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I have always struggled to understand the volitional form and translating into English.

From a videogame guide I am going through, translating, I have this title:

時には自分を疑おう

”疑う” meaning "to doubt / mistrust". The meaning of the title is surely not "let's doubt ourselves" but probably more like "doubting yourself..."

But then why is the title not 「時には自分を疑います」 ?

For context, here's the start of the body

ある謎にぶつかり、解決方法がひらめく。 ところが 実際にやってみるとうまくいかない。

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    Why do you say the meaning is surely not "let's doubt ourselves"? – Earthliŋ Mar 14 '14 at 10:05
  • As a title in a guidebook it makes no sense (to me anyway). – VictorySaber Mar 14 '14 at 10:15
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時には自分を疑います

would mean something like "From time to time, we find that we doubt ourselves". The intended meaning here, I think, is that we should doubt ourselves. Something like

時には自分を疑おう
At times we should doubt ourselves

which comes from "let's doubt ourselves from time to time", but "let's" sounds kind of strange in English.

You've told us nothing about the video game, so I don't know whether that makes sense. Probably it doesn't make much sense for a car racing game.

For the Legend of Zelda games, this does make some sense. The start of the body copy you added says that, even when you think you've figured it out, you might try your idea and find that it doesn't work as well as you thought. So "From time to time you should doubt yourself".

  • Ah I understand why you asked now... it is a Legend of Zelda game. Let me post a little bit more of text. – VictorySaber Mar 14 '14 at 10:16
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In nuance, 「[時]{とき}には[自分]{じぶん}を[疑]{うたが}おう」 is close to "You should doubt yourself once in a while." The "you" is, of course, the impersonal "you". It could be about anyone including the speaker himself.

The おう/よう ending in titles is quite common in Japanese. I am sure you have heard the song 「[上]{うえ}を[向]{む}いて[歩]{ある}こう」 by [坂本九]{さかもときゅう}. The song is known outside of Japan by the ludicrous title "Sukiyaki". In this case, it is the speaker himself that is saying to himself "Let's walk (or "I will walk") looking up (so that the tears will not fall)."

Why is the title not 「時には自分を疑います」? Because (1) it sounds too unnatural and Japanese-as-a-foreign-language-esque with the bookish ます-ending and (2) It could only mean "I sometimes doubt myself."

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    I often feel that Japanese -(y)ou is used to offer suggestions. It functions like the imperative, but sounds more appealing. e.g. ゆっくり行きましょう, 体に気を付けましょう, etc. In spite of some subtle difference, I think ゆっくり行ってくださいね and 体を気を付けてください will also work. Is it used in that way? – Yang Muye Mar 14 '14 at 12:45

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