|Study hard! Treats if you pass!|
For readers learning Japanese, or who want to learn, below is a list of 12 words to get you started right! These are words that I use constantly, and which I felt the lack of before I learned them.
A list this short, however, is bound to be controversial, so to my readers who already speak Japanese--do you agree? Disagree? What's on your list of essential words for the beginner? Please comment--I'd love to know!
Ja--sore dewa, benkyou shimashou!! (Then let's study!)
Domo arigatou (gozaimasu)
"thank you (very much)"....this is the number one word to learn no matter *which* language you're learning.
"DOH MOH AH REE GAH TOH U (GO ZAH EE MAHSS)"
"please treat me kindly".....is the best way I know how to translate this difficult-to-translate-but-you-need-it-every-five-minutes phrase. Learn this one! You can say this when you meet someone. It's what they'll probably say to you. There's another phrase that means "nice to meet you", but this one is more multi-purpose. "YOH ROH SHE KU"
Onegaishimasu! possibly cheating and making the list really 13 words here, but by itself this word means "please (do me a favor)". Cream with your coffee? Onegaishimasu! May I take that away for you? Onegaishimasu! Would you like fresh towels? Onegaishimasu! Pay by credit card? "OH NAY GAH EE SHEE MAHSS"
"Bon appetit!" Note the lack of appropriate English phrase here... Put your hands together, bow forward a little, and say in a cheerful voice "EEt TAH DAH KEE MAHHHS(u)!!" The literal meaning is "I humbly partake/receive", which I think is a fine thing to say before eating a meal, whether you're being fed by someone else or not.
"It was a feast!"...again, no good English equivalent, but you get the idea. As with "Itadakimasu!", put your hands together, bow forward a little, and in a cheerful, grateful voice say "GO CHEE SOOH SAH MAH!", bonus points if you remember to stick on the verb "DESH TAH!" (deshita).
"Delicious!" I needed this word almost as soon as I got here--you get along so much better in a foreign country if you're willing to try all the food people give you, and even better if you can praise it as delicious. If you still have food in your mouth and you need to say this, put your hand in front of your mouth and speak from behind your hand. "OH EE SHEE!" Lengthen the last "eeee" to indicate just how delicious you think something is:-))
"Cute!!"...this is probably the most controversial word to include in a short list like this, but I stand by it. This is the Land of Cute--if you come to Japan you will be surrounded by Cute, and will need to express that. You will seem like far less of a scary foreigner if you can, when looking at someone's cute baby or toddler on the train, smile benignly, bow forward a little, and say "KAH WAH EEEE!". Trust me on this.
"Excuse me!"/ "I'm sorry!"/"Thank you!"....this is very nearly an all purpose word that you need a hundred times a day. Somebody picks up and returns something you dropped? "Domo! Sumimasen!" Bumped into someone? "Sumimasen! Gomen nasai!" Need to call the waiter/shopkeeper? "Sumimasen!" Making your way through a crowd? "SOO ME MAH SEN!"
"I'm sorry!" ...Like "thank you", a word you need no matter what language you're learning. As above, it can be used with "Sumimasen!" if you've bumped into someone, or you can just say "Gomen nasai!" while bowing forward a little. "GO MEN NAH SAH EE!"
Hai, dozo!"Here you are!"...offer things with both hands and bow forward a little, even to children. When my oldest son was a year old, an elderly gentleman on the train played an adorable game with Koshi's shoe that Koshi had taken off and (for some unfathomable reason)decided to give to the old man. The kindly grandfather received it, bowing and saying "Ah! Arigatou!...." waiting a beat, then handing the shoe back to Koshi, bowing and saying "Hai! Dozo!" They played like this, over and over, for a good ten minutes--Koshi was overjoyed. *So* cute:-)) Use this when allowing someone to go ahead of you, too.
"Please!"...any food word plus "KOO DAH SAH EE", will get you what you want in a restaurant or shop. Note: this is not the same as "please do me a favor"--use "Onegaishimasu!" for asking someone to do something for you.
Mada (mada) dame desu!
"I don't know anything!"...when somebody tells you how "Jouzu!" (good!) your Japanese is, shake your hand and say "MAH DAH DAH MAY DESS!". Literally this means "it's still awful!". It's good to be humble:-)) Repeat the "mada" twice to emphasize how far you still have to go.
"Please teach me!" Everybody likes to be an expert now and again. If you don't know what to do, "Oshiete kudasai!". Need help with the o-hashi (chopsticks)? "Oshiete kudasai!" Can't figure out the toilet in the hotel room? Point and say "OH SHE AY TAY KOO DAH SAH EE!"
Dewa, i-----ppai benkyou shite, kudasai! Gambatte, ne! (So, please study a----lot! Do your best!)