diego were not friends, but instead they're getting together for a business meeting?

Instead of 着いた? we'd say:

もう着きましたか?
もう つきましたか?

はい、着きました。今はどこにいますか?
はい、つきました。いま は どこ に いますか?

If you have a Japanese textbook, I'm guessing that it probably has a bunch of sentences like this in it. We’re gonna look at lots of formal stuff in later chapters of this story, though, so there's no need to worry about it just yet.

Let’s keep moving forward...

トビ:

うん、()いたよ。()どこ?
うん、 ついた よ。 いま どこ?
Yeah, I’m here. Where are you?

ディエゴ:

改札前()だけど。
かいさつまえ だけど。
I’m in front of the ticket gates.

In response to Toby's question 今どこ?、”Where are you?” Diego says 改札前だけど. If we had a direct translation of this, it'd be “ticket gates is but,” or in more natural English, “I'm in front of the ticket gates.”

The main thing that I want to point out in this sentence is けど. If you look up けど in a dictionary, it'll say something like “but,” or “however.”

Japanese けど is actually much different than English “but,” though.

Like we've seen so far, Japanese sentences are built on context. We don't say anything that we don't need to say. Instead of saying “Have you arrived?” ディエゴは着いた? (ディエゴ は ついた?)We just say “arrived,” 着いた?

Well this sentence 改札前だけど has even more unspoken context. Actually, it has one completely unspoken inferred sentence, which is marked by けど.

It's true that けど can mean “but,” but here it's really being used as a context marker, and it indicates that there is another sentence after this that is not being said.

Most likely this unspoken sentence is something like トビはどこ? Or even just トビは?

改札前だけど、トビは(どこ)?
かいさつまえ だけど、 トビ は(どこ)?
I'm in front of the ticket gates, but where are you?

Mastering context markers like けど is one of the keys to making your Japanese sound really natural. Us non-native speakers have a tendency to say more than we need to, and as a result we can often come across as overly forward or direct to Japanese speakers.

I wouldn't worry too much about rules or anything for using context markers like けど, though, because it's one of those things that you'll probably just get used to naturally. Also, I'll point them out every time they show up in the story.

Moving on…

ディエゴ:

改札前()だけど。
かいさつまえ だけど。
I’m in front of the ticket gates.

トビ:

え?()もだよ。
え? おれ も だ よ。
Huh? Me too.

ディエゴ:

あ、いたいた。
あ、 いたいた。
Ah, I see you.

After Diego says 改札前だけど, Toby says え?俺もだよ.

え? Is kind of like saying “Huh?” in Japanese. You’ll hear it all the time. It’s quite commonly said when someone is somewhat surprised and also not quite understanding what’s going on… which is exactly how Toby is feeling, because Diego said that he’s in front of the ticket gates, but so is Toby. That’s why he says 俺もだよ.

The only part of this sentence that we haven’t seen so far is the particle も, which means something like “too” or “also.” I’ll go into a lot more depth about this in the Bunkai Beast Grammar Guide, but for now let’s just imagine that it means “also” or “too.” If so, then a word for word breakdown of this sentence would look something like this:

“I also is [assertion].”

In more natural English, it just becomes “Me too,” which is what I used for the translation.

I’d like to point out that this is almost the exact same sentence that Toby said earlier, with the exception of the particle も.

So at first Toby said, うん、俺だよ, and it meant “This is me” on the phone, but the context of the conversation has now changed, so 俺もだよ actually means 俺も改札前だよ, or in an even fuller sentence, something like 俺も改札前にいるよ, “I am also in front of the ticket gates.”

Luckily, Diego sees him right after that and says あ、いたいた.

あ just means “ah” like some people might say in English, and いた is the past tense plain form of the verb いる, which means to be.

In a direct translation to English, this would be something like, “Ah, was was.” But in natural English it just becomes “I see you,” or “There you are.”

It’s quite common to hear Japanese people use the plain past tense form of verbs to express the arrival of something.

A lot of times in anime, when someone’s enemy or some other monster or something arrives somewhere to fight, characters will say 来た(きた) when they sense his (or its) presence. In this case it means “He (or it) has come.” But in English it would be more so something like “He’s here.” Or “It’s here.”

Toby’s not moving, though, so instead of saying 来た, we say いた.

Notice also that Diego says it twice. I can’t really explain this, other than to say that it’s really common to repeat verbs like this in casual situations.

The first time I wrote that line, I put a comma between the two いた, so it looked like いた、いた. Maybe this was just my English way of thinking sneaking into my Japanese, but my native script checker told me that I needed to remove the comma, because the speaker doesn’t pause at the at point. Oops.

I recommend listening to the shadowing track that accompanies this lesson to get a sense of the proper pronunciation and intonation of this phrase:

Anyways, with that, we’ve gotten through the entire first phone call. Please watch through it one more time to make sure that you understand the whole thing before moving onto the next commentary video, which will explore the next part of the dialog.

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