Wednesday, June 5, 2013

10 essential phrases to help you get around Japan

I spent four months listening to Japanese language podcasts, reading Japanese phrase books, skimming Japanese textbooks and even creating Japanese flash cards to burn words into my head. In the end, I was able to get by using very, very few words.
  • Sumimasen (sue-me ma-sen) / "Excuse me" - Used dozens of times every day. Works when you bump into someone, when you're trying to get around someone blocking the elevator, or when you need to signal a waiter. 
  • Konichi wa (Cone-itchy Wa) / "Hello", but more accurately "Good afternoon" - For extra credit you can say "Ohio Goze-zai-mas" / Good morning, or "Kombah wa / Good evening
  • Arigoto (Arr-ee-got-toe) / "thank you" - used constantly. 
  • Toyde wa doku deska (Toy-de wah dough-ku desk-ka) / "Where is the bathroom?"
  • .... Doku deska? / "Where is it?" - Used after the word you're looking for, like "Tokyo station wa doku deska?" This followed by a point to a map is often enough to get you there. 
  • Mizu (Mee-zu) / Water- many restaurants won't give you water unless you ask, and often even if they do it's literally the size of a Dixie cup. They must be the most dehydrated people on earth
  • Kudasai (Kuda sigh) / "Please" - You put this at the end of a sentence. So if you wanted to say water please you'd say "Mizu, kudasai. "
  • wakarismasen (Wa-car-ee-ma-sen) / "I don't understand" - Normally they'll be able to tell by the clueless look on your face, but it's still good to know
  • Eigo ga hanesemaska (Eggo ga ha-nah-she-mas-ka) / "Do you speak English?" - I used this ISPs the beginning a lot when I had more energy, but later on I was able to get by without it. still a nice way to impress. 
  • Making an X with your hands / Check please - no need to learn the words. This way is faster and can be done from the other side of the room. Also, they will often not bring you your check until you ask 
Pointing and gestures can help a lot, and some people (although definitely not all) know some English. Generally, the farther you get from Tokyo the worse people's English is. People in your hotel will know serviceable English (they are usually fluent in Tokyo), but taxi drivers and restaurant staff often know very little.

No comments: