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Cultural Differences When Expressing Love
Valentine's Day is coming up, so why not teach different ways to say “I love you" in Japanese? When teaching students about ways to express love in Japanese, point out that the Japanese people use these words differently. For example, 愛してる (aishiteru) is the closest to the English “I love you," but is very powerful and may not be used as much as other phrases. Explain that the Japanese try to show their love through their actions, which you can use in your lesson.
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愛 and 恋
The phrase most students will have heard is 愛してる. 愛 (ai) is one of the words for love, but refers to a general feeling of love. When said, it means that the person is deeply in love with his/her significant other. Because of its powerful intention, some speakers may choose to use another phrase that is not as strong.
愛 is not the only Japanese word that means “love." Explain to students that another option is 恋 (koi). 恋 refers to love between significant others — a romantic word. Point out to students that 恋 is used in the word 恋人 (koibito), which can mean boyfriend or girlfriend.
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大好きです and 好きです
Explain to students that they have other ways to express love if they do not want to use the phrase 愛してる: 大好きです (daisuki desu) and 好きです (suki desu). 好きです mean “I like," and can be used in a more congenial way. When 大 (dai) is added to the front of 好きです, it means “I really like" and is often used for “I love you." The expressions for "I love you" go from 好きです as the least affectionate, then 大好きです and finally 愛してる as the most affectionate.
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Point out to students that the Japanese also use a version of the English word for “love": ラブ (rabu). Note that love letters are referred to as ラブレータ (rabu retta), though ラブ is not used in a phrase to tell someone “I love you."
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When teaching “I love you" in Japanese, use both visual and written exercises. Find a romantic movie in Japanese --either live action or anime --and show it to the class. While the students are watching them, have them write down any love-related words, and go over them together. If the students have a more advanced knowledge of Japanese, turn off the English subtitles.
Another exercise is writing love letters. Before this activity, show some clips about love letters. Many animes include these scenes and can range from romantic to humorous. Instruct students to write love letters to a significant other (real or imaginary, so that nobody is excluded from the activity), and check for accuracy. If possible, provide the students with Japanese stationery to write their letters.
- Author's own experience