Common Japanese Phrases
There are a number of common Japanese phrases that when mastered will give you a good start at speaking Japanese well. Most of these are taught in the beginner ’s class at Tanoshii Japanese School.
These common Japanese phrases are very useful. The teachers at Tanoshii Japanese School know how to teach them in a fun and effective manner so you will quickly remember them and be able to use them right away.
Some of the common Japanese phrases have several meanings so it is important to learn each meaning.
Sumimasen is one of the common Japanese phrases with several meanings.
It can simply mean ‘I’m sorry’. When you want to apologize for some
minor matter, you can just say,
“sumimasen”. It can be used to apologize both deeply and lightly by
Sumimasen also means, ‘Excuse me’. When you want to ask a favour of someone, you can begin your request with sumimasen. You can ask both big and small favours with this phrase, again by adjusting your body language and the tone of your voice.
Sumimasen can also mean ‘I recognize that this is inconvenient’. In business after you have placed an order or request, one often says, “Sumimasen ga yoroshiku onegai shimasu.” You can also use that phrase when you want to request someone to teach you or provide you guidance.
If you are in a store or restaurant, you can also use sumimasen to call for a clerk or server.
Chotto is also one of the common Japanese phrases and is very useful.
When you want to reject some suggestion made by someone, you could just say, “chotto…” and the other person will understand that you do not want to follow the suggestion. This is a very handy way to refuse something without directly saying no. In Japanese culture it is generally rude to directly refuse someone by saying no.
You can also use chotto when you do not want to answer a question. When someone asks you “where are you going?” you could say “chotto” and the person knows that you do not want to answer. This is also very handy in Japanese society.
This common Japanese phrase can also be used to get someone’s attention (usually for an unpleasant reason). If a mother finds an empty cookie jar in the kitchen, she could say chotto to get her children ’s attention. If a police officer behind you pats your shoulder and says chotto, that means that he has some questions he would like to ask. When a customer in a grocery store is mishandling some merchandise, the store clerk might say chotto, which means ‘Do not do that.’
If you use chotto in a loud voice, that indicates that you are upset.
Chotto also means ‘a little’. If someone asks how much milk to put in your coffee, you can say, “chotto” to indicate just a little.
When you combine chotto with sumimasen and start off a request by saying “chotto sumimasen” you are asking your favour in a more humble and polite way than if you just said “sumimasen”.
Saa is also an interesting common Japanese phrase with several meanings.
Saa can mean “Okay, let’s do ….” If a group of friends has gathered to go to an event together, someone will say, “Saa ikkou” which means, “Okay, let’s go”. In this case if they use saa in a soft voice it is a light suggestion, but when if used with a loud voice that means “Come on. Let’s go.”
It can also mean “I don’t know.” If someone asks you where did the cookies go, you can say “…saa…” which suggests that you do not know. It is often used in our house.
Doumo is also one of the common Japanese phrases with several meanings.
Doumo by itself can express thanks. If a clerk gives you a pen to fill out a form, you can say, “doumo” to thank them.
Doumo can also be added to other phrases for emphasis. Doumo sumimasen means “Sorry, excuse me.” or “I am very sorry.”
You can also use this common Japanese phrase when you want to refuse something gently. If someone offers you a drink, you can say, ”Osake ha doumo…” meaning “I don’t drink.” Doumo can be used this way to express a negative view about something.
This may seem a little confusing but do not worry. Tanoshii Japanese School ’s teachers know how to teach these and other common Japanese phrases effectively and in a fun way, so you will have no problem mastering them.
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