Japanese Greeting: Learning a Different Language

japanese greetingLearning any language can be a difficult undertaking, especially when the language is vastly different from your own. Japanese can be especially difficult to learn due to it being based so strongly in specific situations and settings. For example, the way you say hello to someone on the phone may be different depending on who you’re calling or what time of day it may be.

At the same time, the way you greet a stranger can be a lot different from the way you greet a friend. There are subtle implications in everything you say when you speak Japanese, which can make it particularly hard to learn. However, there are a few Japanese greetings that you will have to learn, whether you just want to speak Japanese in casual conversation or you need it for business.

As difficult as it may seem, you can learn conversational Japanese pretty easily with a little bit of help. In fact, there are several courses designed to quickly teach you important words and phrases, such as greetings, in Japanese. Check out the Udemy course Japanese in Context – Elementary Japanese for help getting started. This particular course starts with the basics and slowly eases you into learning more complex phrases and words and sentences, which can be a great foundation for learning the language more fully later.

The Three Basic Greetings 

When you’re meeting someone and you want to greet them in Japanese, there are three basic greetings that you can use. You may have heard these words before. The three basic greetings are: konnichiwa, konbanwa, and ohayou-gozaimasu. These three basic greetings are used for saying hello to individuals throughout the day.

In the morning, any time before 11 AM at least, you will greet someone with the formal ohayou-gozaimasu, which is a very polite way of saying good morning. Of course, if you want to keep things more casual, you can just say the word ohayou. If you find yourself at school or working, this would be the greeting that you would hear the most.

Once 11 AM hits, you will have to change your greeting accordingly to good day or good afternoon. Although it directly translates to good day, konnichiwa is used more colloquially as hello. You can use this form of greeting until it gets dark, but interestingly enough there are people who use this greeting even when it is late. If you’re ever unsure of what greeting to use, konnichiwa is always a safe basic one to use.

The final greeting is reserved for use in the evening. Konbanwa translates directly to good evening, and it is used once the sun has gone down or during the sunset.

Casual Greetings  

Now that you’ve seen some of the more formal greetings, you may be wondering if there are more casual ones you can use in everyday conversation. There are a few phrases you can use that are similar to English slang in that they aren’t necessarily formal, but they aren’t rude to say either.

The three casual phrases that you can use to greet someone are Ya, Yo, and Saikin do.

Ya and yo mean hello and hi respectively, while Saikin do is what you would say when you would want to ask someone “what’s up”. Remember that you would only want to use these phrases informally, which means that you would probably use it with a good friend of yours or someone that is around the same age as you.

Fun fact: another way you can say hello to someone is with the word maido.

Knowing the right way to greet someone can be more difficult than learning the actual words and phrases at times, but with a little practice you can get the hang of it in no time.

There’s an Udemy course designed to help you learn Japanese rather quickly. In fact, this course is actually all about mastering conversational Japanese, and not just learning a few simple phrases and words. It’s called Speak Japanese Fluently – Master Conversational Japanese, and you should check it out if you have a real interest in the language (or you need to learn to speak it in a hurry). 

Meeting Someone  

Now that you understand how to say a few basic greetings, you may want to learn how to properly introduce yourself to others. In order to do that, you should learn these three important statements:

  • Hajime mashite
  • Watashi wa desu
  • Douzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu

The first statement, hajime mashite, means “How do you do?” or “How are you.” You use this greeting if you’re meeting someone for the very first time; it’s very formal and polite.

The next phrase you will use, watashi wa desu, is what you would use to introduce yourself. Watashi wa desu translates to “my name is…” If you want to give your name, then you place your name between the wa and the desu in the statement. For instance, say that your name was Mike. You would say the phrase, “watashi wa Mike desu”, which would directly translate to “My name is Mike.”

Another way to introduce yourself is to say Mike to moushimasu, which means, “My name is Mike.”

The final phrase, douzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu, may seem a bit long and hard to pronounce. It simply means “pleased to meet you,” and is important to master if you want to be polite to your new, Japanese-speaking friends and colleagues.

Keep in mind that these phrases just cover the ways in which you might introduce yourself to someone; there are other basic Japanese phrases that you need learn in order to engage in basic conversation.

Asking “How are Things?” 

The final set of phrases we will discuss is asking someone how they are, which can be important if you want to be polite.

Again, there are multiple phrases you can use, but they all can essentially mean the same thing. Nanika atta means “What’s up?” but can also be used interchangeably with Kawatta koto aru, which means “What’s new?”

One final way to greet someone and ask how they are is using the phrase Dou shiteru, which means “How is everything?” While it’s a bit of a challenge and these niceties may not seem necessary, they can help you make a good impression, so it’s wise to learn them. 

Using the Right Greeting

As you learn more about Japanese, you will come to understand that your greeting isn’t just based on the time of day that you use it or the people that you’re speaking to. When you’re in a different region, you may be expected to speak with a different set of phrases altogether. There are some words and phrases that extend across multiple regions, but there are others that are only specific to that one region.

Japanese can get incredibly complicated, but it is not impossible to master. The course Japanese Mastery Method – Accelerated Learning for Japanese doesn’t just give you a crash course in learning Japanese, but also teaches you in a way that you feel confident about what you’re learning and how you could use it in every day conversation. It takes you from beginner to an advanced level of speaking Japanese, as well as using proper grammar and pronunciation.

Taking Your Lessons Further 

Once you learn how to speak Japanese, you should try learning how to read and write it as well. Check out the Learn to Read Japanese course on Udemy, which teaches you all about the three most common forms of written Japanese: Katakana, Kanji, and Hiragana.