Translation:Is Mr. John an American?
Then, I will be more clear: rising intonation is not required for Japanese questions, though it is possible. https://www.reddit.com/r/linguistics/comments/1rsimg/does_japanese_have_a_phrasefinal_rising_question/
Normally you wont see question marks too often early on in beginner japanese or at all, but make sure to look at the character "か" at the end of the sentence, in this position it signifies a question is being asked. For example: "あなたは学生ですか" Which translates to : "are you a student?" , the か takes place of where we would normally see a question mark in latin based languages
It's fascinating. I've always thought most East Asian languages were meant to be very tonal (in that they use tone to convey information that western languages use words to communicate). But with Japanese, it seems like the complete opposite.
Whereas we English speakers use an interrogative tone to express uncertainty, Japanese uses the a grammatical word "か". Granted we often put our English linking verbs before the subject in questions — "Is the there?" vs "She is there." — but that structure isn't always there to help.
There are even focus-indicators in Japanese, so you do don't have to use tonal emphasis to convey post-lexical information. The particles は and が can make the difference between saying "He is HUNGRY." and "HE is hungry."
The usage of "Mr. John" in this example (and a couple of others) is very misleading. You would never translate this to English in this way since John is generally perceived as a first name, not a surname. At least they allow "Is John an American?", but if they used an actual surname (such as Johnson or Smith) in this example, it would make more sense to prefix it with "Mr." in the English translation.
It is more important to get across that さん is NOT the equivalent of "Mr/Mrs." and instead a normal part of addressing anyone (or anything) by ANY name (given, middle, surname, alias, etc...). You use name suffixes (さん, くん, ちゃん, 姫, etc...) when referring to or introducing someone else (or yourself in third-person, although that's considered childish). You never use name suffixes when introducing yourself.
The question mark isn't that much of an issue. The ending particle か is basically a question mark in and of itself, although it probably should be included when teaching English-speakers to prevent confusion in the first place.
(A) "Is Mr. John an american?" "Mr. John" is the subject and thus "John san wa" [John san wa amerika jin des ka?]
(B) "Mr. John, are you an american?" "You" is the subject and thus "John san, anata wa". Moreover, now "Mr. John" is in the vocative and either gets no particle (most common) or gets the vocative particle and becomes "John san yo". [John san (yo), anata wa amerika jin des ka?]
I put: “Is Ms. John an American?” to see if it would take. It did not. So I assume therefore that さん does not technically equate to “Mr.” or “Ms.” because if it did, it could technically be a “Ms. John” seeing as last names typically follow the “Mr.” or “Ms.” marker. Therefore, John in this sentence is a first name, not a last name. Any additional insight?
The question mark is western punctuation and is not necessary in Japanese. The last character marks this as a question:
"Mr. John is an American" isn't a question, and even if you put a "?" at the end you still need an "is" at the beginning to translate this into proper English.
That said, at least in American English, this could be accepted in a certain context. For example:
Bill: "Mr. John was born in California 10 years ago."
Fred: "Mr. John is an American?" (said with rising pitch at the end)
That said, 2 things should still be changed: the "Mr." should be dropped if he's a friend or around the same age as the speaker, because Mr/Ms aren't quite the same as -san, and a word like "So" should be added. "So, [Mr.] John is an American?"
Gah! This "type what you hear" sentence kept getting marked wrong without the Japanese period, which is not offered in the word bank. It wasn't until I changed to the keyboard option instead to type it in Japanese AND included a period that it would mark it as correct. 。。。。。。。