Survival Japanese: A traveler's guide!

Over 130 million people speak Japanese... and we are not among that number. 

But we all want to go to Japan, don't we?  

Travelling is a very enriching experience, especially when you travel to a place as different as the Land of the Rising Sun. But with so many differences in our languages, and bearing in mind that not all Japanese people want or can speak English, we have to adapt ourselves, and gladly, to their language.

So here are 14 useful phrases ( and some extras :O ) for the survival of everyday life in our journey to this wonderful country. I will try to use lesser known sentences, since "Itadakimasu", "Kore ikura desu ka" and "Konnichiwa" are everywhere to be found :)

If you also are a vegetarian, you will find many useful phrases for your vegetarian struggle in Japan in my article Vegetarian in Japan: Impossible Mission.

So, Ikimasu ( Let's go ) ! 

Taking pictures & asking for help

  1. Can I take pictures?  - Sashin wo totte mo iidesu ka?
  2.  Can I take a picture of you? - Anata no sashin wo totte mo iidesu ka? 
  3. Can we take a picture together? - Issho ni sashin ni haitte kudasai
  4. Will you take a photo of me?  - Shashin o totte itadakemasuka?
  5.  Can you help me? - Tetsudatte itadakemasu ka?  

Language barrier & useful sentences

  1. Do you speak English? - Anata wa eigo o hanashimasu ka?  
  2. Speak slowly, please  - Yukkuri hanashite kudasai 
  3. Repeat, please  - Moo ichido onegai shimasu 
  4. I don't speak Japanese very well  - Nihongo wa amari joozu ja arimasen
  5. Sorry, I don't understand - Sumimasen, demo, wakaranai 
  6. Is it okay if I speak english? - Eigo de hanashite ii desu ka?  
  7. Sorry, where is the subway?  - Sumimasen, Chikatetsu wa doko desu ka?  
  8. Where is the train station?  - Eki wa doko desu ka?  
  9. How much does the ticket cost? - Chiketto wa ikura desu ka? 

And here are some tips for you if you want to sound like a pro! You can add the following expressions to your conversation and you will find enthusiasm in every Japanese person's words and faces :)
  1. Say Hai ( Yes ) a lot and nod when you are listening to someone. Even if you think you crossed the hai-nod line too much, you have not, this is a very common and polite way to go!
  2. Honto? / Honto desu ka? / Honto ni? - More like "Hontoooo?", this means "Really?" and can be used literally always
  3. Sokka - This is something like "I see". 
  4. So desu ne - Roughly translated to "Exactly" or "Aha", more like "So desu neeeee"
  5. Naru hodo - Means something like "Oh" or "Makes sense"
  6. Yatta - "I made it", "Yay", "Hurray", something you would scream when you arrive at the top of the Fushimi Inari Taisa!
  7. Yappari - This is something like "I knew it!" or "I thought so"
  8. Tanoshii - "Fun" or "funny". You can just say this if you find something to be funny. Just like that.
  9. Omoshiroi - More like above, you can use this on its own and means "Interesting". Try to mumble it through your museum-visits.
  10. Wakarimasu - "Got it". If someone tells you the direction to a store and you understood, energetically say "Wakarimasu!"
  11. Sugoi - "Awesome!"
  12. Ano... / Eto... - More like "Anooooo" or "Etooooo", it is a space-filler for when you are thinking what to say next: "Etooo... Wakarimasu!"


SUGOI! Now you know this much!

Enjoy your trip to Japan and don't let language be a barrier :) Please leave a like and a comment if you liked my work and until the next time :D

For more useful sentences, visit my Vegetarian in Japan: Impossible Mission? article.
If you want to know how to communicate with Geisha and learn about their world, visit my Geika & Maiko and my Gokagai article.
And if you wish to know how much money you are going to spend in your trip, find out what is cheap and what is expensive in there! 

Sara López