Learn Hiragana while Practicing Japanese Conversation

2009 October 26

This article is dedicated to teaching some key Japanese conversational phrases while practicing the alphabet Hiragana. By the end of the article you’ll learn how to respond to a typically asked question in Japanese Conversation in a creative and fun, way. Note, there will be a key at the end of the article to help potential students that might not yet have a full grasp of Hiragana.

Learning Hiragana, as mentioned in an earlier article, is key to any language learner of Japanese. The whole phonetic pronunciation of Japanese can be taught by learning this one alphabet. All Japanese words can also be expressed using Hiragana, although keep in mind there are three alphabets to learn: Katakana, Kanji, and Hiragana.

Without further ado let’s teach some colloquial phrases usually used when you meet someone in Japanese. The first phrase below is a practice round for learning Japanese conversation; this is usually one of the first phrases every language learner picks up:

はじめまして 

(Ha ji me ma shi te)

Nice To Meet You

This is a common phrase that everyone says when they meet each other, okay let’s move onto more fun and colloquial phrases to say in Japanese:

#1 なんさいですか? (Check the key below if you cannot read this)

#1 Explanation: In America, when you meet someone you usually ask what job they do. In Japan, when starting a Japanese conversation, usually people ask how old you are. The above means “how old are you?” At first it seems offensive, but it’s just a cultural difference of what they ask in Japan. In Japanese conversation asking what job you have as a first question might seem offensive.

Anyways, it’s fun to have a few made up responses to this question. Here is some basic phrases to draw a smile (if you can’t read them, skip to the end key to get the reading)

#2おぼえてないです。

#3なんさいみえますか?

#4さいきんかぞえたことありません

#2 Explanation: The verb おぼえる (oboeru) means to remember. To say “I remember”, you’d say おぼえています(oboeteimasu). To say you don’t remember, you’d say おぼえていません. However, the masu – stem form of the verb being used here is more formal. To have a less formal and more colloquial version that should hopefully draw a smile, you’d change masen to nai desu. Literally: “I don’t remember”

#3 Explanation: Here you’re learning a phrase to ask someone how you appear. The verb みえます(miemasu) literally means to appear, to put it in the question form you’d say みえますか? なんさい means what age literally, so when you coming them together you get:” How old do I look?” This is actually quite a useful phrase, it’s not that funny, just adds to more conversation. It’s also hilarious to hear how old your co-workers or Japanese friends think you are.

#4 Explanation: To learn this one you’ll have to learn a little vocab and grammar. さいきん(saikin) literally means recently, and ことありません means “I haven’t”. かぞえる is the verb to count, and when you’re saying you haven’t done something, you put the verb form in past tense. Combining the three, you get: “ I haven’t counted recently.” I haven’t actually said this yet, so I don’t know if you’ll get a smile when using this in Japanese conversation…

When learning the art of Japanese conversation, and speaking in any foreign language, it’s always good to have a few prepared phrases you can say effortlessly to draw a smile. A sense of humor, especially when working with another culture you might not fully understand, can go a along way…well, sometimes, depending if you hit the right mark or not. These three sample responses given in this article are hopefully harmless, and if said in the right tone should help you sound more colloquial in your Japanese conversation. Good luck and keep trying!

Key

#1 – なんさいですか?Nan sai desu ka?

#2 – おぼえていないです。Oboeteinai desu.

#3 – なんさいみえますか?Nan sai memasuka?

#4 – さいきんかぞえたことありません。Saikin kazoeta koto arimasen.

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