Monday, January 13, 2014

チャレンジする and チャレンジャー

The way that "challenge" is used in Japanese seems to have its roots in English, but in application can be a bit different. 

チャレンジする (charenji suru), which is generally a transitive verb in English (e.g. "I challenge you to a contest"), is often used as an intransitive verb in Japanese.  This can lead to problems in direct translations, since in English it would be awkward to say, "I'll challenge!"  A better translation, one closer to its intended meaning, would be to say, "I'll try something new" or "I'll do something I've never done before."

From this comes the word チャレンジャー, which describes a person who is willing to try new things.  The first time I came across this word was seven or eight years ago.  I saw a product in a hundred-yen store that, according the picture on the packaging, seemed to be a kitchen deodorizer.  It looked like I was supposed to put it in my drain, but I wasn't sure.  I asked someone at work what  I should do with it, and she explained its function to me.  That night, she emailed me to say that she was perplexed at why I didn't know what to do with this thing that I myself had bought.  "You bought it, didn't you?  Why didn't you know what it was?"  I replied that, from the picture on the packaging, I had an inclination that it was for my kitchen, but I wasn't quite sure what it was but wanted to try it.  She wrote back, "I understand.  You are チャレンジャー!"

I think that it's generally seen as a good thing to be a チャレンジャー.

Apparently it's the name of a video game, too. Interesting how people post themselves playing video games. You Tube has just about everything! The other day I met a guy who learned how to solve the Rubik's Cube on You Tube.

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