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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.

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.

Conclusion

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.