I proposed to my wife Rei in December of 2014.
Back then, we only used Japanese together, and I was in a bit of a dilemma.
I wasn't sure how to say "Will you marry me?" in Japanese.
Sure, I knew a few different ways to express that question. However, I didn't know the most natural way to phrase it.
For example, in a phrasebook I once translated from Japanese to English, they had the Japanese:
kekkon shite kurenai ka na...
I wonder if maybe you wouldn't marry me...?
The translation the editors ended up using for the book was "Will you marry me?" Personally, however, that's not the nuance I felt from this Japanese phrase.
The construction ～てくれないかな．．． to me has the nuance that you're asking someone if they want to do something that you assume they don't want to do. Speaking with Rei about 結婚してくれないかな．．． I said that it's 格好悪い (kakkou warui // not cool), and initially she agreed with me, but then she said that actually it depends on how you say it.
However, I have yet to come across a way of saying 結婚してくれないかな．．． without sounding nervous, hesitant, lame, 格好悪い, not the way I want to be asking a girl to marry me.
"Will you marry me?" in Japanese
So what did I say?
Well, I briefly considered just saying it in English, because I knew she'd understand that. But for some reason, I wanted to say it in her native language. Something about the way words are processed when they're in your native language (or very high L2), you feel them as fast as you can think them.
After a bit of Japanese googling, here's what I used:
kekkon shite kudasai
Will you marry me?
Straightforward, yet humble, I thought that this was the best route to go.
Luckily, Rei later told me that this is probably the classic way to ask in Japanese.
She said yes, by the way. We were in Las Vegas for her birthday at the time, and the next day we celebrated for about four hours at the Bellagio's all-you-can-eat(-and drink!) buffet.
One day you're signing up for an intro to Japanese course on a whim. The next day you're in Vegas feasting on crab and beer with your Japanese fiancé.
Such is the gift of studying.
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