さ (sah). One sound. One breath. Yet it wields power beyond your wildest imagination. This is not an exaggeration: mastering さ will make your Japanese sound awesome. Many foreigners attempt to use it (because who doesn’t want to sound awesome?), but it is one of the harder pieces of grammar to get down naturally. You can tell when someone is over their head trying to use it, as if you haven’t really connected with さ, it will not work for you.
Here are its 5 main uses:
5. While verifying your judgment or opinion, you are strengthening your feeling on the matter.
Even I can do it!
4. Acting as a bit of an observer from the sidelines, with a slight air of “whatever” attitude, expressing your feelings.
You don’t need to be worrying like that
3. Used with a question phrase, showing a rebuttal, reprimand, or blame.
Why are you keeping quiet?
2. Showing that you are explaining what someone else said.
He said that he’s also going.
1. Attached to many different types of words, while giving you a moment to gather what you are saying, showing feeling that you are trying to catch attention from the listener.
But… I…I get it.
How often is this used?
It’s more common in casual situations, but there is no way you can listen to Japanese and avoid the さ barrage.
How do you master it?
You can read these explanations and know them in and out, but pulling off a natural さ just takes practice.
– In the beginning only use it with specific phrases that you’ve heard and know well. This is no time to go さ freestyling just yet.
– Listen carefully to the way it sounds in different contexts. The pitch and speed vary greatly depending on use and it often takes on a wavy effect 〜 (where in one さ the intonation goes up and down)
– Wait till you feel the さ come out. This is a highly intuitive release word
Your experience with さ
Have you come across さ yet? How have you dealt with it? Or are you already a さ master?
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.