In the case of Japan it's very important to learn (and use) at least a few words. The reason — Japanese people aren't very comfortable with English. By using a few words of Japanese you make people more comfortable. When they're comfortable the English starts flying out and you're suddenly communicating.
Here are ten words and phrases that will help you a great deal in Japan.
1. sumimasenIf there's one multipurpose Japanese word that gets you a lot of mileage it's Sumimasen. It can be used to:
say excuse me
call the staff in a restaurant or shop
an intro to ask someone a question ("pardon me")
say thank you
2. dokoDoko means where. When you' re traveling you'll end up using this word a great deal. A few examples:
~ wa doko desu ka (where is ~?)
eki wa doko desu ka (where is the station?)
toire wa doko desu ka (where is the toilet?)
3. enThe Japanese word for Yen is en. Just take the "y" sound off. Here are the denominations of Japanese currency:
ichi en (1 yen)
go en (5 yen)
juu en (10 yen)
go juu en (50 yen)
hyaku en (100 yen)
go hyaku en (500 yen)
sen en (1000 yen)
go sen en (5000 yen)
ichi man en (10000 yen)
4. iiii means good. It's often used to ask/indicate whether something is okay.
ii desu ka (is it ok?)
ii desu (it is ok)
5. naniNani means what.
nan ji desu ka (what time?)
6. haiHai is best translated "I'm satisfied". It doesn't necessarily mean yes. For example, if you ask someone if they want more beer and they say "I'm satisfied" — they're saying no.
It's used a great deal in Japanese. It sounds polite.
7. ItsuInterogative words are important when traveling. Itsu means when.
basu ga itsu desu ka (when is the bus?)
densha ga itsu desu ka (when is the train?)
8. wakarimasenIt's important to be able to indicate you don't understand.
wakarimasen (I don't understand)
nihongo wa wakarimasen (I don't understand Japanese)
9. EigoEigo is the Japanese word for English. It is pronounced like the American breakfast treat Eggo.
eigo ii desu ka (is English okay?)
eigo ga hanasemasu ka? (can you speak English?)
10. GomennasaiI'm sorry. If you're worried you have offended someone this is the best word to use.
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