88 - This beat is fire, right? - Part III-b (detour)

I have no idea who decides which content should be tested at various levels of Japanese.

The “Classic でしょう” we saw initially is JLPT N5 grammar. The “Inward でしょう” we saw yesterday is N3 grammar. Today we’re looking at ことか, which is almost the exact same thing as “Inward でしょう,” except it gets classified as N2 grammar. To top it all off, the “でしょう of Conjecture” that we’ll be looking at tomorrow is N4 grammar.

Who decides this stuff?!

(Note: For those that don’t know, JLPT is the “Japanese Language Proficiency Test,” or 日本語能力試験(にほんご のうりょく しけん)).

Most schools and teachers will more or less teach in the same order that students progress through JLPT levels. To a certain extent, students demand that they do, because they want to see measurable progress.

The logic for organizing JLPT levels is fairly broken. In very general terms, we could say that the JLPT levels are organized according to language frequency.

For example, we’re looking at ことか today, which is primarily used in written language, making it somewhat obscure (from a student’s perspective).

But if JLPT truly prioritized conversational frequency, they wouldn’t completely ignore so many constructions (like, for example, 食べなよ(たべなよ)from Lesson #... uh, I forget... Sorry.

Anyways, I’m digressing, but the point I want to make is: Don’t be intimidated by “grammar levels” in Japanese. They have little correlation with skill levels.

OK. Go time.

~ことか // How... !

You know when something is just so [!!!!!!].

Words can’t even express it.

Yeah, there’s a grammar for that. *_*

For example...

しごと の あと の ビール は なんと おいしい ことか。
Ah, there’s nothing like a beer after a long day of work. // Words cannot express how delicious an after-work beer is.

Literally: “work + の + after + の + beer + は + なんと + delicious + ことか.”

Note: If I wanted to translate this the way most of my grammar books do, it would be “How delicious beer is after work!”

Note #2: We saw なんと yesterday!

Note #3: This photo of me was taken after a particularly long week of work at my English-teaching job in Tokyo, back in Summer 2014.

Before ことか, we always insert something that is of such an unusually high level, we can’t even imagine it.

In other words, it emphasizes the height or power of a feeling, action, or phrase (usually a feeling).

Careful: Like a lot of N2 and N1 grammar, ~ことか is only used in writtenJapanese.

Usually, I would just skip a somewhat obscure grammar point like this one, but it’s so similar to “Inward でしょう,” which we saw yesterday, that not mentioning it seemed like a wasted opportunity.

Also, I just really like the way this ことか sounds at the end of sentences. ^_^

As with でしょう, the noun, verb, or adjective coming before ことか will be in the plain form. So no ます-verbs and no て-form verbs. (Check yesterday’s lessonto see what I mean).

にゅうがくしけん に おちた とき、 わたし は どんなに おちこんだ ことか。
I was so (incredibly) disappointed when I failed the entrance exam.

Literally: “entrance examination + に + fell + time, + I + は + どんなに + depressed / let down + ことか.”

Note: It’s interesting how 落ちる(おちる / “to fall”)can be used for “failing” a test, yeah? Especially when it shows up next to 落ち込む(おちこむ), literally “to fall in,” which, in this case, means “to be depressed; to feel down.”

Note #2: Although I'm sitting on the floor in this pic, I'm not actually 落ち込んでいる (おちこんでいる). This was our first night at our apartment in Bangkok, back in September 2014. I'm mostly wondering what I'm doing with my life (and a little stressed about how I'm going to work online with my meager teaching and translating jobs at the time).

Here is the simple sentence that ことか is modifying:

わたし は おちこんだ。
I was depressed [sad; disappointed].
Literally: “I + は + was depressed/sad.”

But our fancy sentence adds どんなに and ことか.

どんな means “what kind of."

For example, if a friend says they want to get a different job, you might say:

どんな しごと が いい?
What type of job do you want?
Literally: “what kind of + job/work + が + good?”

どんな is an adjective.

To make it an adverb, we add に, giving us どんなに.

For some reason I can’t explain, this also changes the meaning from “what kind of” (どんな) to “how much” (どんなに).

It seems to show up a lot in stiff, exaggerated expressions of strong feelings... which is why it shows up with ことか a lot!

Specifically, we saw:

わたし は どんなに おちこんだ ことか。
I was so (incredibly) disappointed.
Literally: “I + は + どんなに + was depressed/sad/disappointed + ことか.”
Note: A semi-literal translation might be, “How very depressed I was.”

A word that is very similar to どんなに is どれほど, which I hear more often in Japanese.

We saw どれ back in Lesson #81, where it means “which (of 3 or more things).”

And we very briefly looked at ほど in Lesson #77. The ultra-basic definition is “degree” or “extent.”

Combine these two words to get どれほど, which more or less means the same thing as どんなに, “how much.” Other similar words are どのくらい and どれくらい. Yeah... I’ll probably need to write a full lesson about all of these someday. Don’t worry about it too much for now.

One last example:

かのじょ に あう のを どんなに たのしみ に していた ことか。
How very excited I was to meet with her. // I was so excited to meet with her.
Literally: “she + に + meet + のを + どんなに + was looking forward to + ことか.”


Maybe don’t worry too much about being able to use ことか. But you should be able to understand it, I think. Also, looking at any grammar function will increase your feel for Japanese sentence-building.

Detour Complete!

Tomorrow, we’re looking at the final type of でしょう, which is the “でしょう of Conjecture.”

Bonus Phrase

にほんごのうりょくしけん うけた こと ある?
Have you ever taken the JLPT?

どれほど がんばって も ぜんぜん やせない。
I can't lose weight no matter what I do.

あと どのくらい で つく?
How much longer until we get there?

おかね どれくらい のこってる?
How much money do we [you] have left?

Complete and Continue