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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.

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~

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!

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 ( 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.

Learning Japanese through audio (… and some tips on what to avoid)

Learning Japanese through audio (… and some tips on what to avoid)

This post is contributed by Matt. He has a blog which has a mixture of Japanese related content, such as; living in Japan for a few months, Japanese events in the UK, and tips on learning Japanese.  Japan and Japanese culture have always been a huge interest to Matt, so the aim of his blog is to share his love of Japan with others, as he is keen to help other people discover how wonderful Japan and its culture are.

When learning a language there are a lot of elements to take in; grammar, vocabulary, the writing system (or systems in the case of Japanese), listening skills and pronunciation.  There are certain methods and resources that are very effective, but everyone learns differently.  In my case, for example, I tend to remember a word better if I have listened to it, rather than read it.  So in this article I would like to cover some audio resources that I have found useful, and also give a few tips on areas where I went wrong.

Anime and films

This area was an interesting one for me, in that as a child I grew up watching a lot of anime and movies in Japanese with English subtitles. At the time I wasn’t actually studying Japanese, I was just enjoying the programs.  However, after watching a few I did start to learn a few words and phrases, though some of them, such as それは秘密です (That’s a secret), are perhaps not that useful in everyday conversation.

But still, the point is just by watching anime and movies in Japanese I was picking up some words without intentionally trying to learn the language.  The other benefit that comes from this is that by hearing so much Japanese in a variety of contexts and styles you tend to pick up the pronunciation faster when you start to learn.  In Japan, a lot of native people complimented me on having a natural pronunciation of words.  I attribute this to having heard so much of the language as a child.

Of course, I am not going to say that you should try and learn Japanese solely with anime or movies, as depending on the show, they may use slang or strange terms that aren’t used in everyday Japanese.  For example, I am a big fan of Rurouni Kenshin (anime & live action), but due to the time period in which it is set, his way of talking is quite historic and not used in modern Japanese, such as replacing です with でござる. Though, I must admit, I still like it.

Audio apps

A lot of apps have the option of audio speech, which reads out a passage or selection of text,  and this is a feature certainly worth making use of.  A good example being Hello Talk.  As I am still learning kanji, when I receive a message or reply in Japanese, I will often use the play audio feature to read the message aloud, so that I can hear what the kanji is and how it is pronounced.

I have also found the NHK Easy Japanese News app (on Android and iOS) to be a great listening and learning resource.  In the app you are able to read short news segments about happenings in Japan; generally each is around three paragraphs long.  The written text is often a good way to learn new vocabulary, but also get to grips with some kanji as well.  All of the kanji has furigana above it so you can read them even if you don’t know the actual kanji.  A key feature is that you have the option to play the audio for each article, so that you can practise your listening skills, and again get an idea of how any kanji you haven’t seen before sounds.

JA Audiobook (which I believe is only on Android) is another great app for practising listening skills, as the app contains several short audio books with accompanying text to practice your reading, and all of the kanji have furigana above them.  At the end you can also take a quiz on each story to test how well you have understood them.  I am using one of the stories as a performance benchmark, I listen to it every couple of weeks to see how much more of it I understand.  Being able to understand a little more each time is quite a rewarding feeling.

Mistakes I’ve made so far

Since starting out on my path to learn Japanese I have fallen into a few pit-holes along the way that I feel are worth pointing out, in the hope it helps other people to avoid them.

App overload!

One of the first things I did when I decided to learn Japanese was grab my tablet and download as many Japanese language learning apps as I could find.  My logic being that the more things I had, the faster I would learn.  However, while it’s good to try lots of different resources to find which works best for you, it’s probably a bad idea to download them all at once.

I ended up with three full home pages of Japanese language apps…  A sight which made things look very overwhelming and confusing.  Having so many ended up being counterproductive, and focusing on just a few key ones is a much better approach.  After all, you don’t really need 10 different apps just to practice kana.

Don’t keep putting Kanji off!

I cannot stress this one enough… The sooner you can start chipping away at kanji, the better.  Initially, when I saw any kanji I would run for the hills.  But the fact is you need to learn them, and there is no point putting it off.  When I used to write messages in Japanese I would only use kana, but now I try to use the correct kanji as it makes blocks of text much easier to view, and also gets me gradually remembering more kanji.  The sooner you get familiar seeing it the better.

Sadly I haven’t found any magic trick to make kanji easy to learn, it’s just a patience game of writing them out and practicing them till I remember.  One point to note though: Don’t just look at them. Writing them out is a much more effective way to remember them.

Don’t try to rush it!

Being full of enthusiasm and with my mind fully set on returning to Japan, I figured that I would study in all of my free time, every day, and fly through learning x amount of kanji a week.  However, trying to learn so much in such a short space of time just does not work unless you have a natural ability to store information at an intense pace.  In my case, I have realised it is much better to simply take my time to make sure that I practice and remember what I have learnt.  There is no point looking at 100 kanji in a day if your brain won’t remember any of them the day after…

Avoid romaji!

This isn’t a mistake I made as I was already aware of it, but feel it’s worth mentioning to anyone who is starting to study Japanese.  Kana is really one of the first things you should start learning (alongside a few others), once you know it then that’s what you should be using.

This is also something to keep in mind if you buy a textbook that only contains romaji.  A textbook where all of the questions are written out in romaji isn’t really going to help you practice your reading skills, and you might even be tempted to write answers in romaji too, meaning you’ll lose out on writing practice as well.


As I mentioned before, everyone learns in different ways so it’s up to the individual to find the way that best suits them.  But hopefully by making you aware of some of the areas where I went wrong or wasted time, you can make your learning experience more efficient and enjoyable. Good luck!

Immersing yourself in the Japanese language

Immersing yourself in the Japanese language

This post is contributed by Matt. He has a blog which has a mixture of Japanese related content, such as; living in Japan for a few months, Japanese events in the UK, and tips on learning Japanese.  Japan and Japanese culture have always been a huge interest to Matt, so the aim of his blog is to share his love of Japan with others, as he is keen to help other people discover how wonderful Japan and its culture are.

One of the best ways to help with learning any new language is to immerse yourself in an environment where you are constantly hearing and seeing it.  In this article I will tell you about how I made the most of my short time in Japan to practice as much Japanese as possible.  And also ways I have found to stay immersed in the language and culture since my return to the UK.

Learning in Japan

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to stay in Japan for a few months while helping out at a English language school in Otsu, Shiga.  Living in Japan for a short while was the perfect opportunity to absorb more of the language and culture.  Of course, I met up with a lot of people and made some friends out there who helped me practice the language, but when I was on my own I still found extra ways to practice.

Initially I felt quite nervous about speaking to people in case I pronounced things incorrectly, or said things that didn’t make sense.  But on my first day out from the house I decided the best thing to do was ignore my nerves, try my best and just go for it!  I started using very basic phrases such as 袋をください (roughly ‘A bag please’) or お水を三つください (3 waters please). Just using basic phrases every day was quite a confidence boost.

Eventually I made a habit of asking things I already knew the answer to, just to get more practise each day.  Often I would ask a stranger at the station ‘この電車は京都に止まりますか‘ (Does this train stop in Kyoto?) even if i already knew that it did.  This allowed me to listen to native speech, and even though I didn’t get every word, I got enough to understand the basic answers to things.

Of course, some things I got wrong and made no sense at all… As was evident by the blank face of whoever I’d just spoken to.  But it was all fun and part of the learning process.  The main thing is that by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone you will gain more!   

A couple of weeks into my stay and I was able to have a very basic conversation with an elderly shopkeeper out in Arashiyama.  Near the end of my time in Japan I found myself staying in Wakayama, where I stumbled across a random dance/music competition in the park.  By that time I was able to understand a fair amount of what the presenter on stage was saying during the intermissions.

It really is a case that by finding things to listen to, whether it’s music, conversations or announcements, you will be able to pick up more of the language and improve your pronunciation as well.  The more effort you put in by going out of your way to ask strangers questions or start conversations, the more your Japanese will improve, and the more rewarding it will be.


Immersion outside of Japan

Now although being in Japan is the ideal scenario for learning Japanese, it is not always possible due to a number of reasons, from costs to visas etc.  However, even outside of Japan there many other ways you can still surround yourself in the language and often the culture.  If there are Japanese language meet-ups or classes in your area, those are a good place to start.  Another key thing to keep an eye out for are Japanese events, such as a few major UK ones I’ll mention below, but I’m sure by searching you can find ones in your area as well.

Hyper Japan + Hyper Japan Christmas Market

Hyper Japan is normally at the London Olympia around July, and the Christmas Market is normally around November at Tobacco Dock, London.  Both events last for three days and feature a great way to experience some Japanese culture, as both have live music and performances, seminars, workshops, various merchandise and snack stalls, and, of course, a great ranges of Japanese food.

These events are great for meeting people with an interest in Japan, and also for practising Japanese.  Most of the shop vendors and food stall vendors will speak Japanese and English, so it’s a good chance to try ordering things in Japanese, while knowing that you can switch back to English if you really get in a muddle. (Though please keep in mind they may be quite busy and will mostly likely have a queue of customers waiting.)

The live performances are great to get some listening practise in while experiencing a variety of Japanese music.  Often the host on stage will also speak in Japanese, then again in English, so again a good way to test your listening skills.

Okinawa Day

This is an annual event held at Spitalfields, London, normally in June.  As the name suggests the day is a celebration of Okinawan culture.  Again there are a variety of stalls where you have the chance to practise your Japanese talking skills, and the main stage is a good chance to listen to some traditional Okinawan music.  

Japan Matsuri

This is another annual event, held around the end of September.  For a whole day, Trafalgar Square is transformed into a massive Japanese festival!  While only for one day, it still gives a fantastic opportunity to experience a huge variety of Japanese culture.

This year, for example, there were performances of traditional dances by the Aozasa Shishi-Odori (青笹しし踊り), from the Iwate prefecture; traditional Tezuma magic by Taiju Fujiyama, Radio Taiso! (ラジオ体操), who are very famous in Japan for their work out routines; Enka music by Jiro Yamauchi; and many more including Taiko drummers and Okinawan sanshin players.

Another highlight is the Mikoshi (神輿)procession, where a Mikoshi (portable shrine) is carried around the area – something you don’t get a chance to see much outside of Japan!

As with all the other festivals there is plenty of different Japanese food to try, such as okonomiyaki, udon, soba, yakitori, gyoza, katsu-don, bento boxes, and many more, including my personal favourite, takoyaki!

Kyoto Gardens

This place isn’t really an event, but a nice peaceful Japanese park in Holland Park, London.  It’s a small park, but a nice place to relax with a welcome feeling of being in Japan while still being in London.  On a nice day it can be a good place to sit with a notepad and practise writing some kana or kanji, and a fair amount of Japanese people do come to visit it, so again it can be nice place to start a conversation or two.


The conclusion really is an obvious one: that surrounding yourself in the language you are learning offers massive benefits and goes a long way to helping you improve your knowledge of that language.  Even if you are not able to get to the Japan, there are often events where you can surround yourself in the culture and language, even if only for a short time. Studying at home with apps and textbooks is great, but getting out and interacting with people can really improve your confidence in a language.  

Six Tips to Learning Japanese—and Sticking to It

Six Tips to Learning Japanese—and Sticking to It

This post is contributed by Valera. She lives in Pennsylvania and loves learning and teaching languages! Her blog,, is for English learners and ESL enthusiasts. 

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So you’ve decided to learn Japanese! Whether you’re in it for friendship, travel, business, or just straight-up otaku goodness, the promising adventure teems with fun—and challenges. The intimidating alphabetic system, the “backward” grammar, the culture shock, among other things, often slap beginners with such intensity that many drop out before the real journey even starts. But you’re different; and you’ve determined to stick with learning Japanese until you’ve reached your goal, whatever it may be. The problem is, where do you start? And once you do start, how do you stay on track?


As a language learner myself (English is my second language—ten years ago I didn’t know what “what’s up” and “so far” meant), I’ve figured out at least one answer to those two questions: start somewhere, and once you start, don’t look back. With Japanese, however, the starting points seem too numerous and complicated at first; for this reason, I’d like to share with you some pointers and tips on how to start learning Japanese—and stick to it.


Granted, take my words with a grain of salt. Each person’s learning style is different (maybe you’re one of those rare species who can read—and whip out—高齢化社会 on the second page of their kanji workbook like it’s no big deal). So while I’m suggesting a certain order, I’m only doing so because it’s most intuitive to mere mortals like me; if you feel like changing the order to fit your learning style, change away!


Tip #1: Learn hiragana and katakana first.

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Some of you may be sighing a duh! at this point already, but mark my words: if you start by reading romaji (the English transcription of Japanese words), your brain will quickly get used to it, rendering the study of actual Japanese letters—hiragana and katakana—more difficult than it really should be. On the other hand, if you start by learning hiragana (46 letters total), you will be able not only to read basic words (and feel incredibly accomplished) but also to learn katakana (another set of the same 46 letters as hiragana, just written differently) more easily and quickly. On a side note, it makes sense to learn hiragana before katakana because the former is used more often for native Japanese words and Chinese character transcriptions, while the latter is used mostly for either foreign words or for spelling out proper nouns (i.e. names). In any case, drill those hiragana and katakana letters into your head before even looking at kanji—I’ll explain why later.

One of the most helpful tools for learning the two kanas for me was the app called TenguGo Kana. It provides you with everything you need to know about the alphabetic system, plus pronunciation and stroke order. If you’re looking for a place to start, download that app and learn the kana!


Tip #2: Write out everything.

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One of the best ways to reinforce newly learned information is to make it personal; so when it comes to learning a foreign language, repeatedly writing out characters with your own hand helps to solidify information in your brain. Think of this process as making abstract concepts—letters, meanings, whatnot—tactile and relatable. After you pen them down in your own handwriting, they’re no longer foreign; after you write them out, they’ve become personal. They’ve become yours. So when you learn the kana and kanji, don’t just look at them on the screen or in a book—write them out as you learn! Don’t settle for typing them (seriously, even my cat can do that), but draw them out with your own hand.


Tip #3: Listen to real Japanese, like, all the time.

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Forget about English-speaking singers. Don’t even think about watching dubbed anime or j-drama. Fill your playlists with Japanese artists, your podcasts with Japanese programs, your YouTube channel with Japanese videos. Even if you have no idea what they’re saying/singing/yelling, still do it. In short, immerse your ears—and your brain—in Japanese language. For those of us who can just take off and land in Japan the next day—great! But for most of us, total immersion is probably one of the biggest challenges. Yet immersion in the sounds of the language serves as probably the most effective step toward mastering that language’s sound system and pronunciation. Ultimately, the goal of immersing yourself in Japanese is to replicate the sounds of native Japanese as much as possible and eventually to start thinking in Japanese. If you think humming a song in a foreign language is nothing special (even if you don’t understand any of it), you’re greatly mistaken. I mean, there is a reason why your ears are on your head—and their proximity to your brain corresponds to the process of auditory learning, too. Bottom line: listen to native Japanese as much as possible and imitate it as much as you can, even if it seems counterproductive at first. This exercise will help you familiarize yourself with the sounds of Japanese and develop a much more comprehensible accent as you begin to speak.


Tip #4: Learn kanji wisely and don’t overwhelm yourself.

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Once you got your kana down, you can boldly move on to learning kanji. Admittedly, kanji (Chinese characters) are probably the hardest part of learning Japanese. You’ve likely heard the numbers: there are at least 200 most basic characters, and you need to know at least 2000 to be able to read an average newspaper. On top of that, each kanji can have two, three, or even five different ways of reading, depending on the combination with other kanji. Many Japanese language enthusiasts get swamped right about this point: overwhelmed with the amount of kanji and their complexity (the reading, the meaning, the stroke order), people drop out because they just don’t see an end to all the learning they’d have to do.

My advice? Don’t try to look ahead and see the end—because there isn’t any. Native Japanese themselves often speak of their struggle with kanji; and if even they are running into obstacles, how much more do we! So instead of dwelling on how hard or insurmountable kanji are, just deal with them gradually. Learn the numbers (一、二、三、四、etc.) first; then move on to some basic elementary kanji (大meaning “big,” 人 meaning “human”, 日meaning “sun,” etc.); and just keep going. Use everything at your disposal: kanji learning apps, textbooks, websites, videos, people, anything. Some people like to pick an easy kids book or story and learn the kanji that occur in that book; others like to be a little more systematic and learn kanji by levels of difficulty (JLPT levels or grade-school levels). The method is up to you (and there are tons out there), but the point is to develop your own system for learning kanji. In other words, be smart about how you memorize them. Instead of learning all the possible readings of a kanji at once, pick the most frequently occurring and learn those first, and as you encounter new words, you’ll learn new ways of reading kanji, too. Learn to write them, say them out loud, read them in context—get to know them as you would a real person. And if you feel like you’re stuck on the kanji you’ve already covered and just can’t seem to remember them, limit the amount of new kanji and focus primarily on the kanji you’ve learned already. Don’t overwhelm yourself. And finally, don’t be afraid to experiment: if one method doesn’t work for you, try another one. With beginning kanji, it’s really about perseverance; once you get past the 200-characters hurdle, it’ll become much more intuitive. At that point, you should be thinking, “I’ve learned 200 kanji already!” instead of, “I still have 1,800 more to go.”


Tip #5: Learn grammar simultaneously.

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Don’t wait to learn grammar until after you’ve learned the kana or some of the kanji. Start learning some basic Japanese grammar right away. It’s best to begin with the basics: word order (“blue sky” is 青い空, not 空青い); the foundations of keigo, or polite language; the rules of negation; etc. In other words, finding and using a guide to Japanese grammar in order to understand the mechanics of the language you’re learning must accompany the process of acquisition. Otherwise, if you just learn Japanese by memorizing “survival phrases” or stock expressions (called “formulaic sequences” in the Second Language Acquisition world), you may feel like you’re progressing at first but soon enough will realize that you don’t understand half of what you’re saying. On the other hand, if you learn new words or phrases AND study up on the grammar behind them, you not only will remember them better but will actually know why they are the way they are. One thing to take note of: grammar not only shapes language but also connects directly to pragmatics, or the real use of language; if you keep ignoring it, pretty soon your Japanese will hit the wall. So, what can you do? Find a Japanese grammar guide you can actually understand (I like, ask for explanations from your penpals or language partners when they correct your sentences, and explore unfamiliar grammatical patterns when you encounter them. And of course, don’t be afraid to make mistakes—because that’s just how we all learn, anyway.


Tip #6: Make Japanese friends and start practicing ASAP.

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As you might have noticed by now, I’m really advocating holistic learning from day one. All four skills—reading, speaking, writing, and listening—require special attention from the learner, since none of them stands on its own. When it comes to communication, listening comprehension plays a vital role in receiving information; however, conversation is a two-way deal comprised of both input and output. If you don’t respond, your thoughts/opinions/emotions will not get across to the other person. Now, some may say, “I can just text—I don’t need to talk right away.” While I get the point behind this argument (texting is much less stressful than speaking), here’s the truth: if you don’t break down that wall from the start, the wall will only grow taller as time goes by. It’s okay to be embarrassed or scared or lost, but it’s not okay to let those barriers prevent you from developing your speaking, one of the fundamental language skills. Plus, your language partner who’s learning English is probably just as embarrassed or scared or lost as you are, so there really isn’t that much of a difference between you two. And when people are in the same boat, especially in a raging storm, they bond much faster. Trust me, after the first try, you will definitely want to try again—because in reality, talking to new friends is more fun than scary. Finally, some food for thought: the way you speak a language creates your identity in that language. Under Tip #2, I argued that writing out characters by hand makes them yours—the same applies here: when you speak Japanese (or any other language for that matter), you identify with it.


So make an effort to create your identity with Japanese as early as possible. Think of a purpose for your endeavor (why am I learning Japanese?) and pursue it. Keep practicing, trying, making mistakes, learning, and persevering. Once you immerse yourself in the language and its people, you will become one of them, too.

A Common Japanese Intonation Myth

A Common Japanese Intonation Myth

This post is contributed by Dogen, an American Youtuber who writes and performs comedic skits in Japanese. Below is an excerpt from Dogen’s Japanese Phonetics, an upcoming video series Dogen hopes to become the internet’s definitive guide for Japanese pronunciation and intonation (pitch-accent). According to Dogen, the series will be announced in the near future on his Youtube channel. We hope you enjoy this article; if it’s helpful let us know and we’ll try and get Dogen back in the future!

In this brief article I would like to discuss a misconception you’re likely to run into while studying Japanese. For the sake of argument, I will be using the terms ‘pitch-accent’ and ‘intonation’ interchangeably here to very simply describe the high and low sounds of individual words.


The myth: Japanese intonation is flat. Japanese intonation is flat, so it’s not important to study Japanese intonation. Only pronunciation matters.


There are typically two contexts in which this myth occurs, the first being Japanese as a non-tonal East Asian Language, and the second being Japanese as perceived by native Japanese speakers and teachers. In this particular newsletter I will be covering context one—Japanese as a non-tonal East Asian language. Please note that as I am addressing only a limited context in which the ‘Japanese intonation is flat’ misconception occurs, the following points shouldn’t be used to argue with Japanese teachers who encourage a flat way of speaking (this is generally good—albeit limiting—advice for native English speakers). For the more comprehensive argument—which also covers context two—please see my YouTube Channel.


Onto the debunking!


The ‘Japanese intonation is flat’ myth—in context one—stems primarily from well-known ‘tonal vs. non-tonal’ binary language classification, which often limits Japanese learners’ phonetic perceptions of the language to ‘similar to Chinese’ or ‘similar to English’. In other words, because oral languages are typically classified into very broad ‘tonal or non-tonal’ terms, Japanese learners often assume the following.

  1. Japanese is non-tonal, therefore it’s flat

          and / or:

       2. Japanese is non-tonal, therefore it follows the same intonation / accent rules as English


These assumptions are wrong because:

  1. Non-tonal language  ≠  ‘flat language’
  2. There are multiple types of non-tonal languages


You can think of the above in the following way: English is not a tonal language, but it also isn’t flat—English words have accents. When the accent is missing or placed on the wrong syllable, as in syllaBLE, it sounds unnatural. Japanese is similar—there aren’t tones like ‘á’, or ‘ǎ’, as in Mandarin, but there are distinct pitch-accent patterns, and when these pitch accent patterns are missing or wrong, it sounds unnatural. Thus, it’s misleading to say that Japanese intonation is flat just because Japanese is a non-tonal language. A lack of tones does not equate to flat pitch-accent, because tonality and pitch-accent are different phonetic phenomenons.


It’s critically important to emphasize, however, that just because Japanese and English are both non-tonal doesn’t mean they share the same set of intonation rules—the truth is quite the opposite! While English words are typically characterized by a single accent, as in ‘uniVERsity’ or the adopted ‘karaOke’, many Japanese words can have multiple ‘high-pitch’ consonants, as in ‘daIGAKU’ or ‘kaRAOKE’. It’s necessary, therefore, for aspiring Japanese learners to push beyond the common ‘tonal or non-tonal’ terms when speaking about Japanese phonetics.


In summary:

  1. Just because a language is non-tonal doesn’t mean it’s acoustically flat
  2. Try to stop thinking about it like this:
  •          Tonal languages: Mandarin, Vietnamese
  •          Non-tonal languages: English, Japanese

          and start thinking about it like this:

  •          Tonal language: Mandarin, Vietnamese
  •          Stress-accent language: English
  •          Pitch-accent language: Japanese
Travelling to Japan: Tips and Useful Vocabulary

Travelling to Japan: Tips and Useful Vocabulary

Japan is one of the most relevant countries in the international scene. It is one of the most populated nations on the planet and it is always in the first positions in the top economies’ rankings. If to this we add its incredibly rich culture, no wonder it is one of the most visited places in the world. Travelling to Japan means embarking on a journey between tradition and modernity, two concepts that are typically opposite but that in Japan coexist in perfect harmony.

If you are planning to visit Japan, either for business or leisure, we recommend you to get information about the country beforehand. Japanese society has strong values and ancient customs which might be very different from your home country. Being aware of them and follow them as much as possible which is very important, especially if you are planning to establish business relationships there. In this article, we aim to give you some basic tips for travelling to Japan – some of them you might have already heard of – and we also teach you some basic Japanese.


Japan travel tips

  • Wearing a mask
    Japanese are known for being respectful and reliable. One of the things that surprises visitors is seeing so many people around the street wearing dental masks. The reason for this is not to protect themselves from viruses, but actually to avoid spreading them. If a Japanese person has a cold, it is rare that they just decide to call in sick and do not go to work. They would rather put on a mask to avoid spreading the virus in public places and to their colleagues instead. So in case you have a cold while visiting Japan, please try your best not to sneeze or cough in public and consider the idea of getting a mask yourself.
  • Let’s NOT get loud
    As you could already guess by the previous piece of advice, Japanese society tends to emphasise the wellbeing of the group above the desires of the individuals. That is why they avoid activities such as eating in public and especially talking in a loud voice in public places. When you travel to Japan, more so if you do in a group, try your best to keep the volume down and respect the peace and the private space of Japanese citizens. Avoid speaking on the phone whilst you walk around the streets or having lively conversations in the underground.
  • Take off your shoes
    Same as in many Asian countries, in Japan it is customary to take off your shoes when you are at home. If you are invited to a Japanese home during your trip to Japan, please respect this tradition even if they do not ask you to do so. Japanese people might be overly polite and do not comment on the fact, but they will not be happy if you walk around their clean houses with your trekking boots.
  • Do not point at things
    This one is typical for many countries, but very important in Japan. Pointing at people or things is considered very rude and disrespectful. Whenever you are in a business meeting, in a restaurant or visiting a museum, try your best to avoid pointing at things with your finger. Instead, use your outstretched hand. Also, if you want to call someone’s attention, never tap them on their shoulder. Japanese are not used to unwanted physical contact, unlike it would happen, for example, in Latin American countries, and neither will you see openly public displays of affection between couples or families.


Useful vocabulary in Japanese for tourists

When it comes to your holidays in Japan, even if you do not need to learn Japanese to be able to communicate, it is important to learn some basics to be able to understand simple instructions and being able to say “thank you”. In the big cities you won’t have any problems getting by with English, but things might be different if you intend to travel to less touristic areas.

If you already have some knowledge of Japanese and want to practice a little bit before going to Japan, why not give HelloTalk a try? Thanks to this App you are able to practice with the help of native speakers. This is one of the many innovative ways in which new technologies can help you learn a language. The increasing globalisation has resulted in a greater need for learning different languages, and now you can do so in an easier way thanks also to online language schools like Lingoda. Here you cannot learn Japanese just yet, but you can learn some of the most important languages in the world: English, French, German and Spanish.

Below we include a brief list of the most important Japanese phrases and words. If you want to find out more and listen to their pronunciation you can check, for example, this site.


English Japanese Pronunciation
Thank you (formal) ありがとうございます Arigatō gozaimasu
Thank you (standard) ありがとう Arigatō
Please (request) お願いします Onegai shimasu
Please (offer) どうぞ Dōzo
You’re welcome どういたしまして Dō itashimashite
Yes はい hai
No いいえ iie
Excuse me すみません Sumimasen
I’m sorry ごめんなさい Gomen nasai
Goodbye さようなら Sayōnara
Goodbye (informal) じゃね Ja ne
Do you speak English? 英語が話せますか? Eigo ga hanasemasu ka?
Is there someone here who speaks English? 誰か英語が話せますか? Dareka eigo ga hanasemasu ka?
Good morning お早うございます Ohayō gozaimasu
Good afternoon こんにちは Konnichiwa
Good evening こんばんは Konbanwa
How much? いくら? Ikura?
Where is the toilet? お手洗い・トイレはどこですか? Otearai/toire wa doko desu ka?


Make the most of your trip to Japan

Getting to know the Japanese traditions and trying to embrace the Japanese culture during your time in the country will help you experience it at its best. Many say that is what differentiates a tourist from a traveler. Whilst the tourist will just visit the city and take as many photos as possible of the main sightseeing spots, the traveler will aim to learn everything he can and make his holidays an enlightening experience. If you go to Japan, do not be afraid to leave your comfort zone. You will not regret it!



This article has been written in collaboration with the team of Lingoda, an online language school that offers English, German, French and Spanish lessons with qualified native teachers. Their aim is to provide students with the opportunity to learn a new language anytime and anywhere. Students can organise their courses in a way that best fits their lifestyle and make the most of their time and money with this innovative learning method.

English words come from Japanese

English words come from Japanese

 Recently three new Japanese words made their way into the Oxford English Dictionary, hikikomori(引き篭もり), karoshi(過労死), and otaku(オタク). But, these aren’t the only words that have done this, just the most recent ones. There are actually a lot of Japanese words that we use as English words now.























Must-know Japanese Phrases & How to use them

Must-know Japanese Phrases & How to use them


Hey guys!
Today we’re going to introduce some extraordinarily useful must- know Japanese phrases for Japanese learners in the first stage, travelers, or people who just simply want to make Japanese friends.

Japanese Phrases for Meeting and Greeting

(General greeting)

O-genki desu ka.
How are you?

Genki desu.
I’m fine. Thank you.

Oaidekite ureshī desu.
おあいできて うれしいです。
I am very glad to meet you.

o hisashiburi desu ne
(Long time no see.)

JAPANESE PHRASES for Christmas and New Year greetings

merī kurisumasu
(Merry Christmas!)

akemashite omedetō gozaimasu
(I wish you a Happy New Year.)

kyūnenjū taihen osewa ni narimashita
(I’m very grateful to you for the kindness you showed us last year,)

kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegai itashimasu
(I look forward to your continued good will in the coming year.)

Other phrases

Eigo o hanasemasu ka.
(Do you speak English?)

Koko ni eigo o hanaseru hito wa imasu ka.
ここに えいごをはなせるひとは いますか。
Does anyone here speak English?

Watashi wa nihongo ga sukoshi shika hanasemasen.
わたしは にほんごがすこししか はなせません。
I only speak a little Japanese.

O-namae wa nan desu ka.
What is your name?

Watashi no namae wa Kaori desu.
わたしのなまえは かおりです。
My name is Kaorii.

I don’t understand.

Nante iimashita ka.
What did you say?

Motto yukkuri hanashite kudasai.
もっと ゆっくりはなしてください。
Can you speak more slowly?

Yoku wakarimasu.
I understand you perfectly.

toire wa doko desu ka?
トイレはどこですか ?
(Where’s the toilet?)

Useful Tips!

 SOME OF THESE JAPANESE PHRASES are practical. Some of them are funny. Note that all of the phrases are pretty informal. Always only use with the people that you know well.
Confused already? Don’t worry about it.

Yoroshku onegaishimas.

This phrase is absolute magic. Say “yoroshiku” to any Japanese person in any situation and they will help you with anything and everything you need. It’s impossible to translate literally, but means something to the effect of, “Please do your best and treat me well.”
If you memorize nothing else before going to Japan, remember “yoroshiku” and you’re totally set. “Onegaishimasu” is a common word that means something similar to “please.”


This phrase means something like, “OK, I’m going for it!” or “Fighting!” A Japanese would say “Ganbarimasu” before taking a test or leaving the house for a job interview.
Japanese people will crack up if you say it before walking outside, eating noodles, or using a vending machine.

Mo dame. Yo ppara cchatta. Go-men!

At some point during your stay, Japanese people will probably try to make you drink past your limit. That’s when this phrase comes in handy. It means something like, “No more, I’m already drunk, sorry.”

i sshoni karaoke ni ikohka?

Shall we go to karaoke together? This is a good line to use if trying to pick someone up from the bar. Think of karaoke as a transition point between the bar and the love hotel.
Note: Please don’t pronounce “karaoke” with lots of EEE sounds. It should sound like “kah-rah-o-keh,” not “carry-oh-key.”

u mai!

Use this one when eating. It means something like, “It’s SO YUMMY!”

All you need you know about Wakarimasen & Shirimasen

All you need you know about Wakarimasen & Shirimasen

How To Use

 In Japanese, there are two ways to say “I don’t know”:

  • a) wakarimasen
  • b) shirimasen

 Did you know that either of them can be used to say “I don’t know” in Japanese depending on the situation?
For the the following questions, which one should you use? (Both can be used in some cases.)
英語の I don’t knowは日本語で「わかりません」と「知りません」に使い分けられているのをご存知ですか?


“Shirimasen” can be used to simply convey that you don’t have the knowledge, information or data the other person is looking for.
Using this phrase when talking about something or someone familiar or about future plans will make you sound cold and mechanical.
(Similar to saying “I don’t care” or “who knows”)

“Wakarimasen” can be used to convey that you don’t understand something, that something is beyond the scope of your imagination or current plans, or you don’t have the means to answer the question. In other words, this phrase suggests that you thought about the question but couldn’t find the answer.

Kono hito o shitte imasuka?
Raishuu no kaigi, nanji kara ka shitte imasuka?
Kyou, tanaka ga kuru ka douka shitteimasuka?
Shuumatsu nani o shimasuka?
Itsu hikkosu’n desuka?
Ashita no party ikimasuka?

1) Do you know this person?
2) Do you know what time next week’s meeting starts?
3) Do you know whether or not Tanaka is coming today?
4) What are you doing this weekend?
5) When are you moving?
6) Are you going to the class tomorrow?

 For Questions 1-3 both expressions can be used but for Questions 4 – 6 only a)wakarimasen is used. In other words, you cannot use b)shirimasen for expectations and plans under your own discretionary power.
If you mistakenly use b)shirimasen for those cases, it sounds extremely rude, with the sense of “Who cares!” So please pay attention to its use.
もしこの場合に間違って b)知りませんを使うと、Who cares!みたいにすごくぞんざいに聞こえてしまうので注意が必要です。

Let’s practice!

 Now it’s your turn. Which phrase is suitable for answering the following questions?

Q: Do you know Kobayashi-san’s phone number? I really need to call him…
Q: Are you going to be in Japan for Christmas this year?
Q: Do you know the Japanese movie is called “Shall we dance”?
Q: Did you know that John from our class got married last month?