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I am a beginner Japanese student. I was reading this short text and have problem with this particular sentence (end of second paragraph).

盲導犬を飼いはじめて最初は、二人の息が合わず街に出かけても失敗ばかりでした。

Let's try to go through it:

  • 盲導犬を飼いはじめて最初は <-- this is the topic (At first begin to raise guide dog)
  • 二人の息が合わず <-- this is the part I don't understand. I translated it "without joining two persons' breath"
  • 街に出かけても <-- despite going to the city
  • 失敗ばかりでした <-- it was more or less a failure

I don't know how to put these pieces together. What does the sentence mean? How do the parts after the は topic marker link together? Thanks in advance!

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1  
息が合う "to work together smoothly". It's a figure of speech. –  Earthliŋ Oct 21 '13 at 1:31
1  
Key word is 二人. –  非回答者 Oct 21 '13 at 2:09

2 Answers 2

息{いき}が合{あ}う is an idiom that means "work together smoothly". In this case, it's the negative form of that idiom, so it means the dog and the person raising it aren't working together well.

Also, in this context, 街{まち}に出{で}かけても isn't so much "despite going to the city", it's maybe more like "out in the city as well". There is no expectation that the city should be a place where they would work together any better than anywhere else, just that it's also a place where things went wrong.

From there I think you can work out the full sentence.

Hope that helps.

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I won't go through a long dissection. I think Dave M G gave great clues. To answer, 'what does it mean?' I'll give my interpretation and you can try to work backwards from there. If you're still stuck let me know.

盲導犬を飼いはじめて最初は、二人の息が合わず街に出かけても失敗ばかりでした。 When I first got a seeing-eye dog we didn't work well together at first, so when we went out together in the city it was one blunder after another.

Take care.

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I think 盲導犬を飼いはじめて最初は、二人の息が合わず街に出かけても失敗ばかりでした is a bit different from 盲導犬を飼いはじめて、最初は二人の息が合わず、街に出かけても失敗ばかりでした . –  jovanni Oct 21 '13 at 13:22
    
To me, the time that he 'got his seeing-eye dog' and the time 'they went out together in the city' are referencing the same time period. I would like to think about your comment. Could you explain how you write it differently in English? Because I can't understand how it changes the intention of the speaker from the listeners point-of-view. Thanks for the input. –  Kirk Oct 21 '13 at 15:58
    
In this case the verb of は topic marker 最初は is not 会わず, but 失敗ばかり, I think. 飼いはじめて最初は is 飼いはじめた最初の頃は. At the earlyer time when I first got a seeing-eye dog , we didn't work well together when we went out together in the city, it was one blunder after another. –  jovanni Oct 21 '13 at 23:41
    
I see what you mean. Thanks for the response! –  Kirk Oct 23 '13 at 11:17

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