Basic Japanese Grammar: I Think…

Basic Japanese Grammar: I Think…

Our Nihongo Master Podcast has a language series called Study Saturday, where a Japanese grammar point is introduced in a fun, easy, and bite-sized way. In Season 2 Episode 8, we looked at how to express our opinions with the phrase “I think”.

This grammar point is part of basic Japanese and is used pretty frequently in everyday conversation. It makes your sentence a bit less serious as well. The best part about this grammar point is that it’s so easy to learn! There’s only one phrase in Japanese that is used to express your opinion. 

In the podcast episode, not only did we discuss a bit about the grammar point, but we also had a few roleplaying scenarios using the new grammar to get listeners accustomed to it. The roleplaying scenarios are not in this recap, so you’ve got to tune in to listen! 

Grammar Point

Expressing opinions is crucial in any language. In Japanese, it’s also used to make the tone of the sentence lighter. The grammar to use to say this is pretty simple: you basically just add “to omou” (と思う) or “to omoimasu” (と思います) for the polite form, to the end of any sentence. And viola, that’s it! 

Quick and easy, right?

と思う for i-adjectives and verbs

Let’s have an example. Say you saw someone and thought he was cool: “I thought he was cool”. “Cool” in Japanese is kakkoii (かっこいい). We could say “kakkoii to omou” (かっこいいと思う), but that translates to “I think he is cool”. To make it so it means “I thought he was cool”, we have to change the grammar point we just learned to the past tense. “to omou” ends with an u, so it conjugates to “to omotta” (と思った) for the casual form. For the polite form, simply change the “masu” (ます) to past tense to get “to omoimashita” (と思いました). 

Now put it all together and we get: “kare ha kakkoii to omotta”(彼はかっこいいと思った). For the polite form, it’s “kare ha kakkoii to omoimashita” (彼はかっこいいと思いました). 

Kakkoii is an i-adjective, so there’s no change whatsoever when attaching the grammar phrase at the end. It’s the same when the word that comes before the phrase is a verb, like the sentence “I think we went to a cafe”. “Went” in Japanese is “itta” (行った), the past tense of the word “iku” (行く). All you have to do is have all the pieces and just add the grammar at the end: “kafe ni itta to omou” (カフェに行ったと思う). For the polite form, it’s “kafe ni itta to omoimasu” (カフェに行ったと思います).

だと思う for na-adjectives and nouns

The time you do need to add something on is when the word before is either a noun or a na- adjective. In the sentence “He thought I was beautiful”, the word that comes right before the grammar phrase is “beautiful”, and that’s the na-adjective “kireina” (綺麗な) in Japanese. We can’t say “kireina to omou”, but instead we take the na out and switch it to da, the casual form of desu: “kare ha watashi ga kirei da to omotta” (彼は私が綺麗だと思った). For the polite form, it’s “kare ha watashi ga kirei da to omoimashita” (彼は私が綺麗だと思いました). Remember, that sentence was in the past tense.

Let’s have an example for a noun. Since there is no “na” to switch out, we just add da in between the noun and “to omou”. For example, if you want to say “I think he’s Japanese”, you can say it as “kare ha nihonjin da to omou” (彼は日本人だと思う). The polite form of the sentence is “kare ha nihonjin da to omoimasu” (彼は日本人だと思います).

Negation

In the case where you want to have a na-adjective or a noun in the negative form, like “I think he’s not Japanese” or “I think she’s not beautiful”, their negative form “janai” (じゃない) then acts like an i- adjective, so you don’t need to have a “da” in between: “nihonjin janai to omou” (日本人じゃないと思う), “kirei janai to omou” (綺麗じゃないと思う).

One last thing: if you want to say “i don’t think”, all you have to do is say the negation of “to omou”, which is “to omowanai” (と思わない) or “to omoimasen” (と思いません). So let’s switch “I think he’s not Japanese” to “I don’t think he’s Japanese” — we take the noun as it is and add the negation of the grammar to make, “nihonjin da to omowanai” (日本人だと思わない), or the polite form “nihonjin da to omoimasen” (日本人だと思いません).

Vocab Recap

As always, let’s have a quick vocab recap to wrap it up: 

Kakkoii (かっこいい) — cool

Kireina (綺麗な) — beautiful or pretty

Isha (医者) — doctor

Shokugyō (職業) — occupation

Gaka (画家) — painter

Machigainai (間違いない) — undoubtedly or no doubt 

Ginkõ (銀行) — bank

Hataraiteiru (働いている) — to be working 

Kaku (書く) — to write or draw

Shou ga nai (しょうがない) — it can’t be helped 

Muzukashii (難しい) — difficult

Mirai (未来) — future

Hiraku (開く) — to open 

Sasuga (さすが) — as expected 

Hazukashii (恥ずかしい) — shy 

Shinyū (親友) — best friend 

Kareshi (彼氏) — boyfriend 

Urayamashii (羨ましい) — jealous 

Zettai (絶対) — definitely

Conclusion

And that’s the recap of this episode of Study Saturday, and that means you might already be an expert at expressing your opinions in Japanese. I, for one, have a lot of opinions on a lot of things, so rest assured I’ve been using this every day — if not every hour. Since this article is a recap, head over to the original episode to listen to the full thing now!

If you’re interested in similar bite-sized grammar pointers, head over to the Nihongo Master Podcast for more. The Study Saturday language series comes out every Saturday with a new grammar point with examples and role playing scenarios. Click here for your fill of basic Japanese grammar! 

How to Learn Japanese the Fast & Easy Way!

How to Learn Japanese the Fast & Easy Way!

If you want to learn Japanese, you’ve come to the right place! We at Nihongo Master are dedicated to providing you with the best Japanese language learning content on all our various media platforms. Learning a new language is tough, and most of us would want to find ways to do it quickly.

While I personally feel like there are no shortcuts to learning a new language, there are tips and tricks that can help you to learn faster and easier. Of course, these all depend on the individual and what one’s study method is. But generally, if you stick to these 7 tips, you might be able to skip a bit of time out of your language learning journey.

1. Don’t skip the writing systems

The first one I think is the most important tip of all is: do not skip the writing systems. In Japanese, there are three writing systems: hiragana, katakana and kanji. Each of them are used for their own purposes and knowing all three of them is essential if you want to reach a good level of fluency.

Hiragana and katakana are pretty easy to pick up. You can master them casually in a week. They are the Japanese alphabet that represents a syllable. 

As for kanji, they are Chinese characters that are used in Japanese writing. I’d say there are around 2,000 essential kanji characters that you would need to take time to learn. One way to learn kanji is through vocabulary. When you learn new words, look at what the kanji characters for them are. Most conversational words use essential kanji characters. Have yourself be exposed to kanji characters on a daily basis. The more you see them, the more you’re able to recognise them.

Skip the stroke order for now. I would recommend foregoing this unless you’re doing it for school. If you’re here for the fast fluency, you can afford to not know the order of the strokes. 

2. Use language learning hacks

As I mentioned earlier, different people have different styles of learning. Depending on your style, pick up language learning hacks to help you learn Japanese faster and easier. 

One of the most popular methods of learning Japanese fast is using a spaced repetition system (SRS). This is often the use of flash cards. There’s a 80/30 rule that says you get 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts. So you focus on 20% of the language you use most to yield 80% of your speaking abilities. 

Another way is by using mnemonics. A lot of people find this language learning hack pretty useful. When you have mnemonic devices linked to Japanese language learning, you’ll be able to retain them in your brain faster and easier. 

And while some people often binge study, it may not help all. Some people actually study and retain knowledge better when studying in small chunks of time. This helps you to focus and not push yourself too much. Whatever you learn in that 15 minutes a day, be sure to repeat them and lock them in memory. This will definitely help you to learn Japanese faster.

And last but not least, consistency is key. You’ve got to be a bit responsible for your language learning journey. Stay committed, keep studying regularly, and you’ll be able to reach your language goals as early as 90 days! 

3. Think and explain in Japanese

One of the most important ways to improve your Japanese language skills is by training your brain to think in that foreign language. For this one, you would have to really put in the effort to do this, especially if you’re not already bilingual. 

By doing this technique, you’re going to be able to lock those new words and grammar into your brain even faster. Reading the meaning to a word or an explanation to a grammar point won’t guarantee that you can recall it when you need it. When you actively use these words and grammar, you’ll be able to store them in your brain easier!

The easiest way to start doing this is by reacting in Japanese. If you see a cute dog coming your way, you might start to think in English “it’s cute”. Try to think in Japanese: “あの犬は可愛い” (“that dog is cute”). 

You can also practice this technique by describing your surroundings. You don’t have to do that all the time. You can even do it on your way home from school or work. Describe the area around you. What do you see? What are the people doing? What’s the weather like? 

This last way of practicing this technique is one that I often do, and that’s translating my own conversations. After having a conversation with someone, try to translate that conversation into Japanese at your own pace. Say you ordered something in a restaurant. How would you do that in Japanese?

4. Find language exchange partners early

The best part about the previous technique is that you don’t have to be afraid of making mistakes with someone else. However, that doesn’t give you the opportunity to learn from your mistakes. On top of that, you will also start to fear speaking in Japanese. Trust me, I was at that stage once too. 

So, to do that, you should definitely find a language exchange partner early on so you can start using your language skills ASAP.

There are so many ways you can find one. Sometimes, in your city or country, there’s a community of Japanese language learners like yourself. This is the best way to find one. Otherwise, go online and on apps like italki or HelloTalk. These are also great platforms to learn from others just like you! 

5. Immerse yourself in Japanese 

A lot of people say immersion is key. It’s pretty true, but you don’t have to be in Japan to be fully immersed. You can also just surround yourself with the language, through various means that you can control. One of the easiest ways is to constantly play Japanese media like games, TV shows, movies and anime (in Japanese language, of course).

I personally used to listen to Japanese podcasts as well to expose myself to the Japanese language. This method is also a way of passive learning, which kids use to learn when they’re younger and developing. 

If you have a Japanese town in your city, that’s perfect! You can find Japanese speakers around you to practice with in real life too! All these exposure will definitely help you to learn Japanese faster and easier!

6. Practice your Japanese speaking skills

I cannot emphasise this enough, but definitely work on your speaking skills from early on. Learning a language from a textbook and actually using the skill in real life is so so different. You realise there are so many other challenges that you face when you start speaking. You might not be able to recall what you learned, you realise you have a fear of speaking to overcome. Anything can happen. 

Whether it’s practicing in front of the mirror or with a language exchange partner or friend, start early! As soon as you learn your first grammar point, I suggest going straight into practicing your speaking skills!

7. Don’t be afraid to fail

And last but not least, don’t be afraid to fail. In fact, if you don’t fail at some point, you’re not human! All of us are learning. Even natives have things they need to learn. Failing is actually part of your Japanese language learning journey, so don’t avoid it. Instead, embrace it!

Learn Japanese Fast & Easy!

I hope that with these 7 techniques, you’ll be able to learn Japanese fast and easy! One of the best ways you can learn Japanese grammar points and new useful vocabulary words is by tuning in to our Nihongo Master Podcast! We have a language series in the podcast that breaks down grammar points just like our online learning system, and have roleplaying scenarios using the new grammar point. Hey, that’s the 8th technique to learning Japanese fast and easy!

How to Say “Do You Know” in Japanese — わかる and 知っている

How to Say “Do You Know” in Japanese — わかる and 知っている

(NM Podcast Recap! S2E6)

One of the most commonly used phrases in any language is “do you know…?” This phrase is without a doubt an essential one for not only daily conversations but also at work. Remember asking your friend if they knew of a specific person, or your colleague if they knew how to use the copy machine? 

The question is: do you know how to ask “do you know” in Japanese?

If you don’t, then you should tune in to our podcast’s language series, Study Saturday. In our Season 2 Episode 6, we looked at two ways on how to say this phrase in Japanese! 

In the podcast episode, we broke down the grammar points and looked at the proper usage with a few role playing scenarios and useful vocabulary words. This article is a recap of the grammar and vocabulary we used — while you get the gist and general idea of the grammar in this article, we highly recommend tuning in to the episode for exemplary usage!

Grammar Point

Compared to English grammar, where “do you know” is at the start of the sentence, the Japanese grammar for that attaches itself to the end, just like most other

grammar points. In Japanese, the sentence structure is basically the opposite of English.

Shitteiru (知っている)

So for this one, we have “shitteiru” (知っている) or “shitteimasu” (知っています) to mean “to know”. The phrase comes from the word “shiru” (知る), which means “to find out” or “to get to know”. I won’t confuse you with the details, but long story short the difference is that “shiru” is an action, while “shitteiru” is a state, and the former is rarely used.

So in question form, we have it as “shitteiru” (知っている) or “shitteimasuka” (知っていますか). For example, “do you know John?” Can be translated in Japanese as “Jon wo shitteiru?” (ジョンを知っている?) or “Jon wo shitteimasuka?” (ジョンを知っていますか?) We use the particle “wo” (を) for this grammar most of the time.

A を 知っていますか?

A wo shitteimasuka?

If you know, you reply as: shitteiru (知っている) or shitteimasu (知っています)

If you don’t, you reply as: shiranai (知らない) or shirimasen (知りません)

Another way to use this phrase is like this question: “do you know where he lives?”. For this type of sentence, it’s said a different way — that’s because we’re connecting two parts into a sentence:

1. ”Where he lives” = “kare ga doko ni sundeiru” (彼がどこに住んでいる)

We replace the wo (を) particle which we would usually use, with ga (が)

To attach the two sentences together, we have to use the question particle which is ka (か). Then the second part:

2. ”Do you know” = “shitteiru” (知っている)

Put it all together, and you get: “kare ga doko ni sundeiru ka shitteiru” (彼がどこに住んでいるか知っている?) “kare ga doko ni sundeiru ka shitteimasuka?” (彼がどこに住んでいるか知っていますか?)

Here’s another example: “do you know if he’s going to the party tonight?” 

In Japanese, it’s: “konban no pātī ni iku dou ka shitteiru?” (今晩のパーティーに行くどうか知っている?)

BONUS:

Sometimes, you can use shitta (知った) in specific situations. For example, “dou yatte shitta?” (どうやって知った?) This means “how did you know?”.

There’s also a common saying, that is: “hajimete shitta” (初めて知った) to mean “that’s the first I’ve heard”.

Wakaru (分かる)

It’s quite common to confuse shitteiru with wakaru (分かる) or wakarimasu (分かります) for the polite form. The clearest way of explaining the difference is that, “shitteiru” as a question implies that you don’t expect the person to know, and as an answer implies that you already knew. “Wakaru” as a question has a nuance of

“do you remember/understand”, implying that the person should already know because it was brought up before, and as an answer implies that you remember/understand.

If you want to ask someone if they know Japanese, you usually would say “nihongo wakaru?” (日本語分かる?) or “nihongo wakarimasuka?” (日本語分かりますか?). This means “do you understand Japanese?” 

If you ask it as “nihongo shitteiru?” (日本語知っている?) or “nihongo shitteimasuka?” (日本語知っていますか?), it’s kind of like saying “have you heard of the Japanese

language?” 

If you do know Japanese — and understand it — reply with a “wakaru” or “wakarimasu”. If you don’t know, a simple “wakaranai” (分からない) or “wakarimasen” (分かりません) does the trick.

Vocab Recap

At the end of our Study Saturday episodes, we have a quick vocab recap of the words we used in the episode. Here’s a list for reference:

Doko (どこ) — where

Sundeiru (住んでいる) — to be living, it comes from the root form “sumu” — to live

Konban (今晩) — tonight

Dou ka (どうか) — …or not

Saigo (最後) — last

Atta (会った) — met. The root word is “au”, to mean “to meet”

Otetsudai wo suru (お手伝いをする) — the polite version of “tetsudau” to mean “to help”

Honjitsu (本日つ) — a polite version of saying “today”

Hatarakasete (働かせて) — the root form is “hataraku” to mean “to work”

Tsukai kata (使い方) — how to use. 

Tsukau (使う)  —to use

Kata (方) — way of

Fūni (風に) — this way

Yaru (やる) — to do

Tonari (隣) — next to

Aiteiru (空いている) — to be open, coming from the word “aku” which means “to open”

Conclusion

Now you have the general gist of how to say “do you know” and “i know” in Japanese! You’ll be surprised at how often you’ll be using it day to day. As mentioned before, this is just a recap and summary of what we discussed about in our language series episode. Check out the full episode over at Nihongo Master Podcast

Basic Japanese Words and Phrases for Holiday Celebrations!

Basic Japanese Words and Phrases for Holiday Celebrations!

Holidays are just around the corner. Who’s excited? I know I am! But the holidays shouldn’t stop us from keeping up with our Japanese language learning journey. So instead, we should incorporate some holiday into it! 

Do you know any Japanese words and phrases for the holiday celebrations? If not, you’ve come to the right place! Just like in English, there are certain words and phrases we use to wish people for the holidays and to describe the holiday season. It may not always be in the first few chapters of your Japanese textbook, but we’ve compiled the top 10 words and phrases you can use for this upcoming festive season! 

Keep reading to find out!

1. Omedetou (おめでとう)

The first one has definitely got to be omedetou (おめでとう). You can say this for a lot of different things. It’s so versatile. This word actually translates to “congratulations”, but it’s also used in the Japanese way to say “happy new year”, and that’s “akemashite omedetou” (あけましておめでとう). It actually comes from the word “akeru” (開ける) to mean “to open”, so you’re kind of welcoming the opening of the new year. 

You can also say “akeome” (あけおめ) with your friends. This is a casual and slangy way to say it.

You can also attach “omedetou” to other types of holidays like Hanukkah: Hanu-ka omedetou” (ハヌーカおめでとう). Or even Kwanzaa: “Kuwanza omedetou” (クワンザおめでとう).

2. Yoi Otoshi Wo (良いお年を)

One of my favourite phrases to say when the New Year approaches is “yoi otoshi wo” (良いお年を). This translates to “have a happy New Year” and it’s a very common phrase used by Japanese people.

Bear in mind that this phrase is used before the clock strikes midnight on January 1st. When you want to wish someone a happy new year after that, use the phrase before this.

3. Yasumi (休み)

The next basic Japanese word great for the holidays is yasumi (休み). That’s because this word translates to “holiday” or “off day”. You can say to someone to enjoy their holidays by saying “yasumi tanoshinde” (楽しんで). Although it’s perfect for the holiday celebrations, this word can also be used all year round to talk about days you’re not working or school holidays, too. 

4. Mata rainen (また来年)

I find this next phrase pretty cute, because it’s a bit quirky and pretty similar to English. Usually, you’d say to someone “see you later”, but when it’s the new year period, I like to say “see you next year” as a quirky saying. I bet a lot of people do, too.

In Japanese, that’s “mata rainen” (また来年). “Mata” (また) actually means “again” but in colloquial Japanese, you can also just say “mata” to mean “later” or “see you”. “Mata ashita” (また明日) means “see you tomorrow”.

5. Kyuuka (休暇)

While we already have the word for holiday before, this is another basic Japanese word for “holiday”: “kyuuka” (休暇). This is a more formal version than “yasumi” but it’s often combined with other words like “Christmas holidays” or “summer holidays”.

“Christmas holidays” is “kurisumasu kyuuka” (クリスマス休暇) and “summer holiday” is “kaki kyuuka” (夏季休暇).

6. Tanoshinde (楽しんで)

This next basic Japanese phrase for the holidays is “tanoshinde” (楽しんで), which means “have fun”. You can attach this to another word to make sentences like “have a fun Christmas party”, or you can just say it on its own.

“Have a fun Christmas party” is “kurisumasu pa-ti wo tanoshinde!” (クリスマスパーティを楽しんで!) .

7. Oshougatsu (お正月)

The next basic Japanese word you should know for the holidays is “oshougatsu”, which translates to “Japanese New Year”. This is a more common word to describe the first of January, but there’s also another word: ganjitsu (元日). While both are acceptable to use, the first one is more popular.

8. Purezento (プレゼント)

If you’ve mastered your katakana, you already know what this word means: presents! Purezento (プレゼント) is the katakana form of the English word “present”, and what’s the holidays without a gift or two, am I right? 

9. Meri Kurisumasu (メリークリスマス)

We have a few ways to talk about the holidays and New Years, but not so much on how to say “Merry Christmas”. It’s pretty simple, which is why I saved it for the last few. “Merry Christmas” is just the katakana form: meri kurisumasu (メリークリスマス).

10. Shinnen ga yoi toshi de arimasu you ni (新年が良い年でありますように)

This is a pretty long one, but also a good basic Japanese phrase to learn for the holidays. You’re wishing someone the best wishes for the next year. Kind of like the shorter phrase above “yoi otoshi wo”. However, this is a more formal and genuine wish.

You can also use parts of this phrase to say other things like “I hope you have a good day”. Just use the “de arimasu you ni” and attach it to another wish like “a good day”, which is “yoi hi” (良い日): “yoi hi de arimasu you ni” (良い日でありますように). Just attach this phrase to any good wish you want to give!

Have a happy holiday season! 

And that wraps up the top 10 basic Japanese words and phrases for the holiday celebrations. I hope you learn them just in time for the festive season. They’re super easy and super useful. Try it out with your family and friends! Have a wonderful holiday season, everyone! よいお年を!

10 Best Polite Words to Have Handy in Japanese

10 Best Polite Words to Have Handy in Japanese

Learning a new language can be tough. While the Japanese language is a beautiful one, it can be difficult to pick up in the beginning. But what you should take note of even before learning the language is that it’s a polite language. There are so many aspects of the Japanese language that are based on politeness.

To get you started, here are the top 10 polite words in Japanese that will definitely come in handy – regardless of whether you’re just starting out or you’re travelling to Japan soon. This is one of the best ways to learn Japanese fast and easy!

1. Sumimasen (すみません)

This word is one that’s super commonly used. “Sumimasen” (すみません) has a few different meanings and can use in a few different situations. Check out our podcast episode, Season 1 Episode 1, for a full rundown of how to use this phrase. 

In summary, you can use this phrase to apologise for inconveniencing someone, kind of like “pardon me”. You can also use this phrase to say “excuse me” – for example, you’re getting off the train and there are people blocking your way. Say “sumimasen” to let them know you need to get through.

2. Gomennasai (ごめんなさい)

Another polite word to have handy is “gomennasai” (ごめんなさい). When you learn Japanese, this is one of the first things you’ll learn. Gomennasai translates to “I’m sorry” and it’s used as an apology. It’s similar to the first one, but this word can’t be used to say “excuse me”. Our Season 1 Episode 1 podcast episode also talks about this phrase!

3. Onegaishimasu (お願いします)

Also part of our Season 1 Episode 1 podcast episode is “onegaishimasu” (お願いします). This phrase can also be used in a lot of situations. It essentially means “please” when asking for help. 

For example, the konbini (コンビニ) cashier might ask you if you want to heat up your food. You reply with “hai onegaishimasu” (はい、お願いします) to mean “yes please”. For more examples and situations, check our podcast episode!

4. Otsukaresama (お疲れ様)

The next word is “otsukaresama” (お疲れ様). I like this word a lot, because it has such a heartwarming tone. This word can translate to “thanks for all your hard work” and is often said to other coworkers after work or groups of people/friends after an event. You can use the longer form “otsukaresama deshita” (お疲れ様でした) or even cut it short with people who you are familiar with, to “otsukare” (お疲れ)

5. Itadakimasu (いただきます)

If you’ve watched anime (アニメ) before, you would probably have heard this phrase. Before eating a meal, you should say “itadakimasu” (いただきます) which can be translated to “thank you for the meal” or “I’m digging in!” Either way, it’s showing appreciation for the meal presented to you.

6. Gochisou sama deshita (ご馳走様でした)

After your amazing meal, don’t forget to show appreciation too. To do so, say “gochisou sama deshita” (ご馳走様でした) which is also saying “thank you for the meal”. Note that this phrase can only be used after a meal, and the previous word is used only before a meal. Don’t mix them up! This is a good pair of Japanese words to learn fast and easy! 

7. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu (よろしくお願いします)

I’m sure you recognised half of this phrase – see, you’re already learning Japanese! “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu” (よろしくお願いします) can have a few different translations. Oftentimes, this phrase is used after a greeting with someone new. In this case, it’s translated to “nice to meet you” or “please take care of me” or even “I look forward to working with you”.

Sometimes, you can use this when requesting someone to do something for you. In that case, this translates to “please fulfill my request”. You’ll see it quite often at the end of emails.

I would say the best English equivalent would be something like “thank you in advance”. It’s commonly used in formal situations. You can also cut it short to “yoroshiku” (よろしく), but it then becomes quite informal.

8. Shitsurei shimasu (失礼します)

Another common polite word or phrase in Japanese that you should learn is “shitsurei shimasu” (失礼します). This translates to “pardon my rudeness” most of the time. You can say this when you’re interrupting a conversation or basically anything. If you are walking through a group of people and they’re talking, you can say this as you walk through them.

You can use this phrase in the past tense too, to make “shitsurei shimashita” (失礼しました). This is often said after the ‘rude act’, and it somewhat translates to “sorry for being rude earlier”. It’s a pretty handy Japanese word to know and have, I think.

9.  Ojama shimasu (お邪魔します)

Another phrase similar to the one before is “ojama shimasu” (お邪魔します). This one translates more to “I’m going to get in your way” or “I will disturb you”. Most of the time, this is used when you’re entering someone’s house. In my opinion, it sounds slightly harsher – or at least, the ‘act of rudeness’ is slightly harsher.

10. Ki wo tsukete kudasai (気をつけてください)

Last but not least, a polite word or phrase to have handy in Japanese is “ki wo tsukete kudasai” (気をつけてください). I personally have this as a personal favourite, because it shows so much kindness and warmth. This translates to “please take care”, and can be said to anyone. 

When I get my food delivered by a delivery man, I often say this phrase to them. When parting ways with friends, we often say this to each other.I It’s just a nice sendoff for anyone.

Conclusion 

And that wraps up our list of polite Japanese words and phrases to have in handy. This list is a fun and easy way to learn Japanese fast, because everything on this list is used almost on a daily basis! There are so many polite words in the Japanese language, but knowing this is a good start. Good luck! 

How to Be Polite in Japanese?

How to Be Polite in Japanese?

One of the first few things we notice about the Japanese language when we start learning is that there are various levels of politeness. In fact, the basic Japanese that we all learn at the start is in fact one of the polite speech styles!

But that doesn’t mean that it’s the most polite. Politeness is a huge factor in Japanese culture and manners. Depending on who you talk to and what social situation you’re in, you adjust your polite speech style to accommodate it. How, you might ask?

You’ve come to the right place. Everything you need to know about the level of politeness, what affects it and how to be polite in basic Japanese is just a scroll away!

What affects politeness?

There are a few things that affect the way you speak to another person in terms of politeness. While it’s important in English as well, it’s even more important in the Japanese language.

First of all, how familiar you are with another person affects this politeness level. When you’re more familiar with another, you tend to speak more casually. For example, you speak in informal terms with family and close friends. Sometimes, slang is introduced in informal situations. With people you aren’t close to and strangers, you’re more on formal terms. 

This goes into the second factor, and that is social hierarchy. This is extremely significant in Japanese culture. Where you stand in that social ladder affects your level of politeness. Here’s a basic breakdown of rank:

Higher rank: Teacher, employer, guest, customer, senior in terms of age

Lower rank: Student, employee, host, salesman, junior in terms of age

The combination of familiarity and social hierarchy basically determines the level of politeness in speech. 

Levels of politeness in the Japanese language 

Let’s take a look at the levels of politeness in the Japanese language. In the English language, politeness is often achievable through the words and phrases used, and tone. Sometimes, even in business situations, you might not even need to be all that polite. In the Japanese language, politeness is crucial. 

In basic Japanese, politeness is achieved through its grammar primarily. While the words and tone used are also important, grammar is the ultimate way of achieving various levels of politeness. And how many levels are there?

Teineigo (丁寧語)

Teineigo (丁寧語) literally means “polite language”. When we first learn Japanese, this is the form we learn, and sometimes it’s referred to as “formal” speech. It’s the default form when two strangers talk to each other. This is also used when speaking to someone higher in rank.

In teineigo, you use the polite copula “desu” (です) at the end of nouns and adjectives, and the polite verb suffix “-masu” (〜ます).  You often don’t cut out anything in the sentence and use full sentences when speaking. Prefixes such as “o” (お) and “go” (ご) are also used.

Keigo (敬語)

When we get into a deeper understanding of the language, we learn that there are special forms for politeness in the Japanese language, and that’s known as keigo (敬語). This is a step up above teineigo and is an umbrella term that covers humble and honorific forms of speech.

Now that might be a whole lot to process, but let’s break that down. Keigo is used when talking to people significantly above you in rank by either exalting the superior or by humbling yourself. The basics of keigo when it comes to politeness is passiveness and indirectness. 

One form of keigo is the sonkeigo (尊敬語), also known as the honorific language. This is used when talking to a superior and exalting them and their actions. If you talk to your boss or teacher and are referring to them and their actions, the honorific form is used. We teach how to use this form in our Nihongo Master podcast in our Nihongo Master Podcast Season 6 Episode 6!

Another form of keigo is the kenjougo (謙譲語). This is the humble language. As you can tell, it’s a form of humble speech. When you talk to a superior but you’re referring to yourself, you use the humble form. We teach how to use this form in our Nihongo Master Podcast Season 6 Episode 9!

Honorifics in polite speech

One of the most important things to note is the usage of honorifics in polite speech. That’s the basics of politeness in the Japanese language.

The simplest way to add a touch of politeness to your speech is by adding a “san” (さん) to someone’s name. It’s like the equivalent of “Mr” or “Mrs” in the English language. This is the most basic honorific that you’ll learn in Japanese.

Sometimes, you can refer to one as “sama” (様). For example, when a staff member approaches a customer, they would refer to them as “okyakusama” (お客様) as the utmost level of politeness.

Different positions in Japanese society can have various honorifics. A teacher has “sensei” (先生) attached to their name, like Tanaka-sensei.

You’re always starting off with referring to someone with “San” until you’re told otherwise. Often times, your friends would tell you to drop the honorific, and maybe change to the more familial honorifics like “chan” (ちゃん) or “kun” (くん). However, with your superiors, continue using it unless told otherwise!

Add a dash of politeness to your Japanese!

We now know that there are more than a few ways to be polite in your Japanese speech. And this all depends on how familiar you are with the other party, and where in the social hierarchy you both rank. It never hurts to be polite, so add a little bit of politeness in your speech! Check out our other blog posts and also our podcast to learn Japanese the fun and easy way! 

Japanese Music & important words you need to know!

Japanese Music & important words you need to know!

Podcast Recap!

(Bonus content for NM Podcast S2EP3)

Japanese music is actually pretty popular. More popular than we thought. Sometimes, we didn’t even realize it’s Japanese music. In our podcast, Season 2 Episode 3, we discussed the various types of Japanese tunes and beats. 

A country like Japan with such a long and rich history has got to have an equally rich music background. It’s an integral component in most cultures. And true enough, the oldest forms of traditional Japanese music date back to the 6th century.

Over the decades, music has taken over this island nation. 

In fact, Japan has the second-largest music market in the world, and was at one point the largest physical music market worldwide! If that’s not proof of music’s influence in the country, I don’t know what is.

In our episode, we looked at three categories of Japanese music. For those who have tuned in, this recap article is for you! For those who haven’t, give the episode a listen! We are on all the streaming platforms – Apple Podcast, Spotify, and we even have our own platform for it! Or subscribe to our channel on youtube for instant updates over there!

1. Traditional Japanese Music

The first category we looked at was traditionally Japanese music, known as hōgaku (邦楽). This refers to home or country music. The term is the opposite of yōgaku (洋楽), which refers to Western music. 

It was back in the Nara Period of 710 to 794 and Heian Period of 794 to 1185, when the two oldest forms of Japanese traditional music first popped up: shōmyō (声明) and gagaku (雅楽). Shōmyō, a combination of the kanji characters for “voice” and “wisdom”, is a style of vocal music practiced during Buddhist rituals. It’s believed to have originated from India before making its way to Japan in the 6th century, and to this day, this oldest living form of vocal music is still being practiced.

We have a clip of the Buddhist ritual chant played in the episode, so give it a listen if you’re interested! 

The other oldest traditional music, gagaku, translates to “elegant music”. This refers to court music. It’s the fusion of various continental Asian countries’ music with traditional Japanese music. Back in the day, if you were merely a commoner, you probably would never hear gagaku, as it was exclusively the music of the Imperial Court. A typical gagaku ensemble consists of traditional Japanese instruments split into three divisions: woodwinds, percussion and strings.

Similarly. We played a clip of gagaku music on the podcast episode! 

We talked a bit more about other types of Japanese traditional music like enka (although this might not really be classified under traditional Japanese music and more of Japanese popular music. This genre just has to be mentioned.). Tune in to know more about it and hear a clip of a typical enka song! 

2. J-pop

Of course, a category we looked at has got to be J-pop. This is short for “Japanese popular music”, and arguably the most famous one on the list. While K-pop has been taking the world by storm recently, J-pop is also busy winning over the hearts of Japanese people — specifically the youths. The older generation has enka — the youngins have J-pop. 

While J-pop has traditional Japanese music influences, the genre has its roots in 1960s music as well as Western pop and rock, prominently bands like The Beatles and The Beach Boys. J-pop is pretty diverse and not limited to only pop music. Before J-pop became J-pop, it was kayōkyoku. 

We played a clip of kayōkyoku in the episode!

J-pop nowadays has been taken over by aidoru groups. There are so many of them that there’s even a term to refer to this current age of overwhelming idol groups: “The Age of Idol War”. Japanese idols are professional entertainers. Although they’re primarily singers, they often take on other roles like modelling, acting and dancing. 

We name dropped a few J-pop groups and played some of their music in the episode. If you want to know which popular groups we talked about, give that a listen!

3. Video Game Music

The third category we looked at is something a lot of us would recognise: video game music. If you’ve listened to one of our previous episodes “Pixels and Powerups”, or if you’re a video game enthusiast yourself, you’d know that Japan is pretty much number one when it comes to video games.

Before video games had music to accompany it, they had chiptune, which is a kind of synthesised electronic tunes that’s made using sound generators or synthesisers. If you’ve ever owned those vintage game consoles or played old arcade game machines before, you’re probably familiar with this tune.

We played chiptune music for a brief understanding.

As technology evolved, so did music in video games, and Japanese video game developers are the first few to get the jump on it. Don’t we all know Pac-Man? Arguably the most popular video game of all time, this Namco-produced franchise consists of more than a couple of tunes that we’ll recognise instantly as soon as it’s being played.

Did the Pac-Man tune play in your head? We can refresh your memory in our episode! 

The same company, Namco, went on to produce music for various other video games, and so began the era of video game music. Namco’s maze and driving game Rally-X was actually the first video game to have continuous music being played in the background. Fast forward to where we’re at now, and video game music has evolved tremendously. For all the various types of games, there are beats and tunes that match the gameplay — reacting to the player’s movements and action with seamless transitioning from one music to another.

We played some popular game music that you might be familiar with! 

Oh, and if you realise, a lot of Japanese words in this genre are just the katakana form of the English words. A lot of the time, you’ll see the words in katakana in Japanese video games!

Vocab Recap

We slipped in a lot of Japanese words in our episode, so if you didn’t catch it well, we summarised it here:

Hōgaku (邦楽) — “home/country” music to refer to local, Japanese tunes

yōgaku (洋楽) — western music

Shōmyō (声明) — chanting, vocal music practiced during Buddhist rituals

Gagaku (雅楽) — court music

Enka (演歌) — a ballad-style Japanese music genre that was originally a form of political activism, but has evolved to become a nostalgic tune of the nation’s identity

Ongaku (音楽) — music

Kayōkyoku (歌謡曲) — a term for Japanese pop music used up until the 1980’s 

Aidoru (アイドル) — Idol

Kashu (歌手) — singer

Ākēdo (アーケード) — arcade

Gēmu (ゲーム) — game

Meiro (迷路) — maze

Akushon (アクション) — action

Tune in to Nihongo Master Podcast!

So this is a quick round-up of the top categories of Japanese tunes and beats! Nihongo Master Podcast discusses various aspects of Japanese culture, travel and even language with our Study Saturday language series! Tune in every Wednesday and Saturday for new episodes!

20 Most Helpful Japanese Words

20 Most Helpful Japanese Words

Are you planning a trip to Japan soon and know zero Japanese? Or are you just getting started with the Japanese language? Either way, it’s important to get off on the right foot when dipping your toes into a new language. There are a handful of Japanese words that are more helpful than others. It’ll help those of you who are travelling to Japan survive day-to-day interactions, and ease into the language for those who are committed to studying Japanese.

Here we have a list of 20 of the most helpful Japanese words and phrases that you should have in memory before anything else. 

1. Konnichiwa (こんにちは)

Nothing is more essential than a hello. Konnichiwa (こんにちは) is the Japanese equivalent. It’s used in both formal and informal situations. You can use this at any time of the day. It’s such a broad greeting that you can use it in a lot of situations. It’s also a way of saying “good afternoon”.

2. Konbanwa (こんばんは)

While konnichiwa is the general greeting, there’s one for just the evening. That’s konbanha (こんばんは). This translates to “good evening”. Similar to konnichiwa, you can use konbanwa informally and formally. Just like how we use “good evening” only after the sun sets, we use konbanwa when it’s nighttime. 

3. Ohayou (おはよう)

So we have a general greeting which duals as an afternoon greeting, and an evening greeting. Now for the morning greeting: ohayou (おはよう). This greeting is slightly different from the first two where they can be used in both formal and informal situations. Ohayou is used mostly in informal situations. You have to add on “gozaimasu” (ございます) to make it formal: ohayou gozaimasu (おはようございます)

4. Arigatou Gozaimasu (ありがとうございます)

To show your gratitude, you thank them. In Japanese, you say “arigatou gozaimasu” (ありがとうございます). It has a similar ending as the formal morning greeting, making this version of “thank you” a formal one. Sometimes, this can be accompanied with a bow.

To make it informal, you can leave out the “gozaimasu”. “Arigatou” (ありがおう) can be used when you’re thanking someone casually. 

5. Onegaishimasu (お願いします)

Whether it’s a cashier offering a plastic bag to pack your goods or you’re ordering a dish on the menu, you ought to respond with “please”. You can use this Japanese word: onegaishimasu (お願いします). This has a more polite and honorific tone to it. Whenever you’re making a request, add this word at the end of your sentence. 

6. Yoroshiku (よろしく)

You can use yoroshiku (よろしく) like how you would use “please” as well. The word can loosely translate to “please take care of me” or “please treat me favourably”. You also use this to make a request as well as thank a person 

It’s also usually used when you just met someone new. Like how you’d say “nice to meet you”, you’d say “yoroshiku”.

To make it more formal, add the previous word to make “yoroshiku onegaishimasu” (よろしくお願いします).

7. Kudasai (ください)

Remember the two words we used to make requests, onegaishimasu and yoroshiku? There’s also a third one: kudasai (ください). In comparison to “onegaishimasu”, kudasai is a more familiar way to make requests. It’s more common to say “onegaishimasu” on its own while with “kudasai”, it’s more common to attach a verb or noun before it. I’ve heard it being said on its own as well, though.

8. Sumimasen (すみません)

You might find yourself in a situation where you need to apologise or excuse yourself. For example, you’re crammed into a train and need to go through the crowd to make your way out. To say “excuse me”, you use this Japanese word: sumimasen (すみません). It works in a similar way to get your waiter’s attention at the restaurant. Just like how you’d call out “excuse me”, you can call out “sumimasen”.

This word can also be used to apologise formally.

9. Gomennasai (ごめんなさい)

While “sumimasen” can be used to apologise, a more useful Japanese word to say sorry is “gomennnasai” (ごめんなさい). You use this word just like how you use “sorry”. You can cut the word short to “gomen” (ごめん) for the casual way of apologising to friends. 

Credit: Parker Ulry on Unsplash

10. Itadakimasu (いただきます)

So far, the Japanese words were responses. This next one is more of an exclamation or remark. “Itadakimasu” (いただきます) can be translated to “thank you for the food”, but it’s used just like how you’d use “bon appetit”. You say it before you start eating your meal. At the end of it, you can say “gochisousama” (ごちそうさま) which can translate to “thank you for the food” or “the food was delicious”.

11. Omakase (おまかせ)

Omakase (おまかせ) is a very useful word when you don’t know what to order. When you request “omakase” at a restaurant, you’re leaving your dish up to the chef or the restaurant. You’re basically going to be surprised by the shop. This culture of “omakase” is regularly used in sushi restaurants and a big part of kaiseki (懐石), a type of Japanese traditional cuisine.

12. Osusume (おすすめ)

While omakase leaves it up to the chef, osusume (おすすめ) is just the recommendation. The chef or restaurant is not making the decision for you, but rather recommending you their best options. This can not only be used at restaurants but also in other places like retail shops.

13. Ii (いい)

This next word is pretty simple. “Ii” (いい) translates to “yes”. You can also say “hai” (はい), but “ii desu” (いいです) has a nicer tone to it. You can use this to agree with something, or also to brush something away. For example, if you want to say “it’s okay” or “it’s fine”, you can say “Ii desu yo” (いいですよ), “Daijoubu” also works in that case.

14. Iie (いいえ)

To say no, you can use the word “iie” (いいえ). This is a formal way of saying no or rejecting an offer. You can add the word “kekkou” (結構) to emphasise on the “no”. “Iie, kekkou desu” (いいえ、結構です) is like saying “no, thank you, I’ve had enough”.

15. Daijoubu (大丈夫)

“Daijoubu” (大丈夫) is a flexible and extremely helpful Japanese word. It can be used to say “it’s okay” or “never mind”. It can also be used to agree by saying “yes, that’s fine”. It’s a one-word answer for quite a lot of questions that can sometimes cause miscommunication (in a good way).

16. Iranai (いらない)

To reject a request, you can use “iie”. To reject an object, you can also use “iranai” (いらない). This helpful Japanese word translates to “I don’t need it”. If a cashier asks you if you need a plastic bag, you can respond with this word. The same goes for declining a copy of a receipt or straw.

17. Douzo (どうぞ)

When you’re giving way to someone or letting them know they can go ahead of you, use this helpful Japanese word: douzo (どうぞ). In that situation, it can be translated to “after you”. You can also use this word when you’re signalling someone that they can start something. Say you’re letting someone know they can start presenting during a meeting, you can say to them “hai, douzo” (はい、どうぞ), which translates to “please, go ahead and start”.

Credit: Fraser Cottrell on Unsplash

18. ~ wa doko desu ka? (〜はどこですか?)

When travelling to a new country, you can quite easily get lost. I use this phrase on a daily basis to ask where the toilet is. It’s always best to know how to do that in Japanese. The phrase is “doko desu ka?” (どこですか?). All you have to do is add the location you’re asking about before the phrase. In my case, “where’s the toilet” is “toire ha doko desu ka?” (トイレはどこですか?).

19. ~ arimasuka? (〜ありますか?)

Whether you’re shopping or asking if there’s a toilet nearby (this seems to be an essential stop for everyone), you’re going to want to ask “do you have…?” or “is there…?” For both questions, you can use this Japanese word: “arimasuka?” (ありますか?) Similar to the previous phrase, you just add the item or location you want to ask about before the word. If you want to ask if there’s an S size, say it like this: “esu saizu ga arimasuka?” (エスサイズがありますか?)

20. ~ ikura desu ka? (〜いくらですか?)

Another useful phrase is asking about the price. Almost everything in the world is about money, so we can’t leave this helpful Japanese phrase out: ikura desu ka? (いくらですか?) You can use this phrase on its own and just gesturing to the item you’re asking about, or you can add the word before the phrase: “kono kaban ha ikura desu ka?” (このカバンはいくらですか?) translates to “how much is this bag?” 

Be sure to memorise your numbers in Japanese first!

Memorise them all!

While there are dozens more helpful Japanese words to add on, these 20 are a good starting point to building your Japanese language skills. Whether you’re using it for travel or daily conversations, it’s best to cover the essentials. Start memorising them all now if you haven’t! 

Top 10 Most Popular Japanese Words! Thanks, Google!

Top 10 Most Popular Japanese Words! Thanks, Google!

The Japanese language isn’t new to most people – they’ve at least heard of it. But while not a lot of foreigners know how to speak it fluently, there are a few Japanese words that are more popular than others. We have Google to thank for that. They’re used in English conversations – heck, they might even be used in other languages’ conversations, too.

So, what are the most popular Japanese words? We’ve shortlisted the top 10 for you in this article. If you can get all 10 of them right before reading, you’re a tensai (天才)!

1. Anime (アニメ)

Who is surprised that the first Japanese word on this list is “anime” (アニメ)? It’s, without a doubt, one of the most popular Japanese words. Anime refers to Japanese animation or cartoons that originated from Japan. This genre of animation has become so popular that the Japanese word for it also caught on. I don’t think I know anyone that doesn’t know the meaning of this word as soon as they hear it instantly. I wouldn’t be surprised if the word “anime” becomes an official word in the English dictionary! 

2. Otaku (オタク)

The next popular Japanese word is “otaku” (オタク). It’s considerably less popular than the word “anime”, but those who are an actual otaku would know what it means. “Otaku” is a Japanese term to refer to those who have obsessive interests, particularly in Japanese culture, anime or manga (漫画), Japanese comics. Usually, this word is regarded as offensive and has a negative connotation. However, in recent years, it’s becoming a more neutral term.

3. Karaoke (カラオケ)

Who doesn’t like singing their hearts out? Karaoke (カラオケ) is not only popular in Japan but also abroad, too. Karaoke places are everywhere in Japan. You can find a karaoke box on almost every street, fully equipped with state-of-the-art karaoke systems, comfy sofas and an extensive food and drinks menu. 

Karaoke in Japan might be different from karaoke elsewhere, but it’s a word popularly used to refer to any type of singing openly or with a group of friends. 

4. Ramen (ラーメン)

It would be unbelievable if this word isn’t on the list. Ramen (ラーメン) is undoubtedly one of the most popular Japanese words. This noodle dish has become a signature dish of Japanese cuisine around the world. Even those who’ve never been to Japan would consider ramen as one of their favourite dishes. 

5. Teriyaki (照り焼き)

Another food-related Japanese word that’s one of the most popular words is “teriyaki” (照り焼き). This word refers to the style of cooking in the Japanese cuisine where the meat is grilled or cooked glazed in soy sauce. Chicken is commonly used in this type of cooking. 

Teriyaki-style dishes are so popular worldwide. I’m convinced that some people wouldn’t even know that teriyaki is a Japanese word!

6. Sushi (寿司)

Who doesn’t like sushi (寿司)? This is also another type of Japanese cuisine. The word “sushi” has become so popular – just as popular as the actual food itself. This rice and seafood combination has stolen the hearts of many all around the world. There are even variations to the original version of the Japanese sushi – a lot can agree that the sushi in America is vastly different from the ones you get in Japan itself.

7. Sudoku (数独)

Anyone who’s into puzzles and a slow burn game would love sudoku (数独). Heck, even those who don’t like it would know about it. This puzzle game is a great way to give your brain a good workout. There are nine boxes of nine boxes in them. Each row and column has to contain numbers from one to nine. Each box also has to have one of each number. It’s not a game for the weak, and definitely if you don’t have the patience. But it’s undeniable that it’s a popular game, and so is the Japanese word.

8. Sakura (桜)

One of Japan’s most iconic look is its spring cherry blossoms known as “sakura” (桜). People all over the world travel to The Land of the Rising Sun during this season to witness the beautiful pink blooms that take over the landscapes of the country. Because cherry blossoms are so popular and closely associated with Japan, the Japanese word for it also becomes extremely popular!

9. Kawaii (かわいい)

Whether or not you watch anime, Japanese dramas or movies, you probably have heard the Japanese word for “cute”, and that is “kawaii” (かわいい). It really is a cute way to compliment your friend or girlfriend. Just the sound of the word is cute in itself. Maybe that’s the reason why this word is so popular – so many people who don’t even know Japanese know the meaning of this word!

10. Mottainai (もったいない)

Last but not least, one of the most popular Japanese words is “mottainai” (もったいない). This is an adjective that has the meaning of “wasteful”. This word also has a different meaning, to mean “reduce, reuse, recycle”. I guess, in general, this word can be used to describe anything that could go to waste, so why not practice the three R’s? It’s used among a lot of gaijins (外人) to talk about giving away their furniture when they move out – talking from personal experience. 

Which is the most popular Japanese word for you?

There are actually a long list of Japanese words that are popular. I might argue that more than half of them are food-related, but who could argue against Japanese food being amazing? Anyway, the Japanese language has countless words that are underrated in meaning and popularity – what Japanese word do you think should get more attention? And what Japanese word is the most popular, in your opinion? 

10 super cool Japanese slang words you need to know!

10 super cool Japanese slang words you need to know!

Regardless of what level of proficiency you’re at in Japanese, there is just some stuff that they won’t teach you in textbooks. In any language, people use slang words. Most of the time, they’re the younger crowd. But slang words are what make your conversational skills more natural.

We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 cool Japanese words that the kids are saying today. By the end of the article, you’ll be chatting like one of the cool kids!

1. Osu! (おっす!)

The first of the list of Japanese words is osu (おっす). This is used as a greeting among friends. Back in the day, this type of greeting was a military greeting. It was considered very formal. Nowadays, it’s as casual as it can get. So don’t go greeting your bosses with this!

Osu is used in the same way we use “what’s up?” in English. I’ve heard a lot of my friends using it, but it’s mostly guys that say this to each other. It’s definitely fine if a girl says it, but it does have a more masculine ring to it.

2. Chō (超)

This next Japanese word is pretty common. Chō (超) is translated to “super” or “very”. Instead of using “totemo” (とても), you can use this Japanese word in its place. For example, if you want to say something is very fast, you can say it as “chō hayai” (超早い).

It’s said that it’s more commonly used in Eastern Japan, but I hear it all the time. I even use it myself. Japanese people use it on a daily basis. Alternatively, you can use the Japanese word “meccha” (めっちゃ), which has similar meanings.

3. Hanpa nai (半端ない)

“Hanpa nai” (半端ない) is commonly used among the youngsters. The word “hanpa” has the meaning of something that is incomplete, but when you say it in this phrase, it’s used when describing something is insane, figuratively speaking.

It’s not to talk about someone that’s insane in the head, but for situations. Hanpa nai can be use for good and bad. If it’s raining so heavily and you’re thinking, “the rain is insane!” then you can say it as “ame hanpa nai!” (半端ない)

4. Maji (まじ)

This next Japanese word is one that I like to use often: maji (まじ). This word can have a few different meanings. The first one is when you’re exclaiming like “are you serious?”. You can say that as “maji de?” (まじで?)

The other meaning to it is the same meaning as chō , which means “very”. So if you want to say something is so insane, you can say it as “maji de hanpa nai” (まじで半端ない). 

5. Gachi (ガチ)

One Japanese word that kids nowadays like to use is “gachi” (ガチ). This word translates to “seriously”. It’s kind of similar to “maji” in that sense. However, “maji” can be used on its own but “gachi” can’t. It has to be attached to something.

For example, if you want to say that something is seriously funny, you can say it as “gachi de omoshiroi” (ガチで面白い). Impress your Japanese friends by saying that sentence next time!

6. Ukeru (ウケる)

“Ukeru” (ウケる) literally translates to “to take”, but the kids these days have been using it as a slang. It’s used as a reaction to something that’s funny. Although it’s classified as a verb, it can be used as a verb as well as an interjection.

If your friend said something so hilarious, you can laugh at him and then add “ウケる” at the end. It’s like saying “haha, you’re hilarious!”

7. Bimyō (微妙)

Our next Japanese word doesn’t have a direct translation to English. “Bimyō” (微妙) can be translated to as “questionable” or “doubtful”, but the kids today are using it as slang for something that’s neither good nor bad. Most of the time, it’s closer to being bad than google

Say you’re trying on some clothes and asking your friend what she thinks about it. If she responses with “bimyō”, it means she doesn’t really think it’s that great…but not super bad either. 

8. Dasai (ダサい)

You might have heard of this one in anime or Japanese drama. They do use this word in real life, too! “Dasai” (ダサい) can refer to both looks and action, and it’s a way of expressing that someone or something is ugly. 

If someone is doing something bad or inconsiderate, you can respond to their action with “dasai”. Similarly, if you see someone on the street wearing rugged clothing and it looks awful, you can say that it’s “dasai”.

9. Uzai (うざい)

If you’re feeling a bit annoyed by something or someone, use this word: uzai (うざい). Say you’re pointing to a person and wants to say that they’re annoying, you can say it this way: “ano hito, uzai!” (あの人、うざい).

Another way of saying something or someone is annoying is by using the word “mukatsuku” (ムカつく). The word has more of a meaning of “irritating”. This one can be used in a sentence or on its own, too. 

10. Yabai (やばい)

Last but not least, the Japanese word you should have at the top of your Japanese vocabulary list is “yabai” (やばい). This word translates to “terrible” or “awful”, but in slang term, it doesn’t necessarily mean bad. It can also be used to refer to positive things.

You can use “yabai” to describe just about anything, good or bad, person or thing. It’s like a reaction phrase. If you see something incredible happening in front of you, you can react with a “yabai!” If your food tastes bad, you can also describe it as “yabai”.

It’s an all-rounder word that’s used by many young people in Japan. I’ve met older Japanese people who don’t understand why the kids today are using the word in that context. But hey, we’re out here trying to sound cool.

While we only list 10 cool Japanese words, there are so many more that’s used as slang. When you’re travelling to Japan, hang out with some of the locals and listen in. You may hear a word or two that you never knew about!