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[personal profile] j_rant
Lots of beginning students get bored of their textbooks and go looking for "easy" real Japanese to practice on instead. Unfortunately, real Japanese is full of confusing things you don't find in your textbook: that's what makes it real Japanese. One that I found particularly hard and that's especially prevalent in shounen manga is contractions. My textbook did mention these but not until the very end of the last volume, and they aren't in the index or tables of conjugations. The same is true of many other textbooks, assuming they ever mention them at all. So not only do you not know they're coming, but they're hard to look up too! Oh great.

Luckily, Japanese contractions aren't actually hard once you know what you're dealing with. Two great resources are the Japanese section of the Wikipedia page on contractions and the sci.lang.japan FAQ entry on chau verb endings. Below is my summary of those and other pages with an emphasis on manga:

では → じゃ
ては → ちゃ
の → ん

These are so amazingly common, I'm surprised more textbooks don't beat them into your head, but they're usually relegated to a footnote somewhere, especially the second one. Remember these. They turn up everywhere, not just manga. For shounen manga, you may also occasionally see katakana ン where you're expecting の or ん.

では can contract both when it's a form of the copula (desu) in constructions like Xではない/Xじゃない and when で is part of a longer conjugation. This pattern is what leads to examples like なくては becoming なくちゃ.

Te-iru and related forms
~ている → ~てる
~ておる → ~とる
~ておく → ~とく

Japanese is full of constructions (conjugations, compound verbs, whatever you want to call them) that stick something onto the -te form of the verb. When the second part starts with 'い', the い is often dropped. A bunch of other contractions also happen in this context.

~てしまう → ~ちゃう
~でしまう → ~じゃう
~てしまう → ~ちまう
~でしまう → ~じまう

しまう is a verb that isn't taught nearly early enough in most Japanese textbooks, in my opinion. It's common to the point of absurdity in manga dialogue: You won't find a single fight, sex scene, or impassioned speech that doesn't use this at least once, frequently in its contracted form. Especially common when telling other people to die.

~なければ → ~なきゃ

When manga characters are speaking colloquially (so most of the time), you are likely to get ~なきゃ in place of ~なければいけない. ("If I don't do __, it won't do." In other words, "I must do ___.") Yes, the entire 'ikenai' part is usually dropped, making this even more confusing for a beginner. The same thing happens with では and ては forms: If you see a manga character saying something like "しちゃ…", it usually means "I must not ___" (~してはいけない). (なくてはいけない becomes なくちゃ, "Must ___".)

Damn you, n!
ない → ん
の → ん
る → ん
ら → ん

Pesky ん! It's used in several totally different contractions that mean opposite or unrelated things. Thus, じゃない often becomes じゃん, but 何をやってるの can become 何をやってんの, and 知らない can become しんない. For a beginner, my advice is to just remember that ん doesn't always indicate negatives. The rest of the sentence and the context should give you a better idea of which contraction you're looking at. I've seen this more in teenage guy speech in manga, but it could turn up anywhere.

to iu
という → って
という → て
という → とゆう
といえば → ってば

'という' (to say) gets contracted or pronounced colloquially in all kinds of wacky ways. This is where the so-called word 'datteba' comes from. This is overwhelmingly common in all types of manga for all types of characters in all types of situations.

です → っす

This is a representation of what happens in fast speech. It happens with lots of actual people, but I most often see it written this way in shounen dialogue, particularly for male characters.

Other words
すみません → すいません

The majority of all manga dialogue regardless of what you're reading will have すいません, not すみません. Super girly shoujo characters do this one just as much.

Lots of other contractions of compound nouns and other words also exist. If it follows the same kinds of patterns as the words above and you think you're looking at a contraction, you probably are.
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