Okay, so you want to learn some Japanese to be able to enjoy your trip to the full extent? Whilst mastering the language takes a lot of time, you can actually pick up a lot of the basics that you will need whilst in Japan quite easily! Many people don’t know where to start when learning a new language, and it can be a daunting task starting from absolutely nothing, to go to trying to ask native speakers questions. This article is designed to give you three fundamental tips for learning basic Japanese you will use whilst in the country.
Tip 1. Learning culture and tourist related phrases
Japan is rich in culture and has many phrases that are said at particular times throughout the day. As a foreigner, you probably won’t do any harm if you don’t know them, but it is always good to be polite – and you’ll probably even impress the locals.
In Japan, there are phrases for when you begin to eat your meal, when you finish your meal, when you enter and leave someone a house, and many more others too.
It goes without saying that you should pick up phrases such as ‘thank you’, ‘please’ and ‘excuse me’ that you will use every day. Here is a short list of some of the most important phrases, but there are many others too!
arigatou gozaimasu ありがとうございます Thank you
~kudasai ください Please ~
sumimasen すみません Excuse me
Itadakimasu いただきます (said before eating a meal)
Gochisousama deshita ごちそうさま でした (Said after you’ve finished your meal)
Ojamashimasu おじゃまします Excuse me for intruding (into your house)
Tip 2. Learn Hiragana and practice them
Hiragana, as well as katakana are the alphabets of Japanese. There are about 46 symbols that each that match a different sound to create an alphabet. If you haven’t started studying them yet, hiragana are the Japanese characters you just saw in Tip 1.
With the help of flashcards and mnemonics, these alphabets can actually be learnt very quickly. Learning these will give you several benefits. Firstly, you’ll feel like you’re really involved the language. If you practice reading the alphabet, it will also improve your pronunciation too. It is also a really good idea to learn some basic nouns whilst you practice your hiragana and katakana.
For example, on one side of a small piece card or paper, you could write “ホテル” and on the other side, you would write “hotel [ho-te-ru]”. After you have lots of cards, you can go through practicing your reading and checking the meaning written on the opposite side of the card. Lists of common words can be found all over the web. You can also use Google Translate or an online dictionary to find words directly related to you.
Tip 3. Learn the basics of grammar
Without the fundamental parts of language, you will have trouble to say or understand almost anything. So pick up a book, read some articles, watch videos – anything to get some of the core grammar planted into your memory.
Some of the very basics of Japanese grammar is the usage of the copula ‘desu’, which loosely means ‘is’ or ‘am’ and is placed on the end of a sentence after a noun.
Particles such as ‘wa, wo, ni, he, ga’ help to link words together and have meanings like ‘is’ ‘to’ ‘go’ and ‘at’.
Learning the conjugations of verbs will allow you to say things like ‘want to’ (verb-tai), ‘let’s do that’ (verb-masho), ‘please do this’ (Verb-tekudasai). These will come in very handy on your trip. Here are a few examples:
Tabemashouka (たべましょうか) – Shall we eat?
Ginkou ni ikitai (ぎんこう に いきたい) – I want to go to a/the bank
Soko ni mitekudasai (そこ に みてください) – Please look there
So, these are some of the basic tips I suggest to people planning to go to Japan who want to pick up a little bit of the language for their trip. Even if you don’t have much time, as long as you can find 10 minutes a day, you can get a lot of the essentials. Japan is a very safe country, and you will find people to be very helpful. So as long as you prepare your journey, you’ll be able to enjoy an amazing trip throughout the unique and culture-rich Japan.