Big Key for Your Japanese Speech; 間 (Ma) Timing



Do you feel a little nervous about making your Japanese speech Don’t worry! You can look confident and enjoy public speaking just by using this technique 間; timing. When people get nervous, they usually speak really fast, avoid eye contact and often feel insecure. When speaking Japanese, it is very important to watch your speed so that the audience can understand your pronunciation, intonation, and rhythm. By utilizing 間; timing, you can optimize your Japanese speech and calm your nerves, as well!

How to Use 間 (Ma) Makes Difference

Learning Material

Newsroom revolution -- empowering the people | Jun Hori | TED Kyoto 2013  

Since this gentleman used to be a news reporter, he is a very good public speaker, namely making the best use of 間; timing. Let’s go over the ways he utilizes 間; timing one by one with real examples. If you are having a little trouble understanding, you can use the Japanese or English subtitles function on YouTube.

Emphasize what you want to say

You can utilize 間; timing for emphasis. In this example, he said the following phrase from 0:59 to 1:05. You can see that there is a certain 間; timing between そんなに and シンプルではない even in the middle of the phrase. He wanted to emphasize that, “Our world is not that simple.”


You can also refer to the following example from 01:27 to 01:33. There are approximately 3 seconds between うんですand 基地きちが. Since this was an unexpected response in comparison with the common idea, he utilized 間; timing in order to highlight the differences and make his point.


The next example from 03:06 to 03:14 is very clear. There are approximately 2 seconds between じょうに and デリケート. じょうに is the adverb for デリケート so by using that pause, how delicate the problem is gets emphasized.


Use 間; timing as a conjunction

Although conjunctions have several functions such as resultative, contradictory, parallel, addition, reason, etc., you can substitute 間; timing for conjunctions to make your Japanese speech more colorful. In the example speech, he used 間; timing as a conjunction from 02:54 to 03:05. If he put conjunctions between each phrase, he could not express the situation as seriously as he did. This usage can be helpful when you itemize something.


Make your audience reflect on your question

This is simple usage. When you ask your audience something in your Japanese speech, you should pause and use 間; timing for a few seconds. That way, your audience will think about the answer, your purpose, whether he or she agrees, etc. In the example, he used 間; timing from 03:28 to 03:34 in the following way. He tried to elicit sympathy.


Another example is from 04:08 to 04:12. He asked an ambiguous question. The purpose was to catch the attention of his audience.

どうでしょうか みなさん?

Quted from Newsroom revolution -- empowering the people


I think that now you will have a clearer picture of how to use 間; timing. However, you might hesitate to use it in your Japanese speech, because a pregnant pause may make people feel nervous. Don’t worry about that, at all. 2 or 3 seconds are not as long as you think; rather, it will make your audience comfortable with your Japanese speech because he or she can listen to you while thinking about your question, purpose, argument, etc. When you feel nervous, please think about this technique and enjoy your Japanese speech with good 間; timing.

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