All posts by Courtney

Lesson 1: Introduction & Basic Phrases

Japanese can appear to be a very complex and confusing language, especially to native European speakers. The writing systems consist of sometimes complicated symbols that can easily scare off any beginner. Don’t be afraid; it can be done! You can learn basic Japanese really quickly. All it takes is some concentration and memorization. After you get the basics down, you can focus your time on perfecting your speaking habits, learning new verb conjugations, and expanding your vocabulary. Japanese is a really fun and interesting language to learn!

People learn Japanese for many different reasons. It is a useful language to learn if you are interested in visiting Japan, teaching English in Japan, or doing business with Japanese companies. You can also enjoy new music, movies, and television with your new found language skills.

The hardest aspects of Japanese for beginning students are usually the three writing systems. The sentence structures and verb conjugations can also throw you off, especially if you are a native English speaker. Japanese sentences occur in subject – object – verb form whereas English sentences are in subject – verb – object form. Japanese can also be confusing because the language relies on particles but does not have articles like English does. Also, Japanese sentences tend to omit the subject and are usually vague. English, on the other hand, typically includes a subject in its sentence structures and is a more specific language.

Japanese has three writing systems—hiragana, katakana, and kanji. Each of these writing systems can be transliterated into Roman alphabet characters. This technique helps new learners understand how a Japanese symbol should be read. Speakers of European languages tend to match a symbol with the Roman characters it sounds like, and this helps them to remember how to pronounce the symbol. This type of writing is called romaji or the Romanization of a text.

As a beginner, you should concentrate on learning hiragana first, then katakana, and finally kanji. Many Japanese lessons designed for beginners will show Japanese words in hiragana and katakana along with their transcribed romaji as a learning aid.

The list below contains useful words and phrases to get you started with Japanese. They are written first in English, then in hiragana, and finally in romaji.

Hello/Good afternoon.                        こんにちは                            konnichiwa

Hello (when answering a phone).       もしもし                                moshi moshi

Good morning.                                    おはようございます            ohayou gozaimasu

Good night.                                         おやすみなさい                    oyasumi nasai

See you later.                                      じゃまた                                jya mata

See you.                                               じゃね                                    jya ne

Goodbye.                                             さようなら                            sayounara

Please.                                                 おねがい                                onegai

Thank you.                                           ありがとうございます        arigatou gozaimasu

Excuse me.                                          すみません                            sumimasen

Nice to meet you.                               はじめまして                        hajimemashite

I am ____.                                           わたしは___です。        Watashi wa ___ desu.

How are you?                                      おげんきですか。                Ogenki desu ka?

I am fine/well.                                    わたしはげんきです。        Watashi wa genki desu.

What time is it?                                  なんじですか。                    Nanji desu ka?

What                                                   なん/なに                               Nan/nani

Why                                                     なんで/どうして                   nande/doushite

Where                                                 どこ                                        doko

When                                                   いつ                                        itsu

Who                                                     だれ                                        dare