For those of you that don’t know, my (now-fiancé) Rei and I got engaged last December.
Before I asked her, I was kind of in a dilemma, because I wasn’t totally sure how to say “Will you marry me?” in Japanese.
Well, I mean, I knew a few different ways to express that question. However, I didn’t know the most natural way to phrase it.
For example, in the book of 3,000 phrases that I translated from Japanese to English, they had the Japanese:
kekkon shite kurenai ka na…
I wonder if maybe you wouldn’t marry me…?
The actual translation that we used for the book was “Will you marry me?” Personally, however, that’s not the nuance I felt from this Japanese phrase.
The construction 「～てくれないかな．．．」to me has the nuance that you’re very softly asking someone if they want to do something that you assume they don’t want to do.
For example, if I’m working on a project, and my client or co-worker wants me to fix/re-do something that’s definitely a pain to do, even if it’s a small thing, they might say…
(kore wo) yarinaoshite kurenai ka na…
I wonder if you wouldn’t re-do this…?
Speaking with Rei about 「結婚してくれないかな．．．」 I said that it’s 格好悪い (kakkou warui; “not cool”), and initially she agreed with me, but then she said that actually it depends on how you say it (言い方による / iikata ni yoru).
However, I have yet to come across a way of saying「結婚してくれないかな．．．」without sounding nervous, hesitant, lame, 格好悪い, not the way I want to be asking a girl to marry me.
This lack of confidence that something will occur shows up in other ～してくれないかな phrases, too. For example:
ano rajio wo tomete kurenai ka naa.
I wish they would turn off the radio. – Tanaka Corpus
“Will you marry me?” in Japanese
So what did I say then? Well, I briefly considered just saying it in English, because I knew she’d understand that. But for some reason, I wanted to say it in her native language. Something about the way words are processed when they’re in your native language (or very high L2), you feel them as fast as you can think them.
After a bit of Japanese googling, here’s what I used:
kekkon shite kudasai
Will you marry me?
Straightfoward, yet humble, I thought that this was the best route to go. Also, I was pretty sure I’d heard it a long, long time ago in a JapanesePod101 lesson.
Luckily, Rei later told me that this is probably the classic way to ask in Japanese.
She said yes, by the way. We were in Las Vegas for her birthday at the time, and the next day we drank for about four hours at the Bellagio’s all-you-can-eat(-and drink!) buffet.
This photo was taken shortly thereafter:
Apparently we “accidentally” took those glasses from the restaurant. Very classy couple.
One day you’re signing up for an intro to Japanese course on a whim. The next day you’re in Vegas stealing glassware with your Japanese fiancé.
Such is the gift of studying…
Anyways, good luck with your own Japanese studies, everyone. ^_^