• A basic guide to Japanese

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    Throughout October, we’ve been answering your questions about Chinese and Japanese culture in our ‘Antidote to culture shock’ series. Last on the list is the basic guide to Japanese. Whether you’re off to Japan or just want to know a bit more about this fascinating language, we’ve pulled together the need-to-know phrases and a bit about what makes this language so unique. To make things easy, why not print it off and keep it in your back pocket as an on-trip cheat sheet.

    Something to say about everything: The Japanese language has over 2000 different characters, making our Latin alphabet look rather lazy with a measly 26.

     Greetings:  Keep these basic greetings in your back pocket and bluff your way around Tokyo.

    How do you do – Hajimenashite

    Good morning – Ohayoo gozaimasu

    Good afternoon – Konichiwa

    Good evening – Konbanwa

    Good night – Oyasumi nasai


    Giving the British a run for their money: The Japanese are a very polite society and have over 20 different ways to say sorry. Over indulging in pleasantries is practically a national tic in Britain, so keep these phrases handy and then at least you can apologise in your host country’s language.

    Please –  Kudasai

    Thank you – Arrigato

    Excuse me – Sumimasen

    Sorry – Gomen nasai

    Yes – Haii

    No – Iie

     Counting: The Japanese language has different numbers depending on what you’re counting. These are the most basic and are usually understood anywhere.

    1 – ichi

    2 – ni

    3 – san

    4 – shi

    5 – go

    6 – roku

    7 – schichi

    8 – hachi

    9 – kyuu

    10 – juu

    Pronunciation: Much like other Asian languages, words can have multiple meanings depending on pronunciation. The word, ‘ame’ can mean sweets or rain, so take your pick.

    Tricky stuff: Japanese is a difficult language to learn, particularly for English native speakers because of the Yoda-esque reversed word order. In Japanese, the verb comes second, meaning that instead of saying, ‘I cycle in Japan’, in Japanese you would say, ‘In Japan I cycle’.


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    Sophie is passionate about travel and photography. She has travelled extensively throughout Europe, The Middle East, North Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, South East Asia and New Zealand.

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One Response to “A basic guide to Japanese”

  1. Robert Snary February 6, 2017

    Well timed guide as I booked for the Essence of Japan travelling April 2018 at the Destinations Show on Friday

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