Japanese thoughts

The many similarities between Japanese and Tamil expressions


According to Prof. Susumu Ohno, many Japanese words have been derived from the Dravidian language Tamil. According to him besides sharing a lot of similarities in grammar, words such as “tanoshii” (adjective meaning fun) and “hanasu” (verb meaning talk) have similar sounding words in Tamil. The similar sounding words in Tamil that Prof. Ohno had in mind was probably “khushi” and “pesu” respectively. They rhyme  alright!

Not sure how much of the above theory is correct. But, there are some undeniably interesting similarities in the way Tamil and Japanese are spoken. For starters the sentence structure is the same. Like Japanese, Tamil too follows the Subject-Object-Verb pattern.

Here are a few things that are expressed in the same way in both these languages:

  • The expression, “kono kusuri wa kikimasu ka” means “is this medicine effective?”. But when spoken this sentence can be taken to mean “will this medicine listen” – “kikimasu” means “listen” although while writing,  the kanji 効 (meaning effective) is used and not the kanji 聞(meaning listen). In Tamil too, we say “Indha marundhu kekuma” which literally means “will this medicine listen”.
  • When you want to say “try this chocolate” in Japanese, you’d say “kono chocoreto wo tabete mite” which literally means “Eat and see”. In Tamil too, we say “Saptu paar” which means “Eat and see”.
  • When you leave home, you’d tell the folks at home “poitu varen” in Tamil which when translated would mean “I’ll go (now) and come(back)”. In Japanese you have “Itte kimasu”.
  • When you are stepping out for a bit, say to buy something, you’d say “vaangitu varen” in Tamil which in English would be “I will buy and come(return)”. The Japanese say “Katte kimasu” which means the same thing.
  • When you do something (say teach something) for someone, you say “solli kudupen” in Tamil which means “teach and give” and in Japanese you say “Oshiete agemasu” where “agemasu” means give.
  • When you keep something ready or when you do something for a future use, like for e.g. buying a ticket for a trip, you’d say “Katte okimasu” in Japanese which literally means ” buy and keep” in English. In Tamil too, we have same expression “vaangi vekkaren”.

So many, right? There are more am sure. These expressions make no sense when literally translated in to English. Japanese language can certainly seem more challenging to an English speaker.


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