Category Archives: japanese

What Is Ganbatte

What Is Ganbatte?

Ganbatte Meaning

Westerners vaguely familiar with the Japanese term “ganbatte” sometimes think of the English translation as “good luck” or “hard work.” However, ganbatte is less about one’s luck and more about defining one’s own destiny. A more specific and appropriate translation of ganbatte is “do your best.”

Cultural background of ‘Ganbatte’ in Japan

Ganbatte is more than just a Japanese word; it is a core language component of the country’s culture and ethos. Ganbatte describes something rooted in the citizens of Japan from birth, a sentiment carried with them throughout their entire lives. It is a call to persevere whatever the challenge at hand may be, whether it is a simple daily task, an important job interview, a youth sporting competition, or something as serious as battling a life-threatening illness.

While there is an element of empathy in ganbatte, and a similarity to suggesting that someone “hang in there,” it is also a rallying cry in times of adversity. It is a charge to “give it your all.” And it is easy to see how some people could end up feeling patronized or even offended by the use of ganbatte. Expressing it to someone struggling with depression, for example, can be tricky. The depressed individual already feels unable to give it his all, and ganbatte might feel like the equivalent of twisting a knife in the open wound. Or the spouse whose husband has left her for the nanny might bristle at the mention of ganbatte, being told to persevere and “keep her chin up” when she feels her entire world has been shattered.

For the Japanese, however, ganbatte is indeed a way of life, no matter what kind of adversity one faces. It is related to the term gaman, from Zen Buddhism, which is ultimately about persevering with dignity no matter how difficult one’s circumstances may be. These are defining elements of Japanese culture, on display in myriad ways from their commitment and loyalty at work to the respect earned by those who persevere with humility and without complaint. To better understand ganbatte and its variations, we will walk you through some additional terminology.

How to Pronounce Ganbatte

First things first. If you read the introductory section of this article pronouncing the term “gan-bat,” then let’s clear up the confusion. The correct pronunciation is gahn-baht-te, which has been transliterated from kanji characters or Japanese script. Now that we have the correct pronunciation under our belts, we will move on to how it is used. 

How to use Ganbatte

Ganbatte and Its Variations

Depending on the person or situation, the Japanese use ganbatte in a number of different ways, each calling on the central theme of persevering and trying your best. But just as you might alter your statement to a runner at the start line versus what you might tell her at the finish line, there are a number of different variations here as well.

Ganbatte kudasai

“Ganbatte kudasai” is a more formal or polite way to tell someone “do your best,” whereas ganbatte on its own would be considered the more casual way. The addition of “kudasai” turns the phrase into “do your best, please.” In either case, it is a call for the hearer to strive to reach their highest potential, to give their all, whatever endeavor lies before them.

Ganbarimasu

The appropriate response to Ganbatte kudasai is “Hai, ganbarimasu!” and the appropriate response to ganbatte is “Un, ganburu!” Both of these are an acknowledgment to the other party that can be translated as “yes, I will do my best.”

Two important distinctions exist in terms of how you might use ganbatte with peers versus your superiors.

Ganbare

Ganbare is the imperative form of ganbatte, and it can still be translated as “do your best,” but in this instance, it is more of a command than a wish. You wouldn’t necessarily say “ganbare” to a superior at work, for example (whereas ganbatte is still suitable). Ganbare is more appropriate between peers or from a superior to someone ranked below her in a working environment, for example.

Ganbarou

The collective rallying cry form of ganbatte is “ganbarou,” which translates to “let us all do our best.” Ganbarou is about a team meeting its challenges together; it is a commitment among all members to put forth their best effort.

Ganbatte iru

While a task is underway, or even once it is finished, there are additional variations of ganbatte used in Japanese culture. “Ganbatte iru” is one example used when the task is underway, and especially if the struggle is difficult, to emphasize “I am doing my best.”

Ganbaritai

“Ganbaritai” can be used when the task is underway to express some form of doubt, “I am doing my best, but I may not be able to overcome these obstacles.”

Ganbatte ita

“Ganbatte ita” would be used to describe doing one’s best in the past tense, as a way to reflect on a past struggle or difficult task and confirm that one did indeed try their best.

Ganbarankatta

“Ganbarankatta” is an admission that “I was unable to do my best,” and it is a humble way of taking responsibility for one’s own failure, without casting blame on circumstances or other people.

Ganbatta

Similarly, as a measure to console or encourage someone in the above scenario, you might tell them “ganbatta daro,” which can be translated into “you did the best you could.”

In a case where a task has been accomplished, regardless of the outcome, an individual may tell their friends and family “ganbatta,” which means “I did my best.” “Ganbarimashita” would be a more formal way of saying the same thing.

 

As mentioned earlier, there may be times when you are reluctant to use ganbatte or any of its variations, when you fear the recipient could feel insulted by the phrase. An alternative for this would be the Japanese translation of a popular American phrase: “keep your chin up.” If this seems more appropriate for the individual and circumstances, tell them “genki dashite” instead.

Is Japanese hard to learn? Yes and no!

One question that I’m asked all the time is whether Japanese is a difficult language to learn. My instinctual answer would be to say that it’s easy, but I’m 11+ years invested in the language already. Well I would say that wouldn’t I? 😀 However, I do truly believe that anyone can learn Japanese with a little time and effort.
Continue reading Is Japanese hard to learn? Yes and no!

What is the best Japanese dictionary?

Whether you are just starting out with learning Japanese or at a more advanced level, having a good dictionary available is vital. In this article, I will break down my favourite Japanese-English dictionaries for various purposes. Bear in mind that this is by no means an exhaustive list nor is it intended as one. It simply represents my own personal experiences with studying Japanese and using it at work.
Continue reading What is the best Japanese dictionary?

JapanesePod101 – A full review

When I started out on my path to Japanese fluency, resources such as textbooks and audio courses on CD were the only realistic way to make progress with this challenging language. Happily, there are now a a lot more choices when it comes to studying Japanese online.

The problem that students of Japanese now face is one of quality rather than quantity. So which solutions give you the best bang for your buck? In my humble opinion, JapanesePod101 is one of the best online courses out there for people who are serious about making significant progress in the language. As promised, I’ve finally got around to writing a complete review so here goes!

japanesepod101

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue reading JapanesePod101 – A full review

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We get daily emails and messages from people requesting improvements and bug fixes. This is great and we are happy that many people still value our plugins. Unfortunately, we can’t continue development work without your support.

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What are the best podcasts for learning Japanese?

Podcasts can be a fantastic way of rapidly expanding your familiarity with a language. For Japanese, there is a multitude of resources available. In this post, I am going to list up the best Japanese podcasts that I have come across.

JapanesePod101: A great podcast for Japanese learners

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Continue reading What are the best podcasts for learning Japanese?

Learn in Your Car series currently available for free on Audible

Learn in Your Car is a cool series that I’ve been meaning to do a review of for a while. There’s no time for that tonight (I just finished work and it’s almost 3am). However, the other day I noticed that the complete Learn in Your Car audio courses for both Chinese and Japanese are currently available for free with a 30 day Audible trial.

Over 10 hours of quality audio for nothing. That’s a pretty good deal if I ever saw one.

You can download the Learn in Your Car programs from below:

Learn in Your Car Japanese
Learn in Your Car Chinese

And yes, we are still working on the next plugin updates…watch this space!