Suki desu ka? One of the first useful words a student of Japanese learns is how to say “like” (suki), which is pronounced quickly so that it sounds rather like the English word “ski,” leading all students to immediately make the joke sukii ga suki desu ka? (Do you like skiing?), since the words sound similar. The word suki is often a student’s introduction to the concept that a word or idea in one language might have many possible meanings in another language, depending on the situation. Right off the bat, suki can mean “like” (in the context of your favorite food or hobby) or “love” (when said in reference to another person). Like all Japanese words there’s some ambiguity involved, which is the subject of more than a few melodramatic misunderstandings in anime and manga. For example, if a girl was looking at a cake and said suki desu, she could theoretically be expressing her love of cake, or else she could be confessing her feelings for a boy who was also in the room. Once I saw a variety show in which former JAV actress Ai Iijima walked around New York, asking Americans kyonyu suki? which sounds like “Can you ski?” in English, but is really asking if they prefer women with large oppai. It was funny to see the Americans on the show nodding their heads for the camera at her question. Try it on your friends!
In Orange Road, Madoka had to use English to clearly ask Kyosuke’s feelings, since Japanese was too vague to be of use.