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どうして わかりましたか。

My teacher said this in a conversation and my brain translated it to "Why did you understand?" (which didn't make much sense given the context!) but I think what she meant was "How did you notice?".

The context:

Me: 先生{せんせい}は 犬{いぬ}が 好{す}きですね。

Her: はい、好{す}きです。どうして わかりましたか。

Am I understanding this correctly? If so, why did her question start with どうして instead of どう?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Your teacher means 'Why did you know I like dogs?' わかる means different things depending on context. Here it translates 'to know' as opposed to 'understand'.

As a language, Japanese is heavily tied to context. There are often different translations of the same word to English depending on the context.

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Why どうして? Would どうわかりましたか be valid as well? –  Ataraxia Aug 17 '13 at 9:49
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A Native Japanese speaker could understand どう but it is not correct. –  CodeBeard Aug 17 '13 at 9:53
4  
You should try not connect a Japanese word with a particular English word. That is not how lanuages work. Many an English word can be translated with several Japanese words, depensing on the context. Try to get a feeling for how a word works. Of course, this takes time, so don't feel bad because you can't do that yet. It also helps to consult a Japanese dictionary; here you would get the following definition for 分かる:「頭で考えたり、自分で経験したりして、正しい判断・理解が得られる」 You did not simply "know", you must have gained that knowledge somehow. –  blutorange Aug 17 '13 at 10:39
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