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The Top 11 Mistakes Japanese Language Beginners Make

The Top 11 Mistakes Japanese Language Beginners Make

Do these things only if you want to be seen as a newbie!

1. Use –san when referring to oneself.
Never, never do this.

2. Write: konnichi wa with a hiragana wa
The word konnichi wa (hello) uses the hiragana ha. In this case it is a particle pronounced as wa and not the regular hiragana for wa. Be careful with the particle は (pronounced wa) and the hiragana わ wa.

3. Use English vowels sounds.
Get the five vowel sounds down pat. English has something like fifteen vowel sounds but
Japanese only has five. Trying to fit those sounds into Japanese just leads to bad pronunciation habits.

4. Use English consonant sounds.
While the sounds in Japanese are mostly easy to learn for the English speaker, work hard at nailing down tsu and the R’s: ra, ri, ru, re, ro.

5. Ignore long vowels and double consonants.
Pay attention to long (in duration) vowels. hoshi (star) is not the same thing as hoshii (to want) even if to the English ear it sounds the same at first. Make the “i” long in duration. And double consonants are important too: kite (please come) and kitte (postage stamp).

6. Use your best American accent.
In most cases, Japanese sentences and words are unaccented. Don’t say, “ariGAtou

7. Impress your host mother by saying her baby is scary.
Be careful with easily confused words like kowai (scary) and kawaii (cute). Never tell a new mother that her baby looks kowai. [ushi (cow) / oishii (delicious); kudasai (please give) /kusai (stinky)]

8. Write “minna-san
Use minna (everyone) or mina-san (also means “everyone”), but minna-san is not used.

9. Overuse pronouns.
Saying “anata” (you) too often can come across as abrupt. In most cases, you can drop the pronoun or subject once it has been introduced.

10. To be a real Japanese master say “sayounara” instead of the loan-word “bai bai.”
“Sayounara” isn’t used as often as you may think. Use it when you are going away for a long time and may not see that person again. If you expect to see someone soon, use “mata ne” or “bai bai.”

11. Omitting “私は” too excessively.
First person 私は is usually omitted in Japanese. In Japanese, it is natural to omit subject. However, it is only when it is obvious who the subject is.

Clay & Yumi Boutwell

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