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Tokyo Speak Japanese

Overview

Learning even a little Japanese before your trip is a worthwhile endeavor (although I must confess that without reinforcement, I have lost almost everything that I learned). At the very least you should make an effort to learn Hiragana and Katakana, the two most commonly used character sets. Katakana is especially useful because it is used exclusively for writing foreign words (usually English).

Once youve memorized the Katakana characters reading is just a matter of sounding out the syllables and trying to figure out what English word is being interpreted. Needless to say, this ability can be extraordinarily useful in restaurants.

Knowing just the bare minimum of Japanese we were able to safely navigate the subway system, purchase food (big deal), and exchange pleasantries with the people we met. The following wont make you fluent in Japanese, but youll be able to say "please," "thank you", and "Im lost" with absolute confidence.

Even if your Japanese is less than perfect, you can make up for many deficiencies by using the English versions of the above phrases -- frequently and with sincerity. The Japanese place a great store on politeness, in any language, and will respond to your efforts in kind.

Finally, if some words sound familiar, its because they are. Many English words have been adopted into the Japanese language. So if you hear the word jazu, rest assured that your in line for a jazz club...

General Pronunciation Guide

A as in father
I as in machine
E as in yes
O as in go
U as in put

Long vowels are generally indicated by a rule over the vowel or double vowels (ii).

Consonants are generally pronounced as in English; the differences are subtle, and not easily explained. The best way to learn these pronunciations is to listen carefully to a language tape or Power Japanese.

Finally, all letters in a word are pronounced. At first, it feel awkward (and youll notice that native speakers tend to omit final sounds), but soon the words will flow.

Basic Words and Phrases
Japanese Word/Phrase English Translation
Anata You
Arigatoo gozaimasu Thank you
Doumo arigatougozaimasu Thank you
Douzo Please
Eigo English language
Eigo ga wakarimasu ka? Do you understand English?
Gomen Nasai Pardon me
Hai Yes
Hai, wakarimasu? Yes, I understand.
Iie No
Iie, wakarimasen No, I dont understand.
Konban Wa Good Evening
Konnichi Wa Good Afternoon
Doozo Please
Moshimoshi Hello (greeting on telephone or upon entering a room)
Nanji desu ka? What time is it?
Nihongo Japanese Language
Ohayou Gozaimasu Good Morning (until about 10 a.m.)
Ryougae Suru To exchange money
Sayonara Goodbye
Sumimasen Excus