I (Clay) first arrived in Japan in the late 1990s. A friend of mine, another American, told me about a scary experience he had when confronted with a Japanese coworker’s newborn baby. My friend wanted to use the little Japanese he had learned and felt confident he could at least manage a “how cute” compliment. After his attempt, however, his coworker angrily said, “It’s KAWAII not KOWAI!”
Here’s the Ninja Penguin making the same mistake:
To the Japanese ear, these two words are very different, but to the English ear, there is often room for confusion. Try your best to hear the difference.
NOTE: Cute is かわいい. Pay attention to the “ka” sound and the longer “i” sound.
Another tricky one–at least for me–was 座る suwaru (to sit) and 触る sawaru (to touch). I can imagine quite a few instances where this would also result in a slap!
One more potentially confusing word pairing:
おしり oshiri–buttocks 押し入れ oshi ire–closet
Listen to these closely:
WARNING: Be careful with the following
あなたの押し入れはとても大きいですね。 anata no oshiire wa totemo ookii desu ne. Your closet is very big!
Sounds nice enough when complimenting the lady of the house on her fine closet, but if said without care, it could easily come out as “Your butt is big. Very big.”
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Listen to the story about three mighty warrior leaders who consolidated Japan and ended the Warring States period. The story is recorded both regular speed and slowed down.
Learn Japanese through Dialogues: Meetings and Greetings
DIALOGUE ONE: Meeting for the First Time
In this article, we will examine a dialogue between two people who are meeting for the first time. Listen to the dialogue while going through the text, spend some time going through the grammar notes, and then listen to it once more–this time, hopefully, with greater comprehension.
If you like this lesson, check out our Learn Japanese through Dialogues series of eBooks (or paperback) + MP3s. This particular dialogue is from the book “Meetings and Greetings” as seen to the left. See the bottom for a special discount to get four of these eBooks, each with eight or more dialogues, for the price of one eBook.
Let’s begin today’s lesson…
Dialogue One: in Japanese Meeting for the First Time
はじめまして。マイクと申します。 hajimemashite. Maiku to moushimasu. How do you do? I am Mike.
Hajimemashite is the most common greeting when meeting people for the first time.; “to moushimasu” is a polite (humble) way to introduce one’s name.
はじめまして。由美です。 hajimemashite. Yumi desu. Nice to meet you. I’m Yumi.
Another way to say your name is simply “(name) desu.” You may notice your name doesn’t fit well into Japanese. For example, “Smith” becomes “sumisu” because the sounds in Japanese don’t allow for the “sm” combination and the “th” sound isn’t found in Japanese. Ask a Japanese friend or a Japanese forum online how your name would be written in the Japanese sound system.
どうぞよろしくお願いします。 douzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu. Pleased to meet you.
“Douzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu” is commonly used after “hajimemashite.” It means something like, “please treat me well.”
どこから来ましたか？ doko kara kimashita ka? Where are you from?
doko = where; kara = from; doko kara = from where — kimashita is one of the few irregular verbs in Japanese. kuru (plain form) = kimasu (masu form) both mean “to come,” but the masu form is more polite.
アメリカです。 amerika desu. America. (U.S.)
In Japanese, you can often drop information that was previously introduced or is expected. So instead of saying, “I am from America” or “it is America,” you can simply say, “is America.”
アメリカのどこですか？ amerika no doko desu ka? Where in America?
In a simple way, you can think of “no” as an apostrophe S: amerika no doko = America’s where = Where in America?
ロリダ州です。 furorida shuu desu. Florida.
shuu means “state” and is used with the fifty US states. Japan has prefectures known as ken.
フロリダは暑いでしょう？ furorida wa atsui deshou? Florida is hot, isn’t it?
deshou implies the speaker is expecting an affirmative answer. It is a very useful sentence tag for when you aren’t sure of your statement or don’t want to hurt the sensibilities of the listener.
はい、暑いです。由美さんの出身はどこですか？ hai, atsui desu. yumi-san no shusshin wa doko desu ka? Yes, it is hot. Where are you from?
shusshin = place of one’s origin (usually hometown as in this example). The ” ha” here is the topic particle and is pronounced “wa.” This is one of the very, very few irregularities in Japanese pronunciation.
東京です。 toukyou desu. Tokyo.
Literally, “Tokyo is” (It is Tokyo). As mentioned earlier, if information is obvious or has been previously introduced, it is very often dropped.
僕は東京が好きです。 boku wa toukyou ga suki desu. I like Tokyo.
~ga suki = (I) like ~
そうですか、あ、私はそろそろ仕事に行かなくちゃ。それじゃまた。 sou desu ka, a, watashi wa sorosoro shigoto ni ikanakucha. sore ja mata. Really? Oh! I have to go to work soon. See you later.
“sou desu ka” here means “Is that so?” but it is a very versatile phrase with many meanings depending on context and how it is said.
はい。さようなら。 hai, sayounara. Yes, goodbye.
sayounara isn’t used as much as you may think. It is often used when saying goodbye to someone for a long period of time.
Learn the vocabulary:
Listen to the dialogue again. This time with repetition.
Did you enjoy this lesson? This is the first dialogue from the Greetings and Meetings eBook. Get that eBook plus Beginning Conversations, at the Restaurant, and Asking Directionsfor only $5.