In this lesson we will look at two verbs that to an English speaker, may seem similar, however in Japanese are not the same. It is very important that you do not get confused with these verbs.
The Japanese verb that means To know is shiru (知る). The verb wakaru (分かる) means To understand. Sometimes their meanings interchange and cross between each other, but they are not always interchangeable. Which one you use, and the meaning you show depends on the situation you're in.
First we will start with wakaru. One place you can use this word is for speaking about languages or understanding people.
(I) also understand Spanish = supeingo mo wakarimasu
(I) don't understand Japanese = nihongo wakarimasen
Do you understand teacher? = sensei wa wakarimasu ka
You can also use this to show that you understand other things such as meanings or commands.
(I) don't understand this sign = kono hyoushiki wakarimasen
(I) don't know meaning of that kanji = sono kanji no imi ga wakarimasen (その漢字の意味が分かりません)
Yes, I got it = hai, wakatta (はい、分かった)
Shiru is used to show that you have knowledge of something. One way you can use it is to talk about knowing someone, or knowing something.
Do you know (of) onsen? = onsen shiteru? (温泉知ってる？)
Do you know him? = kare o shirimasu ka (彼を知りますか)
Do you know this song = kono uta o shitte imasu ka
The words shite iru and wakatte iru mean two different things. Mixing them up could make you sound rude. shite iru is used to show that you currently know something or someone.
However, wakatte iru means that you are already in the state of knowing something. It is something one would say to someone when they are being persistent in telling you something, such as instructions or lecturing you about something you did. It is almost like saying "I know I know I know already!!" in English.
Another difference is the negative form shiranai can be considered rude. It not only means (I) don't know, But it also sometimes has a hidden meaning that the person doesn't care to know, or that the question doesn't matter. Wakaranai is preferred to be said when you are saying "I don't know" to someone.
Sometimes in English we would use the word know, but the Japanese use the word understand. Sometimes they can be interchangeable. Often one is more common and natural than the other.
Do you understand the road? (do you know the way?)
michi wa wakarimasu ka (道は分かりますか)