NILS Fukuoka Times

Today's Phrase

Essential Japanese Phrases Every Study-Abroad Student Needs To Learn ― General Conversation


It’s Finally Time To Move To Japan!

161215You have your luggage checked in, and you bid farewell to your family and friends. Now, in the airport terminal, you are waiting for departure and are all set to leave your country. You are looking forward to starting a new life in the Land of the Rising Sun – Japan.

“But I’ve Never Studied Japanese In School Before…”

However, you realised that you knew nothing about the Japanese language. Well maybe you do know some greetings, and some one-word answers such as 「はい」 and 「いいえ」which is undoubtedly insufficient to start life in Japan. You browsed through your Japanese phrasebook which is as thick as your PS4 console and questioned yourself, “Out of all these phrases, which ones is the most commonly used in Japan?”

It is true that English is hardly ever used throughout Japan. Even in restaurants, hotels, train stations, etc. Nowadays, though, they are putting in a lot of effort to accommodate the increasing number of English-speakers travelling or living in Japan (for study abroad or work). Nonetheless, it is still best to try and speak some Japanese since you are already in Japan, right?

You Came Here To Learn Japanese. So Why Not Use It?

For that reason, I have compiled a list of essential phrases which you are most likely going to use or hear during your stay in Japan. This list is aimed to help those who have little or no knowledge of basic Japanese conversation. The list will be divided into several categories such as “Dining Out” and “Directions” so that it will be easier for you to know when to use.

Since there will be quite a substantial amount of information to absorb, each category will be posted individually in consecutive weeks. To start things off, I will begin with “General Conversation”.

General Conversation

Yes, I understand はい、わかりました
No, I don’t understand いいえ、わかりません
Thank you (very much) (本当(ほんとう)に)ありがとうございます
You’re welcome どういたしまして
No, thank you いいえ、けっこうです
No, it’s okay いいです
Sorry (Apology) ごめんなさい
Sorry (Excuse me) すみません
I’m a study-abroad student 留学生(りゅうがくせい)です
I’ve been living in Japan for __ years 日本(にほん)に住(す)むことはもう_年間(ねんかん)です
I’m planning to enter university in Japan 日本(にほん)で大学(だいがく)に入(はい)るつもりです
I’m planning to work in Japan 日本(にほん)で働(はたら)く予定(よてい)です
I’m learning Japanese in a Japanese language school 日本語語学学校(にほんごごがくがっこう)で日本語(にほんご)を勉強(べんきょう)しています

Common Misunderstandings In The Japanese Language

In general conversation, without a doubt, there are a whole lot of words or phrases which are commonly used. But then again, these are the most common ones - something which you will say or hear all the time. Some words, even though common, are misused by many tourists and even international students learning Japanese. For example, there are two different words for “sorry” in Japanese. 「ごめんなさい」 is only used when making an apology and is not to be used when you are trying to say “excuse me”. 「すみません」 however, can be used for both situations. In fact, you will usually hear locals say 「すみません」more often than「ごめんなさい」 since the former is more polite.

Another common misuse is 「いいです」which means “good”. But, it is also often used when turning down an offer. When I was still a beginner in the Japanese language, I tend to misuse it a lot and just couldn’t understand what went wrong. For example, when I was checking out my items in a supermarket, they asked if I need a plastic bag. At that point of time, I didn’t have any, so I said 「いいです 」, which I thought was supposed to mean that I’m accepting the offer. It turned out to be the exact opposite. Embarrassed and confused, I have no choice but to put some of the groceries into my backpack and hand-carried an egg carton and a huge pack of cereal back home.

“Are You A Study-Abroad Student?”

「留学生(りゅうがくせい)です」and「日本語語学学校(にほんごごがくがっこう)で日本語(にほんご)を勉強(べんきょう)しています」are also common answers you will give to locals. Normally, when locals find out that you can speak Japanese, they will be curious and may ask「学生(がくせい)さんですか」 or「留学生(りゅうがくせい)ですか」, which means “Are you a student?” and “Are you a study-abroad student” respectively. Most of them cannot speak English, so this is their perfect chance to engage in conversations with Japanese-speaking foreigners. Since you can speak Japanese, beginner or advanced level, locals will be more than glad to ask students like you on why you want to study or live in Japan.


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