I learned a new word from my student today.  一幕見席 [hitomakumiseki].  My student was having difficulty explaining this word, so we checked the dictionary.  I quickly found out why she was having difficulty.  一幕見席 roughly translates to: “Special seats and standing-only space in the galley for people who only intend to see one act of a kabuki play” according to www.jisho.com.  Wow.  That is a very specific word!

Sorry, there is no English word for 一幕見席.

Some Japanese words just can’t be translated into English smoothly.  We need a sentence or more to get the point across.  So, what should we do?  Well, it’s time to practice your describing skills.

My student is quite good at describing.  For 一幕見席, she said:  There is an area at the back of the theater.  We can stand there.  The seats are cheaper than usual.  We can only watch one part of the play.

Great!  It was enough information for me to understand and she could continue telling her story.  So, when you want to use a Japanese word, but you don’t know how to say it in English – describe it.  You can use size, shape, color, texture, when you do it, where you use it, how it works, etc.  And don’t forget to use body language.  Use your hands to help paint the picture.

Can you describe these Japanese words?: 

[hakama], お花見 [ohanami], お摘み [otsumami], お盆 [O-bon], 忘年会 [bonenkai], 初詣で [hatsumode]

Try it out and write your descriptions in the comments.

Natural English used in this entry:

  • find out (found out) = understand (understood)
  • get the point across = explain
  • paint a picture = describe
  • try it out = try to do something

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