Thinking about finally putting aside your Japanese-English dictionary? Wondering whether learning Japanese words in Japanese really makes any difference? Through the Japanese word 悔しい(くやしい), which is something we definitely feel sometimes when studying Japanese, let’s look how it all works.
There are two keys to learning a Japanese word in Japanese:
1. Analyzing the definition
Definitions will show what a word means.
J-E Definition (WWWJDIC): “vexing; annoying; frustrating; regrettable; mortifying;”
J-J Definition (kotobank.jp): “物事が思うとおりにならなかったり、はずかしめを受けたりして、あきらめがつかず、腹立たしい気持ちだ。残念でたまらない。”
A translation of that J-J definition:
“When something doesn’t go as you thought it would, facing embarrassment, having the feeling of not wanting to give up, feeling angry about it. The disappointment being hard to bear.”
While translators can use words like annoying or mortifying to translate this word depending on the context 悔しい is being used in, there is no one word translation for this word in English to capture every aspect of it.
2. Looking at the word in multiple contexts
Seeing the word in context will show when to use the word.
We need to see the context in order to find out what kind of situations this word is used in, indicating what “物事が思うとおりにならなかったり” or “when something doesn’t go as you thought would” means.
Video: フラガールズ甲子園（福島テレビ） (Starts at 2:43)
In the above video, a hula club from a high school in Fukushima competes in a competition but loses. The leader of the club says the following in response:
“少しは悔しかったです。でもやっぱり新メンマーと踊れて楽しかったので一番です 良かったです” (Starts at 3:52)
You could insert one or two of the English translations above to translate the above sentence as such:
“That was frustrating and embarrassing, but dancing with my new team members was the best. I’m glad I did it.”
Having analyzed the definition in Japanese above, we know there’s more to the word 悔しい then just frustration and embarrassment. There’s also an aspect of not wanting to give up, feeling angry about it and disappointment. Now we also have a context, losing a competition and using the word 悔しい in response. 悔しい is commonly used in this context.
From the manga, たいようのいえ: “お父さんと新しいお母さんと妹に うまく打ち解けられないことが 悔しい…！！”
“The fact that I can’t get along with my dad and his new wife and daughter is just frustrating and embarrassing.”
In this context, 悔しい is being used after not being able to overcome an emotional barrier the protagonist has put up against her dad and his new family. To give a little more context, the protagonist had just come across her step mother in the park and ran away from her out of embarrassment over her feelings of not being able to be friendly with her. The feeling of not wanting to give up doesn’t really apply here.
Did you feel like you gained a lot out of the Japanese definition and context?
Want to throw in some more context examples to show how you really attain Japanese vocabulary enlightenment?
Writer and Educator. Learning Japanese using immersion, currently soaking up as many novels and manga as possible in hopes of one day writing her own novel in Japanese. Also because she loves Japanese books.