We are going to Japan in six weeks, for my birthday. It’s the ideal opportunity to actually force myself to do something I’ve been wanting to do for decades – learn basic Japanese.
I’ve bought various course in Japanese over the years. I had one that I listened to in my car every day for several weeks. A few phrases stuck (“ginko wa doko desu ka?” – where is the bank?), but I never really practiced, and so thing did not really sink in.
But now I’m actually going to Nippon (Japan), I really have to learn some Nihongo (Japanese). To this end, Holly and I went to the bookstore and bought a few books on Japanese. The one this I like the best is a little blue book called “Instant Japanese”, the premise of which is that you need only learn 100 words, and with that learn 1000 things to say with those 100 words, and that will give you a solid basis for communication. This sounds like an excellent theory to me, and since I’ve got six weeks I have very high hopes of getting those 100 words down solid. I’m going to use my blog here to write about the words as I learn them, in hopes of making it stick.
The first ten words I was mostly familiar with already, here they are:
1. ohayo gozaimasu – good morning
2. konnichi wa – good day (your basic hello during the daylight hours)
3. konban wa – good evening
4. domo arigato – thank you very much
5. sumimasen – sorry/excuse me. Something I’m sure I’ll say a lot. You use it to stop people in the street when you want to ask for help in some way, and probably pretty much during every interaction.
6. dozo – please, as in “please do”, or “please, go ahead”, usually before the subject
7. kudasai – please, as in “some water please”, kudasi goes after the subject
8. mizu – water, important stuff, you need to know how to ask for water. mizu o kudasai = water please
9. watashi – I, the most common form of I
10. watakushi – I, a more formal version. Must be an important distinction to have the two version in the first ten words
There’s another word there: “o“, which is a particle used to indicate the preceding word is the object of the following action, so “mizu o kudasai” is kind of like “Water. (about which) Please.” I suppose you would summon a waiter with “sumimasen” then ask for water “mizu o kudasai“, and then thank them “domo arigato“.
“domo” by itself literally means “very” or “many” or “very much”, and you can say “domo” as an abbreviated way of saying “domo arigato”. But “domo” alone is not really “thanks”, “arigato” is “thanks/thank you”
domo arigato gozaimasu = Thank you very much indeed! A more polite way of saying thank you. “Gozaimasu” seems to be just stuck on the end of things to make them more polite. Note back to word #1 “ohayo gozaimasu” (good morning). “Ohayo” is actually “good morning” and “gozaimasu“, is the polite word (meaning what?). Don’t say Ohayo to anyone you are not friends with. It’s kind of like the difference between “morning” and “good morning” used as greetings. Or perhaps “how are you?” and “wazzup?” :)