We have two basic ways of expressing simultaneous actions in Japanese, e.g. “I ate dinner while watching television”. Both translate as “while” in English, but the usage in Japanese is different.

~ながら

【Verb: Stem】ながら【Verb】
テレビをながらばんはんべる。
Eat dinner while watching television.
仕事しごとのことをかんがえながらる。
To go to sleep thinking about work.
はたらきながら大学だいがく卒業そつぎょうする。
To work your way through university.

What about the order? Well, grammatically it doesn’t matter but there the final verb can be considered to be the “main” action.

テレブをみながらばんはんべる。
To eat dinner while watching television.
ばんはんべながらテレビをる。
To watch television while eating dinner.

~ているあいだ

【Verb: Present Participle】あいだ

The kanji 間 we’ve seen used as a counter for time periods.

時間じかん
One hour.
週間しゅうかん
Three weeks.

In this structure 間 is a noun which the present participle is modifying to express the time period while doing something.

妊娠にんしんしているあいだにおさけひかえる。
To refrain from drinking while pregnant.

The critical difference between ながら and ~ている間に is that in the case of the former both actions will be performed by the speaker. On the other hand, ~ている間に is typically used when something else happens that is outside of your control while you are doing something.

昨日きのうているあいだ泥棒どろぼう部屋へやしのんで財布さいふぬすんだ。
Yesterday while I was sleeping a burglar crept into my room and stole my wallet.
テレビをているあいだ友達ともだちから電話でんわがかかってきました。
To get a phone call from a friend while watching television.

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