Convey (a Lack of) Understanding

Hang in there. Just a couple of lessons left.

We just saw a handful of phrases we can use to ask for clarification, yeah?

In this lesson, we're looking at phrases we can use after our teacher has taught us something.

We'll start with the verb わかる, which means "to understand." If you understand something, you can say:

わかります。
わかります。
I understand. // I get it.
Literally: "understand."

↑ For example, if you wanted to say, "I understand Japanese," you would just throw the word 日本語 (にほんご // Japanese [language]) in before わかります, giving you 日本語わかります (にほんご わかります // I understand Japanese).

Rather than the present tense (↑), I think that learning the past tense of わかる will be more useful for a lesson.

For example, if your teacher has just spent a few minutes explaining a new concept to you, and you want to convey that you have understood the explanation (i.e. they don't need to keep explaining anymore), you can say:

わかりました。
わかりました。
I understand. // I got it.
Literally: "understood."

Conversely, if you don't understand the explantion, you can say:

わかりません。
わかりません。
I don't understand.
Literally: "don't understand."

↑ That's the negative present tense of the verb わかる. If you're not sure how to conjugate verbs yet, be sure to go and check out the Bunkai Beast Grammar Course. It has detailed lessons on all of this stuff.


Sometimes, we don't just want to show that we've understood an explanation. Occassionally, we also want to express that an explanation was informative, or that we both understand and find the new information we've gotten to be interesting.

In such cases, this phrase is your friend:

なるほど。
なるほど。
I see.
Literally: "I see."

When you say なるほど, it makes it sound like you've learned something very interesting or enlightening. I think that us non-native speakers have a tendency to use it slightly too often. That's not a big deal, as we can worry about that kind of thing when we get to a higher level. Still, there are a few other phrases with similar meanings that we can use, too.

Another example of a phrase you can use when you have just learned something informative or helpful is:

勉強になりました。
べんきょう に なりました。
This was really informative.
Literally: "studies + に + became."

Another useful phrase is:

知りませんでした。
しりませんでした。
I didn't know that.
Literally: "didn't know / hadn't known."

↑ I use and encounter this one quite a lot. However, I hear the more casual version, 知らなかった (しらなかった) more often because most of my interactions in Japanese are in informal settings these days.

One more phrase for expressing that you have been told something interesting that you didn't know before is:

そうなんですか?
そうなんですか?
Oh, really? // Is that so?
Literally: "oh, really? / is that so?"

Agh! Too many phrases with similar meanings, yeah? Getting a sense for the subtle differences between these phrases and how they are used differently in different situations will take quite a lot of time. If you're not sure which one to use in a given situation, just pick one and go for it. Your teacher can then point out if you're saying something at an inappropriate time (another reason face-to-face lessons are awesome).


Practice time:

わかります。
わかります。
I understand. // I get it.
Literally: "understand."

わかりました。
わかりました。
I understand. // I got it.
Literally: "understood."

わかりません。
わかりません。
I don't understand.
Literally: "don't understand."

なるほど。
なるほど。
I see.
Literally: "I see."

勉強になりました。
べんきょう に なりました。
This was really informative.
Literally: "studies + に + became."

知りませんでした。
しりませんでした。
I didn't know that.
Literally: "didn't know / hadn't known."

そうなんですか?
そうなんですか?
Oh, really? // Is that so?
Literally: "oh, really? / is that so?"




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