10 Essential Japanese Phrases Every Expat Should Know

Before we look at some basic Japanese words and phrases, here’s a little background to the language…

In comparison with some languages, Japanese pronunciation is relatively straightforward – although accent differences can pose some difficulties. Something learners can also find tricky is the number of homonyms in the language (words which sound the same but have different meanings).

Grasping the various levels of speech can also be a challenge at first, as different words/expressions are used when talking to a stranger/superior or a friend or family member.

Written Japanese can be a bit daunting initially as it is made up of three different character sets – Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana.

Japanese texts can also be written in the ‘Western’ way (horizontal rows, read from top to bottom) or in traditional Japanese style (vertical columns, read from right to left).

Ten Essential Japanese Phrases

Hello – Yaa
Goodbye – Sayonara
Yes – Hai
No – Iie
Please – Douzo
Thank you – Arigato
My name is… – Watashi no namae wa
What? – Nani?
Where? – Doko?
Do you speak English? – Anata wa eigo wo hanashimasu ka?

If you feel like you’ve got a handle on those terms you may want to start learning these other basic Japanese words and phrases…

Me – Watashi
You – Anata
Him – Kare
Her – Kanojyo
Good morning – Ohayou gozaimasu
Good evening – Konbanw
Where is the toilet? – Toire wa doko desuka?
How much is this? – Kore wa ikura desuka
I don’t understand – Wakarimasen
Can you speak slowly? –Yukkuri
Nice to meet you – Hajimemashite
You’re welcome – Doh itashimashite
I’m hungry/thirsty – Onaka ga suki masita/ Nodo ga kawaki mashita
I’m lost – Mayotte shimai mashita
Can you help me? – Tetsudatte kuremasuka?
What time is it? – Nanji desu ka?
I need a doctor – Byouin ni ikitai

And then, of course, there are always Japanese numbers to learn!

One – Ichi
Two – Ni
Three – San
Four – Yon
Five – Go
Six – Roku
Seven – Nana
Eight – Hachi
Nine – Kyuu
Ten – Jyuu

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