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What's the meaning of にあたって/にあたり? How can I translate it?

For example, how can I translate it in these sentences:

  1. 留学するにあたって受けた説明は、とても役に立った。

  2. 「討論を始めるにあたり、ちょっと注意をしておきます。」

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Welcome to Japanese Language SE site. Please show us your attempt at translation and explain why you have difficulties. Translation requests without that are off-topic on this site. – Szymon May 15 '14 at 12:07
Have you looked it up in a dictionary? What did you find? – snailboat May 15 '14 at 12:14
yes of course, and it says "when" "when i had the chance to" etc... so in the first sentence shoud be like: 1. When i was an oversea student...etc The second sentence has present tense, so i guess it shoul be: 2. When you begin a debate, please pay attenction. However i'm not sure about my translations. – matreya May 16 '14 at 16:03

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted


I think you can use ~にあたって and ~にあたり interchangeably in most cases. I think both can mean "on the occasion of; at this time of; upon doing~~". (~にあたり sounds more formal than ~にあたって to me.)

(The explanation that I received when I was going to study abroad was very useful.)
(Before we enter into a debate, I'm going to give you some advice.)

*The 注意をする means "to give (someone) advice/warning". --> See goo辞書「注意」#3

By the way, にあたり/にあたって can follow a noun, as well as a verb:


I think they can also be replaced with に際し/に際して:

討論を始めるに際し(て)・・・/ 討論の開始に際し(て)・・・

(As an aside, I think 「~~(する)にあたりまして/際しまして・・・」 is preferred in a formal speech.)

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So is it similar to をきっかけ? – matreya May 17 '14 at 14:53
@matreya: Good question. をきっかけ links a response to a event, usually change. にあたって is close to "on the occasion of" in English and is a "proactive posture to some event that requires resolve. A formal expression not used in every day speech." (日本語表現文型辞典) – Tim May 17 '14 at 15:19

matreya is correct. にあたって could be replaced in the above sentences by とき 'toki' meaning "time", and hence "when". The construction is grammaticalized from the case marker に plus a form of the verb あたる 'hit.intransitive'. For instance as in

矢は的にあたった。 The arrow hit the target.

The argument marked here with に is a directional complement of the verb. That the construction にあたって is grammaticalized can be verified by the inability to pause between the case marker and the verb. In my example, pausing is possible between the directional complement and the verb, hence the verb is fully lexical there. This construction belongs to a class of case marker-verb constructions that have become grammaticalized constructions. Other such constructions are にとって 'for', として 'as', or において 'in, at'. One should also keep in mind that にあたって belongs to a more formal register of speech, much as において. にとって and として, however, are widely used in spoken Japanese.

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Thank you for your answer. Can I ask, is the expression just a formal expression for とき which it function the same way temporally (ie in past tense S2 happens after S1 but in present tense they are simultaneous - it does seem like it from the examples)? – Tim May 17 '14 at 9:46
@Tim にあたって・にあたり is more formal than とき. Both expressions are used in a simultaneous reading, although much of the understanding would also depend on the aktionsart of the preceding verb or verbal noun. – Thomas Gross May 17 '14 at 18:33
aktionsart......? – Tim May 18 '14 at 1:18
@Tim Aktionsart refers to a kind of semantic interpretation associated with a predicate. At the top level, we can classify predicates as static ("states") and dynamic ("occurrences"); occurrences can be divided into punctual ("achievements"), those which take place in a single point in time, and durative ("processes"), those which are have duration; and processes can be divided into telic ("accomplishments"), those which have a clear end point, and atelic ("activities"), those which do not. So the main contrasts are static-dynamic → punctual-durative → telic-atelic. – snailboat May 19 '14 at 6:23

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