Survivor’s Guide To the Japanese Language

Sep 15, 2018


The following is a survivor’s guide to the Japanese language. In particular, this is directed to the typical tourist to Japan. The typical tourist to Japan speaks no Japanese, and why should he? The Japanese language is radically different from other languages, and as opposed to languages such as Spanish, Arabic, or English, which are used in many countries, the Japanese language is essentially used only in Japan. Also, as a tourist, you will not have the time to study or retain the language, and besides, you will be busy visiting onsens, hiking Mt. Fuji, eating great food, and generally being a tourist, so you will not have the time to study. In addition, though the level of English in Japan (especially in the rural areas) is pretty low, there are enough people who can speak English and all train stations and public facilities have English signs and announcements so that, even with no Japanese language skills, you should have no problem traveling around Japan. Finally, the purpose of this survivor’s guide rests on the assumption that the reader has zero Japanese skills, so Japanese expressions that would require the speaker to understand what the Japanese person is saying to him have been omitted. For example, I was thinking of including some key expressions for making reservations at a hotel or a restaurant, but the problem with this is that, even if you successfully convey the point that you want to make a reservation, you wouldn’t understand what the Japanese person is saying in response to you, so the goal of communicating is not achieved. Rather, the goal here is to convey your desires, especially in cases where the Japanese person’s response is not needed or can be intuitively understood from body language and the like. I have also played a little loose with grammatical rules concerning joshi (Japanese prepositions) and the level of politeness, because, once again, the goal here is not winning a linguistic prize, but rather, one-way communication-getting your point across in a pinch (iza to iu toki).

General Expressions/Weather

 

Excuse me/sorry

Sumimasen

This is expression is very important. If you bump into someone on the train and he gives you a dirty look, this expression means “I’m sorry.” When asking for directions on the street from a complete stranger, this means “excuse me.” When in a crowded restaurant, you scream this out loud when you want to order something or ask for the check (seriously, this is difficult for the newcomer, but in Japan, when you want the attention of restaurant staff, you yell out (quite loudly) “sumimasen”!).

 

Where is…..?

….wa doko desu ka?

Eki (station) wa doko desu ka?

Toire (bathroom) wa doko desu ka?

 

Do you have….Is there….?

….ga arimasuka?

Kutsu (shoes) ga arimasuka?

Toire (bathroom) ga arimasuka?

Eigo (English) no menyu (menu) ga arimasuka?

ATM ga arimasuka?

 

Okay? Is this acceptable? Are you Okay? I’m okay.

Daijoubu desuka? (as a question; with a rising intonation). Daijoubu desu. (as a response).

I don’t understand.

Wakarimasen.

I can’t…..

Nihongo (Japanese) ga dekimasen.

Can you speak English?

Eigo (English) hanasemasuka?

Is there someone who can speak English?

Eigo (English) no dekiru hito ga imasuka?

Weather Terms

Hot: Atsui

Cold: Samui

Rain: Ame

Snow: Yuki

 

Will today be hot/cold/rainy/snow?

Kyou wa atsui/samui/ame/yuki desuka?

 

Dining/Shopping

 

How much is this?

Kore wa ikura desuka?

Please show me.

Misete kudasai. (Especially with an amount of money, this is useful, because you probably won’t understand what the Japanese person says when you ask how much something is).

Check please.

Okaikei Onegaishimasu (or, you can make a cross signal with your two forefingers, as this gesture means, “check please” in Japan).

I’ll take…..

Kore (this) O kudasai.

Can I try this on?

Shichaku shitemo daijoubu desuka?

Is/are there……in this?

…ni….ga haiteimasu ka?

Kono (this) ryouri (dish) ni sakana (fish) ga haiteimasuka?

Kono (this) ryouri (dish) ni niku (meat) ga haiteimasuka?

Kono (this) ryouri (dish) ni kairui (shellfish) ga haiteimasuka?

I have an allergy to…..

arerugii ga arimasu.

Gyuunyuu (milk) arerugii ga arimasu.

Sakanak (fish) arerugi ga arimasu.

 

What do you call this in English?

Kore (this) Te Eigo (English) de Nan (What) to Iimasuka (Do you say)?

 

Traveling

 

Basic Vocabulary

Station: Eki

Train: Densha

Subway: Chikatetsu

Last Train (last train of the day): Shuuden

First Train (first train of the day): Shihatsu

Express Train (stops only at major train stations): Kyuukou Densha

Local train (stops at every single stain on a certain train line): Kakueki Densha

Train Platform: Hoomu

Bus: Basu

Taxi: Takushi

Bicycle: Jitensha

Transfer (change train or bus lines): Norikae

Airport: Kuukou (Or just say “Narita” or “Haneda” or the name of the airport in question).

Hotel (Hoteru, Yado, Ryokan (Japanese-style inn).

Staying in a Japanese-style inn with room only and no food: Sudomari .In many Japanese-style inns, the system is such that meals are included in the bill. Many such inns, however, have a sudomari system where you pay for the room only. The meals are served at fixed times, and if you are busy, you may not have time to eat at the time the meals are served (because you will be busy doing touristy things about town). As such, if you stay in a Japanese-style inn (and you should, because it is a wonderful experience), you should ask about this if you plan to do most eating outside of the inn. Sudomari de daijoubu desuka? Should get this point across.

 

Trouble/Health/When Stuff goes Sideways

 

Forgotten/Lost Belonging

Wasuremono; I forgot my….. Watashi (I) wa …. O Wasureshimashita (forgot).

Sick

Byouki;

Watashi (I) wa kimochi ga warui (don’t feel well) desu.

Injury

Kega;

Watashi (I) wa kega shiteimasu (am injured).

Hospital;

Byouin

Medicine

Kusuri

Accident

Jiko

Earthquake

Jishin

Fire

Kaji

Please call…..

Keisatsu (police) O Yonde Kudasai (please call).

Kyukyusha (ambulance) O Yonde Kudasai.

Isha (doctor) O Yonde Kudasai.

 

Please help me (only to be used in emergencies).

Tasukete Kudasai.

Body Parts

Head

Atama

Neck

Kubi

Face

Kao

Ear

Mimi

Tooth/Teeth

Ha

Nose

Hana

Throat

Nodo

Eye(s)

Me

Shoulder

Kata

Chest

Mune

Back

Senaka

Stomach

Onaka or I (pronounced “ee”).

Arm

Ude

Hand

Te

Finger

Yubi

Wrist

Tekubi

Buttock

Oshiri

Leg

Ashi

Foot

Ashi

Knee

Hiza

 

My….hurts.

Hiza (My/his/her knee) ga itai desu (hurts).

Atama (My/his/her head) ga itai desu (hurts).

Nodo (My/his/her throat) ga itai desu (hurts).

 

I/He/She has a weak….

Shinzo (I/his/her heart) ga yowai desu (is weak).

 

Additional Medical Terms (For these terms, we’re dealing with real emergencies, so I included the Japanese for these terms so that, if you find yourself in such a situation, just point at these terms).

Diabetes

Tounyoubyou糖尿病

Seizure

Keiren痙攣

Food Poisoning

Shokuchuudoku 食中毒

Cough

Seki

Fracture

Kossetsu 骨折

Anemia

Hinketsu 貧血

Blood Sugar Level

Kettochi 血糖値

 

How did you find this guide to survival Japanese? We hope it will come in handy for when you need to get out and about in Japan!

Daniel

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