Survival Japanese: 10 Phrases For Basic Communication

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We don’t want to scare you, but most Japanese people don’t speak much English.

Why? Because we don’t need English at all in daily life unless we have foreign friends or work for/with foreign companies. While the foreign population keeps growing, there’s still not a very large community of English speakers in Japan.

You may often feel like when you speak English to a Japanese person they look confused. You also may feel like people speak Japanese to you and just keep talking even though you don’t understand.

Well, it’s not all in your head…

We study English at school at least 6 years, so we know basic English words and basic grammar, but it’s difficult to talk in English since we don’t have many chances to practice English conversation. Compared with 20 years ago, Japan is becoming a more English-friendly country, but you still need to know some basic Japanese if you visit Japan.

Here are 10 very basic Japanese phrases to get you started. Learning more is better, but just memorizing these basics will help you in some typical situations.

1. Hello.
Konnicniwa(こんにちは)

2. Good morning.
Ohayou-gozaimasu(おはようございます)
Ohayo
 is fine with your friends, but it’s better to say Ohayou-Gozaimasu to strangers or older people.

3.Good evening.
Konbanwa(こんばんは)

4.Thank you. / Thank you very much.
Arigatou-gozaimasu(ありがとうございます)
Doumo-arigatou-gozaimasu(どうもありがとうございます)
Arigatou is ok for casual situations.

5. Please.
Onegaishimasu(おねがいします)

6. Yes / No
Hai(はい)
Iie (いいえ)

7. I’d like to go to Tokyo station.
Tokyo eki ni ikitai-desu(東京駅に行きたいです)

8. Where’s Tokyo station?
Tokyo eki wa doko desu ka?(東京駅はどこですか?)

9. Could you tell me how to get there?
Ikikata wo oshiete-itadakemasuka? (行き方を教えて頂けますか?)

10. I’m sorry. / Excuse me.
Gomennasai(ごめんなさい)
Sumimasen(すみません)

Hopefully, this didn’t scare you off from visiting Japan. Many signs are written in English on the street and the train. There are tourist booths and other sources of information.

Although you may struggle to communicate, most Japanese people are very kind and will try to understand you as much as you try to understand them. They will try to help anyone even if there’s a language barrier. So don’t hesitate to ask for help. 🙂

And don’t worry. This is just a basic introduction. We will be offering more language advice soon.