English Lesson: Don’t You Think?

I play Final Fantasy Brave Exvius a lot. Probably too much. It’s the first and last thing I see in a day. My girlfriend says “addicted”. I like to say “you just don’t understand”. (Add me: 369,648,444)

A couple weeks ago, the game announced a special collaboration with Ariana Grande. The community lost their minds… in a bad way. You saw a lot of shit talk going on, despite the fact that the Final Fantasy games have always collaborated with J-Pop stars in the past. And you got to admit, Ariana is way more talented than Koda Kumi. Maybe not any classier, but who’s keeping score, right?

Square Enix went full hype and released this promo:

I think I prefer the original version— just sayin’.

In the video, you have a couple of the game’s producers making the announcement. Both giving English a shot. Hiroki Fujimoto clearly having more flair and personality than Kei Hironi, but that’s what happens when you go tie-dye vs. suits.

Hiroki is pretty emphatic. I think it’d be clear to understand him even without the subtitles.

Something I want to point out, however, is his use of “~don’t you think?”


When I saw this, I definitely wanted to make a note for all the Japanese English-learners I know because I hear it a lot.

You see, I know English is hard. And if you can speak half as well as Hiroki, that’s a huge accomplishment! The thing is, when you get “good enough”, it’s hard to keep improving. When you’re “good enough” people don’t ever try to correct a bad word choice or phrase.

That’s why a non-native English speaker could feel like s/he’s not getting any better, even though s/he’s hanging around American friends all the time. Those American friends aren’t going to point it out. Often times, they’re not even aware.

“~don’t you think?” is one of those hard-to-catch phrases. Good enough for the context and message, but unfortunately not quite fluent.

I think it’s important to understand why people, particularly Japanese people, want to use this phrase. In Japanese, there’s a power word ね (ne) — pronounced like “watch me whip, watch me ne ne”.

In Japanese, the vocabulary’s really strong. I like to call things like these power words because they can be interpreted lots of different ways. “ne” could mean:

  • right?
  • you know?
  • isn’t it?

All to the same effect, but in Japanese just a single word. Makes you stop to wonder if English is actually more colorful and intellectual with its variety or incredibly inefficient.

But wait, Jon! Don’t Americans say ‘~don’t you think?’

Yes part one: with a different delivery. “Don’t you” becomes “doncha”. You can hear this demonstrated in the timeless classic “Don’t Cha”. I always wondered why Nicole Sherzinger never made it bigger, hm…

Yes part two: I can’t remember the last time I’ve actually hard “~don’t you think” in an actual conversation. In movies and TV, sure. I know I’ve heard it in real life at some point too. But these days, on a regular frequency? No. And for that reason, that’s why I’m not going to endorse it.

Try using one of these alternatives instead:

“A really amazing song…”

  • ~wouldn’t you agree? (way more formal)
  • right? (casual, but be sure to add emotional inflection– needs to be very emphatic)
  • ~ain’t it? (super casual, also southern)

TL;DR don’t use “~don’t you think”.

If you’re interested in learning more conversational English like this, connect with Jon to sign up for online private English coaching or face-to-face sessions in Boston

Published by Jon Dao

Formerly, the Conversation Coach

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: