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This question appears on my homework above an empty box instead of lines as with previous questions:

鉄道{てつどう}関係{かんけい}の言葉{ことば}を書{か}きなさい

Am I being asked to write "words about railroads?" I came into this class about a week late, and am wondering if there's something here that I'm missing, because that strikes me as a strange thing to be asked to do.

What does 関係の mean here?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Here, 「〜関係の〜」 means "related to," not really "about." So a better translation would be "write words that are related to railroads." You know, like "engineer," "trainspotter," "train station," etc.

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Okay, that's pretty much what I thought, though your English translation was better than mine. –  Garrett Albright Jan 22 '12 at 7:04

It sounds to me like you're supposed to come up with a vocabulary list of words, to prepare you for the next class. You might have to write a story, or do some other activity (an impromptu skit, etc) with a railroad theme, and having railroad words in mind would be an advantage. Sure your teacher could just give them to you, but where is the fun in that?

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Unless I'm mistaken, 言葉{ことば} has a much broader meaning than just "words". In daily usage I hear it used to cover concepts like "speech", "phrase", and "remark".

So I would translate the sentence as essentially:

Write phrases related to railroads.

Or, to turn it into more natural English:

Write something to do with railroads.

So my assumption about the question is that they just want you to write stuff so they can check your ability to express yourself in Japanese. The topic "railroads" is just an arbitrary choice, so you have a page less blank to start from.

Hope that helps.

Edit: Seeing the answer selected above, I think one would have to factor in the context of the level of the test. If they are just testing to see if you know words, and a list as an answer is sufficient, then I guess "words" is a fair translation. "Write words related to railroads". I just assumed the context to be more general, so maybe my translation is less applicable.

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In the sentence, I think it can be as broad as "phrases", but not "remarks" or "comments". –  fefe Jan 22 '12 at 7:16
    
@fefe: Cool. Thanks for clarifying. :) –  Dave M G Jan 22 '12 at 9:08
    
@DaveMG I'm almost certain that in this context, 言葉 means 'words', not 'phrases', but I cannot explain why. It would be interesting if some native speakers could confirm this, and if so, if somebody could explain why it has to be interpreted in this way. –  dainichi Jan 22 '12 at 11:56
    
@dainichi: As mentioned in my last edit, I can see now that "words" is a sensible translation, and given the context, probably the right one. So I wouldn't disagree with you. I'm just going to leave the answer as is, though. It just offers possibilities for a learner to explore, and the right answer has already been selected. :) –  Dave M G Jan 23 '12 at 3:41

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