Thursday, December 10, 2015

6 Useful Japanese Words You Can Use in Conversations

Wakarimasen- I don't know
photo credit: from Photobucket
I've been in Japan for more than 3 years but my Japanese speaking skills is still horrible. I can rarely string a full grammatically-correct sentence. When I speak in Japanese, I just usually throw Japanese words that I think can convey what I mean. This is accompanied with lots of hand movements, sound effects and, sometimes, even drawings. 

On the other hand, I think my listening skills and vocabulary are great. I usually understand what the people are telling me. I know how I should respond- in English. The problem is, most Japanese people I've talked to would suddenly shut off once I respond to them in English. They would stop whatever they're telling me or they would look rattled. *sigh* To avoid this from happening, I've learned to use five common words that Japanese people usually say in conversations and one word that would end conversations. 

You can use the following words in various situations: 

1. Kawaii! 
Meaning: cute, beautiful, nice
How to say it: Ka-wa-yiiiieeee! in a high pitched voice. 
When to use it: 
  • When a Japanese shows or points something nice to you, you can say "Kawaii!"
  • When you receive a gift, you can exclaim "Kawaii!"
  • When somebody introduces their kids to you, just say "Kawaii!" even if it's not true. 
  • When you want to compliment a coworkers clothes or appearance, say "Kawaii!"

2. Sugoi!
Meaning: Great!
How to say it: Su-goy in a normal to low pitched voice. 
When to use it: 

  • When somebody's telling you about a great experience
  • When somebody's bragging something about Japanese culture
  • When you're watching a performance and you're with a Japanese person
  • When you want to compliment a student
3. Honto?!
Meaning: Really?
How to say it: Hon-to in a question-pitched voice
When to use it: 

  • An alternative expression when somebody's telling you about an experience
  • An alternative expression when somebody's bragging about Japanese culture
4. Oishi!
Meaning: Delicious!
How to say it: Oy-shi! in a happy voice
When to use it: 
  • When somebody gives you an omiyage or a food souvenir
  • When you're eating with Japanese people and you feel you need to say something
5. Eeeeeeeh!
Meaning: This is not really a word but the Japanese like to use it. It's a sound that could mean Kawaii!                         Honto! and Sugoi! depending on the pitch. 
How to say it: Say the short e sound for a long time. 
When to use it: 
I only use this when somebody's telling me something and they have enough of my "Sugoi" and "Honto?!"

Here's the thing, you don't have to mean these words when you say them. The Japanese person you're talking to also don't expect you mean these words. They're just expressions to help you get through a conversation with a Japanese. 

Now, if you really really don't want to be bothered just say this 6th expression: 

6. Wakarimasen
Meaning: I don't understand. If you say it twice, it means I don't want to understand you. 
How to say it: Normal voice if you want to sound polite. Annoyed voice if you want to drive people away. 
When to use it: 
When you've given up on understanding Japanese and you just want to be left alone in your little foreign bubble. 

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