No doubt, if you’ve taken Japanese lessons from me before, you probably have heard this “rant” before. The one about Star Wars and how it was “inspired” by a Japanese film, and Yoda (which is a Japanese name, by the way) is actually an old Samurai master who speaks with Japanese grammar. I use this as a jumping off point when teaching people about Japanese grammar, so I thought it would be fun to share it with all of you as well!
The lesson begins with an explanation of “This is a pen.” This sentence seems innocent enough, but really, it’s so full of depth that it’s astounding (or not, really). Most Japanese know this English phrase (“This is a Pen”) and wonder why it’s one of the first things they learn. Sure, it’s a dumb phrase, but if you can say “This is a pen” then you can say “This is a computer,” or “This is stupid” or (with a little bit of tweaking) “This was a pen” or “This wasn’t a monkey.” It’s the foundation of grammar, and since Japanese people have to suffer through it, then you should too. Hopefully Yoda makes it more fun and interesting.
Instead of “This is a pen” we’re going to learn “it is a pen.” This phrase is a lot simpler, and builds you up to “This is a pen.” First, let’s look at the vocab we’ll need in order to say “it is a pen.”
It is: Desu (pronounced dess)
Now, let’s go back to Yoda. How would he say “It is a pen?” That’s right, he’d say “Pen it is.” The same goes for Japanese. If you just took the vocab from the above, how would you say “it is a pen” in Japanese, using Yoda grammar?
English: It is a pen
Yoda: Pen it is
Japanese: Pen desu
You can replace “Pen” with anything you want now! “Neko desu” (it is a cat). “Inu desu” (it is a dog). You’re only limited now by vocabulary, which is easy to look up. This pattern applies to past, negative, and past negative tense as well.
It was = deshita
It is not = ja-arimasen
It was not = ja-arimasen deshita
So, we can just throw nouns before all of those grammar points, and make sentences.
English: It was a cat
Yoda: Cat it was
Japanese: Neko deshita
English: It is not water
Yoda: Water it is not
Japanese: Mizu ja-arimasen
English: It was not Koichi
Yoda: Koichi it was not
Japanese: Koichi-san ja-arimasen deshita
There you go – you’re already on your way to speaking Japanese, using Japanese grammar! That wasn’t too hard, was it? If you’re ever confused about Japanese grammar, just think of Yoda and his sexy bod.
Makes me wonder though… how does the Japanese version of Yoda talk when he gets dubbed? “desu pen”? Does he switch to English style grammar? I sure hope so.