In my last post I said Japanese was not needed in order to go to Japan. I still believe that statement, but it never hurts to know a little bit. Knowing even a bit of Japanese will be a great cushion for those of you who are nervous about visiting a country whose first language isn’t English. Some of you may be ambitious and determined enough to learn Japanese fluently, but for people who don’t have the time nor desire to learn may still want to know the essential words just to get by.
The first thing you need to know is the sound/pronunciation of Japanese consonants and vowels. This is the easiest part about learning Japanese. The Japanese consonants sound exactly like English consonants. Vowels will be easy for people who have studied Spanish before. Japanese vowels sound exactly like Spanish vowels. Now knowing this, you can actually speak English to Japanese people by using Japanese pronunciation on English words. You will have a higher success rate in being understood.
Congratulations! You’ve taken the first steps into learning Japanese!
You don’t really notice how much numbers are used on a daily basis until you go to another language speaking country. Yes, you will encounter the numbers in the form of 1 2 3, but you should definitely know the Japanese pronunciation. I say this because on signs outside of shops or on menus you’ll see actual numbers, but what happens if you ask a clerk how much something is and she understands you but doesn’t know how to answer in English so she says it in Japanese. This is why I said you should know how to pronounce numbers. Other incidents could be closing times or train arrivals. The list can go on. Below is a short list of the numbers you will need to know and its Japanese pronunciation.
0 – zero 11 – juu ichi
1 – ichi 12 – juu ni
2 – ni 13 – juu san
3 – san 20 – ni juu
4 – shi/yon 100 – hyaku
5 – go 123 – hyaku ni juu san
6 – roku 1000 – sen
7 – nana/shichi 10000 - ichiman
8 – hachi
9 – kyu
10 – juu
Phrases will be your life-line. They never change and are constantly used by both Japanese and foreigners. It’s helpful to know these phrases when traveling in Japan. They are great practice in speaking Japanese. The Japanese are usually impressed when a foreigner speaks Japanese. They are so impressed that they may mistake your little Japanese as knowing Japanese fluently. They will figure you out once you put on that blank stare and come back down to a lower level of Japanese or even go straight into English. The phrases I’m about to suggest will help you get around in Japan and to interact with the locals a little. Some of these phrases are round about translations because they may not have an exact English meaning and I’ve shortened some words for easier memorization. Remember to use Japanese pronunciation!
Nice to meet you – Hajimemashite
Hello – Konnichiwa
I don’t understand – Wakarimasen
Excuse me (to get someone’s attenetion or as a sorry) – Sumimasen
It’s ok – Daijobu
Here (after you) – Dozo
Thank you – Arigatou gozaimas
How much is this? – Ikura desu ka
Where is _______? – _______ wa doko desu ka
Yes – Hai
No – Iie
It’s cute – Kawaii
It’s delicious – Oishii
And this is your survival Japanese. Unless you get super adventurous, which some of you will, you’ll only need this much for those unexpected encounters. This is a very beginner introduction to Japanese that is taught in the first 3-4 weeks in a Japanese class. It’s pretty hard to teach Japanese in a blog but if you need any advice about Japanese please don’t hesitate to ask. I will do my best to answer you. Due to its difficulty, this will be one of the last times I try to teach Japanese on here unless it’s requested. I hope you learned a lot and you get to use some of this in the future.