The concept of Chotto

By Dakharai Murray

Chotto, which translates into “a little, a minute, or a moment,” is a Japanese word that is used to avoid confrontational situations. It can be used to answer questions on your preference over specific items, as it states that you like it “a little bit” and it avoids hurting someone’s feelings if they have a different opinion. This is very different from American culture, as we tend to be more direct with our answers to these types of questions. Americans don’t usually regard how someone else feels about the same question and are quick to answer with “No,” “It’s gross,” “I don’t like it.”

In Japan, chotto is used in place of “no,” so it has a politer delivery in a conversation. Also, when the word chotto is used, Japanese people also accompany it by craning their neck to one side. Unless you’re accustomed to the concept of chotto, you would have to read in between the lines to discover the true meaning of the gesture. If you asked someone if they needed help with a task, they could say “Chotto.” To you it would translate to “I need your help for a little bit.” However, the person would be telling you that they don’t need your help, but not wanting to hurt your feelings, they are more indirect and subtle about it. If you ever travel to Japan and someone answers you with “Chotto,” they are telling you “No,” but indirectly.

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