Japanese is an East Asian language spoken by about 128 million people, primarily in Japan, where it is the national language. It is a member of the Japonic (or Japanese-Ryukyuan) language family, and its ultimate derivation and relation to other languages are unclear. Japonic languages have been grouped with other language families such as Ainu, Austroasiatic, Korean, and the now-discredited Altaic, but none of these proposals has gained widespread acceptance.
Getting familiar with some basic Japanese phrases will not only help you to survive in Japan but also increase your chances of communicating with native Japanese and add amazing flavor to your journey.
Things to know
We all know that Japanese people speak and act politely. Here are some greeting phrases that will make your life in Japan a lot smoother.
First, if you want to talk to someone, you’d better start with a greeting. If you meet somebody in the morning, you can start the conversation by saying:
- #1 Konnichiwa (こんにちは) – Hello
- #2 Ohayou gozaimasu (おはようございます) – Good morning
- #3 Konbanwa (こんにちは) – Good evening
- #4 Moshi moshi (もしもし) – Hello (but only if you’re on the phone or something like Skype)
- #5 Ogenki desu ka? (お元気ですか) – How are you?
- #6 Genki desu (元気です) – I’m good/I’ve been doing well, thanks
5 Ways To Learn More About Your Conversation Partner
- #1 Namae wa nan desu ka? (名前は何ですか) – What’s your name?
- #2 Watashi no namae wa _____ desu (私の名前は＿＿です) – My name is ______
- #3 Doko kara kimashita ka? (どこから来ましたか) – Where are you from?
- #4 Watashi wa ______ kara kimashita (私は＿＿から来ました) – I’m from __________.
- #5 Sou desu ka? (そうですか) – Is that so?/Really?/I see
You’ve introduced yourself, learned your friend’s name, and maybe where they’re from. And now you’re ready to move on to other topics.
But first, try out some of these traditional Japanese politeness phrases so you can apologize, show off your good manners, and be polite at a restaurant before you tuck into a meal.
4 Essential Japanese Politeness Expressions
- #1 Arigatou gozaimasu (ありがとうございます) – Thank you
- # 2 Douitashimashite (どういたしまして) – You’re welcome
- # 3 Sumimasen (すみません) – I’m sorry/excuse me (Hint: you can use this for anything from apologising for stumbling into someone on the train to asking for help or asking for people to move out of your way.)
- #4 Gomen nasai (ごめんなさい) – I’m sorry
9 Ways To Get Clarification In A Japanese Conversation
Even in your native language, you probably have to ask people for clarification or to repeat themselves. You won’t offend anyone if you do the same in a foreign language. Memorise these expressions and just take it slow, one sentence at a time.
- #1 Eigo te iu no wa… (英語ていうのは) – And in English, that’s…?
- #2 Wakarimasen (わかりません) – I don’t understand
- #3 Shirimasen (知りません) – I don’t know
- #4 Wasuremashita (忘れました) – I forgot
- #5 Motto yukkuri kudasai (もっとゆっくり下さい) – Please go a little slower
- #6 Mou ichido kudasai (もう一度下さい) – Could you say that one more time?
- #7 Nihongo de perapera de wa nai desu (日本語でペラペラではないです) – I’m not very fluent in Japanese (Hint: you’re speaking Japanese already! So you can’t say “I don’t know Japanese at all,” right?)
- #8 ___ te iu no imi wa nan desu ka? (＿＿ていうの意味は何ですか) – What does _____ mean?
- #9 Tetsudatte kuremasen ka? (手伝ってくれませんか) – Can you help me?
Japanese is one of the easiest languages to ask questions in—so ask away! In order to make a question in Japanese, just add ka to the end of any sentence.
On top of that, though, there are a few question words that will make your conversations go a lot smoother. Plus knowing how to ask questions is essential for travellers in Japan if you need to find your way or get help.
- #1 Doko desu ka? (どこですか) – Where is it?
- #2 Itsu desu ka? (いつですか) – When is it?
- #3 Doushite? (どうして) – Why?
- #4 Nan desu ka? (何ですか) – What is it?
- #5 Dare desu ka? (だれですか) – Who is it?
Getting To Know Each Other In Japanese
Now’s the perfect time to find out more about each other and maybe become friends. Try out some of these phrases to open up a whole new avenue of conversation!
- #1 Ima nanji desu ka? (今何時ですか) – What time is it right now?
- #2 Ima (今) – Now
- #3Ato de (後で) – Later
- #4 Kyou (今日) – Today
- #5 Kinou (昨日) – Yesterday
- #6 Ashita (明日) – Tomorrow
- #7 Mainichi (毎日) – Everyday
- #8 Nansai desu ka? (何歳ですか) – How old are you?
- #9 Doko ni sundeimasu ka? (どこに住んでいますか) – Where do you live?
- #10 Kyoudai ga imasu ka? (兄弟がいますか) – Do you have siblings?
So there you have it: all of the basic Japanese phrases you need to help you discover and start using the Japanese language.With these phrases in your back pocket, you will soon find yourself having your first basic conversations with native speakers and getting excited about developing your conversational Japanese. So now that you’ve learned the basics, are you ready to take the next step in your Japanese adventure?