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How to say Hello: Tips for starting a conversation in Japanese

How to say Hello: Tips for starting a conversation in Japanese

Konnichiwa-2When you start learning a new language one of the very first things you’ll want to learn is how to say “hello”! You may have learned that こんにちは (konnichiwa) is Japanese for hello and it’s definitely one of the best ways you can say hi and start a conversation in Japanese. But there’s more to know than just konnnichiwa! From good morning and good night to saying hello on the telephone, here’s the most basic ways of saying “hello” you need to know in Japanese to get a conversation started!

The Most Basic Hello: Konnichiwa こんにちは

There’s a reason “konnichiwa” is one of the first words most people learning Japanese are taught! Konnichiwa is the most basic way of saying “hello” and it also doubles for “good afternoon”. It is a greeting used during the day time and you can use it with friends, family, coworkers, classmates, teachers, or even total strangers! Konnichiwa is a natural way of saying hello anytime during the day to anyone you meet regardless of your relationship and their social status.

There are no strict rules for when is the appropriate “day time” for konnichiwa, but I would say it is most appropriate roughly between 11:00 AM and 6:00 PM. Before 11:00 AM “ohayou gozaimasu” おはようございます is a more appropriate greeting. Ohayou gozaimasu (or Ohayou) translates to “good morning”. Similarly, after 6:00 PM “konbanwa” こんばんは which means “good evening” is the most natural way of saying hello.

Ohayou gozaimasu, konnichiwa, konbanwa. When meeting someone in person or starting to chat with someone online, these greetings are a great way of breaking the ice and getting the conversation started. You can use them over and over again, so every time you meet or come back online you can use these as your greeting! If you mess up and use the wrong greeting at the wrong time, don’t worry! Japanese people will still understand you’re trying to say hello, even if you use the wrong greeting. Plus when chatting with Japanese friends on HelloTalk or other online services, there might be a big time difference between your location and theirs, so don’t worry about the details of what time of day it is too much!

Tip: You may see “konnichiwa”, “ohayou gozaimasu”, or “konbanwa” written in kanji(今日は、お早うございます、今晩は)in some dictionaries and textbooks. This is not incorrect, but it is more natural to write these greetings in hiragana only(こんにちは、おはようございます、こんばんは). So when chatting in HelloTalk to a Japanese speaking friend don’t worry about the kanji for these greetings!

Meeting for the First Time: Hajimemashite 初めまして

When meeting someone for the first time in person or online, hajimemashite 初めまして is another great phrase to remember! Hajimemashite roughly means “this is the first time we’ve met” and there is no exact word for it in English. But it is often translated as “nice to meet you” and is used in a similar way. Hajimemashite may be a bit challenging to remember at first but try saying it every time you meet someone new and you’re sure to get it down quickly! Although it doesn’t directly mean “hello”, this is the perfect way of striking up a conversation with someone new.

When meeting someone for the first time you can just say “Hajimemashite”, but adding a bit of a self introduction makes it sound even more natural. “Hajimemashite, watashi no namae wa ___ desu” is a simple and straightforward way of saying hello for the first time and letting the other person know your name. If you’re chatting online they may already know your name based on your username though, and it’s okay just to say “hajimemashite” too!

Tip: Hajimemashite can be written 初めまして or はじめまして, with or without kanji! Use 初めまして with kanji if you can, but if you forget the kanji don’t be afraid to just use hiragana. That’s fine too!

Hello on the Phone: Moshimoshi もしもし

Have you ever heard “moshimoshi” before? If you like watching Japanese anime or TV shows you might have heard this phrase when a character answers the phone. “Moshi moshi” is how Japanese say hello on the telephone and you can also use it when voice chatting or talking on Skype, LINE or other similar voice only services. When video chatting I think “konnichiwa” would make more sense though, since you can see each other!

You can also use “moshi moshi” when on the phone if the call seems to be dropping or you can’t hear the person on the other line. Ask “Moshi moshi, kikoemasu ka?” (Hello, can you hear me?) to make sure your call is still connected!

Tip: Sometimes Japanese language learners mistake “moshi moshi” for “mushi mushi” but watch out! “Mushi” means bug! But don’t worry too much, if you pick up the phone and accidentally say “mushi mushi” most Japanese people will still understand what you were trying to say.

Konnichiwa-1Sample Conversations

Here’s some sample conversations for you to practice your Japanese reading skills with! See how the above phrases are used in real life and try reading the conversations aloud or rewriting them for extra practice.

Saying “hello” and meeting someone in real life

In Japanese
You: こんにちは!
Your Friend: こんにちは!あ、これは同僚の佐藤さんです。(turns to introduce their coworker)
Your Friend’s Coworker: こんにちは、初めまして。佐藤タクミと申します。
You: はじめまして、私の名前はボブです。
Your Friend’s Coworker: ボブさんですね!よろしくお願いします。
You: よろしくお願いします。

In Romaji
You: Konnichiwa!
Your Friend: Konnichiwa! Aa, kore wa douryou no Satou-san desu! (turns to introduce their coworker)
Your Friend’s Coworker: Konnichiwa, hajimemashite. Satou Takumi to moushimasu.
You: Hajimemashite, watashi no namae wa Bobu desu.
Your Friend’s Coworker: Bobu-san desu ne! Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
You: Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.

Translation
You: Hello!
Your Friend: Hello! Ah, let me introduce my coworker Mr. Satou! (turns to introduce their coworker)
Your Friend’s Coworker: Hello, nice to meet you. My name is Takumi Satou.
You: Nice to meet you, my name is Bob.
Your Friend’s Coworker: Bob! Great to meet you, I hope we can be friends.
You: Same, nice to meet you.

Saying Hello on HelloTalk or other online chat services

In Japanese
You: こんばんは
Chat Partner: こんばんは(^^)
You: 初めまして、私の名前はサラです。
Chat Partner: 私の名前はサユリです。よろしくお願いします!
You: よろしくお願いします!
Chat Partner: サラちゃんは可愛い名前ですね〜

In Romaji
You: Konbanwa
Chat Partner: Konbanwa (^^)
You: Hajimemashite, watashi no namae wa Sara desu.
Chat Partner: Watashi no namae wa Sayuri desu. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu!
You: Yoroshiku onegaishimasu!
Chat Partner: Sara-chan wa kawaii namae desu ne~

Translation
You: Good evening.
Chat Partner: Good evening (^^)
You: My name is Sarah, nice to meet you.
Chat Partner: My name is Sayuri, nice to meet you too!
You: I hope we can be friends!
Chat Partner: Sarah is such a cute name!

On the phone

In Japanese
You: もしもし?
Other Person: こんにちは!鈴木です。
You: 鈴木さん!こんにちは。お元気ですか?
Other Person: …
You: もしもし?鈴木さん?聞こえますか?
Other Person: …あ、すみません!今は聞こえます!

In Romaji
You: Moshi moshi?
Other Person: Konnichiwa. Suzuki desu.
You: Suzuki-san! Konnichiwa. Ogenki desu ka?
Other Person: …
You: Moshi moshi? Suzuki-san? Kikoemasuka?
Other Person: …a, sumimasen. Ima wa kikoemasu!

Translation
You: Hello? (on the phone)
Other Person: Hello! This is Mr. Suzuki.
You: Mr. Suzuki, hello! How are you?
Other Person: …
You: Hello? Mr. Suzuki? Can you hear me?
Other Person: …oh, sorry about that! I can hear you now!

In Conclusion

Ohayou gozaimasu, konnnichiwa, konbanwa, hajimemashite, moshimoshi… there are many ways to say hello and start a conversation in Japanese, but with these basics you’re sure to be chatting in no time! Next time you meet someone new or start a new chat in Japanese, don’t be afraid to try using some of these phrases and remember practice makes perfect! がんばってください! Good luck with your Japanese studies!

This post was contributed by our HelloTalk member Laura. Laura has been studying Japanese for over 11 years and she loves to travel, try new foods, and practice Japanese calligraphy. Laura currently works for a Japanese app company based in Tokyo. Their latest app Festar (http://festar.jp/en/) is a real time dating and chat app that matches online users based on their hobbies for a live 10 minute chat. Festar is currently available for free in English, Japanese, and Korean.

Tips for a Successful Language Exchange

Tips for a Successful Language Exchange

This post is contributed by HelloTalk member Geoff (ID: Geofftalkstoyou666666). He is an avid language enthusiast who enjoys lifting weights and fueling workouts with all kinds of delicious foods. He lives in Shenzhen, China and loves seeing new places and meeting new people from all over the world.


Starting a language exchange can be one of the best ways to meet native speakers of the language you are studying, as well as being a great way to make friends in the city you live in! Here are some ideas to ensure that your language exchange is successful for everyone involved.

Finding people

In the modern world social media is probably the fastest and easiest way to get the word out about a language meetup, but don’t discount the value of face to face contact as well. Friends, family and coworkers can all be invaluable in finding those that want to take part.  A social media group open to anyone who has come to an event can help keep people interested and connected to everyone else in the group.

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Choosing a Location

The best locations are usually relatively quiet restaurants or coffee shops in a centrally located area. Most people can find some drink they like at a coffeeshop, and everyone needs to eat!

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Bars often make people that don’t drink uncomfortable, and can sometimes be loud. Most libraries have restrictions on the amount of noise you can make which can make exchanging languages difficult. A group members home is too private. Outdoor activities like hiking can make conversation secondary, limiting the amount of time everyone can learn.

Choosing a Time

Most people work during the day so in the evenings or on the weekends are the only feasible times to hold any language exchange event. Usually between 2 and 3 hours is ideal—under two hours and it is difficult to get to know many people, but more than 3 hours conversation can stagnate. If you are the organizer of the event, be punctual but let others know that they can arrive a bit later if they want to-often newcomers will be too shy to be the first one there.

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Topics of Conversation

At least at first, just letting everyone get to know each other naturally is the best thing to do. Having structured introductions, conversations or games can be a nice change of pace, but it’s best to save those activities for when conversations stall or everyone seems to be at a loss for words. This can happen when learning a second language.  A list of simple games and topics of conversation can be really useful if you don’t know what to talk about.

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Partners vs. Teachers

Remember that a conversation partner isn’t your teacher. It isn’t appropriate to ask them to provide study materials, textbooks, vocab lists or explain complicated grammar rules.

Embracing Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes when learning a new language—if you say something wrong and people laugh, they are never laughing at you, they are laughing at the situation. Always encourage others and let them know that learning a language is hard and will take time.

Split Time Equally

Many language learners might only want to speak their mother language at first. You don’t have to say everything in both languages, but try to encourage everyone to speak a bit of both their target and mother tongues. Ideally everyone will split time equally between their mother tongue and the language they are learning.

Expect the Unexpected

When my friend Sam first suggested that we start a language exchange activity, I was a bit hesitant. I had always studied Chinese on my own using flashcards, watching the news, looking up words in Google Translate or other equally nerdy studying methods. The few conversations I’d had were usually very brief and one on one. But my Chinese had plateaued, so I decided to give it a shot.

The first time we tried to hold a meeting, it didn’t go exactly as planned. Not for lack of effort, or advertising or preparation. We marked the date of the first meeting more than a week in advance. We had used HelloTalk to get more than 8 people interested in coming. We discussed possible topics of conversation. We chose a central, well known location in Shenzhen, the city we live in.

Then something happened completely out of our control—a typhoon.

Photo: SCMP Pictures
Photo: SCMP Pictures

The night of the language exchange, mother nature certainly conspired against us. Winds gusted up to 70km/hr accompanied by pouring rain. The entire hallway outside my apartment flooded. Several trees nearby got the leaves ripped entirely off of them. The city issued a typhoon warning and cautioned people only to venture outside if completely necessary. Understandably, most of the people who had signed up for the language exchange canceled. Sam and I were unsure of whether to cancel the entire event when a couple people said they were already at the venue and were wondering if we were coming. So we decided that even if it was a small group, we’d go for it!

Including my friend Sam and I, it was only 5 of us total that first, rainy night, but the next week it was 7, then 10, and it’s grown over the past few weeks up to 25 people taking part.  It hasn’t always been easy. Occasionally  newcomers get lost and we have to communicate over the phone and guide them where to go—not always easy in a second language! Sometimes conversations naturally stall and everyone is at a loss for words. Often no one knows how to translate a particular saying from Chinese to English or vice versa, and we are all left scratching our heads and checking our phone dictionaries for the best translations.

But being able to use the language naturally with native speakers face to face is incomparable to the methods I used to study Chinese before. Flashcards, test prep books, watching the news, listening to the radio, writing essays, practicing characters all have their place, and I still do all of them. All were highly effective for building my basic listening skills and vocabulary, but at some point it’s necessary to get out onto the battlefield and use the language the way it was intended to be used—with native speakers.

When You Don’t Have Time to Study, Stop Studying

When You Don’t Have Time to Study, Stop Studying

It’s always a wonderful thing when you find time in your day to do all the things you want to do. Unfortunately, so many people today are completely overwhelmed with things in their life that they always seem to run out of time. We always tell ourselves that we will dedicate an hour, two hours, 30 minutes, etc., everyday to studying a language, but do you find yourself struggling to meet those amounts from time to time? Do you miss that quota everyday? If so, let’s take a look at ways you can be more effective in your language learning by not “studying” as much in the sense that we typically think.

 

Do What’s Important to You

First off, what is it you really want from a new language? Do you want to be able to read literature pieces in their original forms, watch foreign movies, or expand the number of people with whom you can speak? Each one of these requires different skills within language learning. When you are pressed for time, only spend time improving what you intend to do with the language. If your primary goal is to be able to read then being able to speak is something that you might not focus your time on. In contrast, will you see a benefit in your speaking if you delegate time to reading? To effectively use the time you have, it is best to use as much of it for your primary language learning goal. You get out what you put in, so if you put in the time for your main goal, you’ll find those same results.

 

Talk to Yourself

This is by far my favorite one. There are 24 hours in a day and we all spend some of that time by ourselves. Why not take that time to practice? I talk to myself everyday in a foreign language about what I am doing or what I have done. This not only helps me feel comfortable speaking, forming sentences, and thinking on my feet, but it also helps to make myself aware of words or phrases that I don’t know and I need to use. If you spend a lot of time at the gym, but you can’t say it, that may be a word that is important for you to know how to say. This is also a fun way to pretend to have a conversation and will help you prepare what types of questions may be asked and what to listen for regarding those questions. If you are talking about going to have coffee with a friend and you ask yourself, “Was it a quiet cafe?” you will have to know how to ask that and in turn know what to listen for when that same question is asked in a real conversation. Doing both sides of the conversation can really help expose areas that you need to improve within your language learning. You can also turn this into a challenge by talking about various topics and seeing how long you can carry on a monologue. I like to ask somebody when I leave a social setting, “What topic should I talk about?” and then carry on a speech about it when I’m alone. It keeps it fresh since somebody else came up with the topic but you still have to use the words you know.

 

This is also a wonderful time to exaggerate your speech patterns. Nobody sounds like a native when we start. Every foreign language sounds a bit odd; if it didn’t we wouldn’t consider it foreign. These different noises and shapes we have to make to produce this language can seem uncomfortable and awkward. Being alone can give you a great time to really exaggerate how to generate this new language. Nobody else can hear you, it’s totally fine. When it does come time to practice in front of people, subconsciously you will dial it back but these sounds will feel less strange and more comfortable to both hear and create.

 

Translate Conversations

Maybe you don’t have as much alone time as me. Maybe you are surrounded by people from dawn till dusk. This is an even better way to utilize the conversations you have around you! I like to play a game where I see how well I can translate conversations I’m engaged in WHILE I am in them. Somebody may ask a question and then you task yourself with translating it (probably best to keep it in your head as to not confuse them) prior to responding. If there is more than two people in the conversation you can challenge yourself by translating everything that is said before somebody can respond to it. Not only does this allow you to again push your vocabulary and grammar, but also helps to see the direction of conversations to help you anticipate what will be said next. Especially as you begin a language this can really help in realizing the direction of conversation and vocabulary that you can focus on.

 

Environment

More than anything, when we set down a time and place for studying we break ourselves away from our everyday life. We associate using our language in only one location. If you can only recall a language when you are sitting at your desk, how will that affect your ability to recall when you are in an outside environment? Will you be able to remember everything or will you be searching for your notebook that isn’t sitting next to you? The more you are able to break away from the “studying environment” the more comfortable you will be in actually using a language in a natural state. Sure, the first time you try to talk to somebody on a ski slope will be confusing, but there also is a rush as you recognize the accomplishments of at least having SOME interaction that you didn’t have in front of a computer screen. As you walk through the grocery store can you say types of food you are purchasing? Try recapping what you did today as you do your household chores at the end of the day. Allowing yourself to use the language while you go about your day will help to associate the language as something you use during your day.

 

All of these practices have helped me to make speaking another language be more of a natural part of my day instead of a separate part of what I do each day. When we force ourselves to only think of “studying” the language we forget the purpose of learning the language in the first place: to “use” the language. This was never more evident than when I was driving at night during a rainstorm yet carrying on a conversation in a foreign language. The conditions on the road were subpar so I was able to focus on my driving and still be aware of the dialogue I was having at the same time. Sure it might not have been a graceful conversation but it was a conversation nonetheless. Pushing yourself out of the study environment can really help move you outside of just “studying” and starting to “live” in a language.


This post is contributed by Alex. Alex is a Mechanical Engineer living in the Washington, DC area who became passionate about learning other languages and cultures. He enjoys making people laugh, embracing every day, and doing what intrigues him at the time. He currently is learning Mandarin Chinese and Arabic but counted 13 different languages he can say at least one word with. In the future, he hopes to polish up his Spanish and next pursue American Sign Language before moving on to a few European languages.
Alex’s blog, “What Did You Just Say?”, follows his journey through the struggles of learning a new language (Arabic) from day one. He hopes that other people will be encouraged by seeing the mistakes he makes to allow themselves to be more comfortable about pushing themselves to learn a new language and share the struggle. The blog breaks down some of the tips that Alex was able to learn and use as he was able to get to a conversational level of Mandarin Chinese in a short time.