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I've only studied Japanese for two semesters, 10 years ago, so this is a really basic question...

If I'm emailing a teacher at an American university (let's call him 塚中) that I've never met before to ask a question about his class that I'm thinking about taking, would it be acceptable to use「塚中先生初めまして!」as the first line of my email before proceeding in English?

Would it be seen as friendly and casual (what I want) or off-puttingly informal? Or just straight-up wrong?

  • So, you think the professor can't read English? – Chocolate Sep 11 '15 at 5:45
  • @choco 「英語のメールを書く予定ですが、最初の挨拶文だけは日本語で書いてみたい」という趣旨の質問ではないでしょうか。 – HiruneDiver Sep 11 '15 at 17:09
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I guess that you're trying to use 「塚中先生初めまして!」 as a replacement for "Dear 塚中先生," or some other salutation. But I can't say it's a good idea to use the 初めまして sentence in the first line, because in a Japanese email, the first line is commonly used for addressing a contact (organization name, department name, title, contact name). And a greeting is usually written in the second or the third line. For example,

~~大学 ~~学部 教授 塚中先生

 

初めまして、(Last name / Full name)と申します。

This is a common way to start a Japanese email, in a case like yours. The phrase 初めまして is usually followed by the sender's last name or full name.

Using exclamation point, question mark or other emotional symbols is a bit too casual in this case, because only traditional Japanese punctuation marks such as 、 and 。 are appropriate to use in Japanese business emails. (In Japan, writing an email to a professor is a formal thing, so people usually try to write a business-letter-level email to a professor.) If you would write to friends or family, it will be totally fine to use exclamation point and question mark with Japanese words, though.

If you want to make the first line less formal, the following example would be useful.

塚中先生

 

初めまして、(Last name / Full name)と申します。

This is less formal but still polite. The line break after the 塚中先生 is crucial.

I suggest these polite ways to start an email, because I guess that if you show that you know not only some Japanese phrases but also some Japanese manners, it will make a good impression on 塚中先生.

  • 1
    I added   to make the blank lines work properly. If you liked it better before my edit, please feel free to roll it back :-) – snailcar Sep 11 '15 at 19:09
  • @snailboat This is exactly what I wanted to do. Thank you very much for editing and telling me the code! – HiruneDiver Sep 11 '15 at 19:16
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You could use something similar. I don't think a teacher at an American university would be off-put by that. I would not be worried about it, right or wrong.
(My personal preference: [name], hajimemashite. [message].)

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So, this guy has no idea who you are. And, he has no heads-up that a stranger will be asking him to do something. Pure imposition. Regardless of language, best to start with an apology:

恐れ入りますが、"name of class"という授業に関する質問があります。

or

ご迷惑をおかけして申し訳ございませんが、"name of class"という授業について、お伺いしたいことがあります。

In English, I would say "Professor Tsukanaka, I am very sorry to be troubling you, however I have a question about one of your classes.".

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    Can you explain why you've chosen to use も rather than が? – snailcar Sep 10 '15 at 19:48
  • @snailboat I noticed that too. The only explanation I have is that "~もあります" just sounds better to me. Like, "~~もあります" indicates you are making an even bigger imposition than a "~~があります"? I think I've heard natives say such Japanese, but I'm not sure at all. – david Sep 10 '15 at 20:40
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    「質問あります」「 伺いしたいことあります(or伺いたいことがあります)」でしょうね・・・あと「ご迷惑をおかけして申し訳ございませんが」は「突然のメールで失礼します」とかのほうがいいんじゃないかと・・ – Chocolate Sep 11 '15 at 5:43
  • @snailboat yes. As you already hinted, I was wrong about using "~~もあります". I made the correction. – david Sep 11 '15 at 21:54

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