Go Go Nihongo! Volume #6: Bata Bata

Article by Akiko Nishio / Translated by Michelle Tan

Recently, I’ve been bogged down with events, and haven’t had time to focus on work.

In Japanese, this is referred to as “bata bata”. It’s originally used to describe the sound of large objects moving around and colliding with each other.

For example, a large flag flapping in the wind, the rustling feathers of a majestic eagle as it takes flight, or even the brisk thumping of footsteps as someone runs past hurriedly.

Because I was so busy rushing from one place to another, trying to complete errand after errand, I was in a “bata bata” state – running around, frazzled and unable to stay calm, even though in reality there weren’t any sound effects accompanying my actions.

While “bata bata” makes a deep, resonant noise, we often use “pata pata” for lighter sounds.

Generally, “pata pata” is the instance of a tiny, endearing sound that makes you go “awww!” Like Tinkerbell’s dainty fluttering gossamer wings in Peter Pan, the lazy back-and-forth swish of a handheld paper fan on a hot day, and even the soft pattering of Mom’s slippers as she scuttles across the kitchen to keep an eye on the stove.

Did you know? In Okinawan dialect, when people talk about how busy they are, they tend to use “pata pata” in place of “bata bata”.

“Pata pata” is such a cute way of making a busy day sound less tiring and more light-hearted, don’t you think?

Akiko Nishio is the principal of A To Z Language Centre, with more than 19 years of experience in teaching Japanese.



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