Survival Japanese

How to begin learning Japanese with Katakana Words

When you first start learning a new language you need to find some common ground between your language and the language that you are learning. If you are learning Japanese you might find this quite difficult because your first language is probably completely different from Japanese. This is where Katakana words come in. These are words that are not originally Japanese and come from other languages, these loan words are really useful when you’re just starting out, they can help you make the connection between your own language and the new language that you are learning. Katakana words are also used for scientific and technical terms, onomatopoeia and often for naming companies.

Here are some common loan words and how to pronounce them in Japanese. These are good to get you started when you are beginning to learn Japanese.

To say beer in Japanese is ビーリ (pronounced Biiru)

To say coffee in Japanese is コーヒー (pronounced kou-hii)

When there is a line inbetween the symbols like this ー it means you extend the sound as you say it. So it’s not ko hi but kou hii and it’s biiru. The i い is pronounced ee. so It sounds more like Bee-Ru as in Bumble Bee. Imagine a bumble bee drinking a beer as a mnemonic to remember it.

To say hotel in Japanese is ホテル (pronounced ho-te-ru)

To say juice in Japanese is ジュース (pronounced Juu-su)

To say TV in Japanese is テレビ (pronounced te-re-bi)

To say pasta in Japanese is パスタ (pronounced pa-su-ta)

To say table in Japanese テーブル (pronounced te-bu-ru) The te テ sound is prounced like teh.

To say pen in Japanese is ペン (pronounced pen)

To say America in Japanese is アメリカ (pronounced A-me-ri-ka)

To say Russia in Japanese is ロシア (pronounced Ro-shi-a)

To say party in Japanese is パーティー (pronounced Par-tee)

To say dress in Japanese is ドレス (pronounced do-re-su)

To say shirt in Japanese is シャツ (pronounced sha-tsu)

To say restaurant in Japanese is レストラン (pronounced re-su-to-ran)

To say hamburger in Japanese is ハンバーガー (pronounced han-ba-gar)

To say cafe in Japanese is カフェ (pronounced Cafe)

To say waiter in Japanese is ウェイター (pronounced U-e-i-taa) So don’t forget the “e” sound is pronounced “eh” and the i sound is pronounced “ee”

To say sofa in Japanese is ソファ (pronounced sofa)

To say France in Japanese is フランス (pronounced Fu-ran-su)

To say Cake in Japanese is ケーキ (pronounced Ke-ki) don’t forget to extend the sound in the middle, so a long ke- ki)

To say tour in Japanese is ツアー (pronounced tsu-a-)

To say Chocolate in Japanese is チョコレート (pronounced Cho-ko-re–to)

To say Chocolate cake in Japanese is チョコレートケーキ (pronounced Cho-ko-re–to-Ke–ki)

To say Hot Chocolate in Japanese is ホットチョコレート (pronounced Ho-tto-cho-ko-re–to)

To say mug in Japanese is マグカップ (pronounced Ma-gu-ka-pu)

To say Chicken sandwich in Japanese is チキンサンド (pronounced chi-ki-n-san-do)

To say sandwich in Japanese is サンド (san-do) Or you can say サンドウィッチ (pronounced San-do-ui-chi) so it’s no san doo but san -doh.

To say cheese sandwich is チーズサンド (Chi–zu-san-do)

To say Pizza in Japanese is ピザ (Pi-za)

To say Toilet in Japanese is トイレ (toi-re) sounds like toy-reh)

To say wine in Japanese is ワイン (Pronounced wa-in wine)

To say red wine in Japanese is 赤ワイン (pronounced a-ka-wine) 赤 is a Kanji character which means red.

To say white wine in Japanese is 白ワイン (pronounced shiro-wine)白 is a Kanji character which means white.

To say Chopin in Japanese is ショパン (pronounced Sho-pan)

Survival Japanese

How to ask for directions in Japanese

If you are travelling in Japan you will often find yourself lost in big cities like Tokyo or even in the countryside. It’s a good idea to know how to ask for directions, here’s how to do it.

ホテルはどこですか in Romaji hoteru-ha-doko-desu-ka (the ‘ha’ is pronounced ‘wa’ so it sounds like this hoteru-wa-doko-desu-ka

You can insert the name of your hotel in front of the word ‘hoteru’ (hotel).

Lets break this sentence down a bit, you might have noticed that the first word ホテル (hoteru) uses slightly different characters than the rest of the sentence. That’s because the word hotel comes from English, words from other languages, not just English use characters called Katakana. The characters are slightly different from Hiragana (the characters that are written in the rest of the sentence) はどこですか (ha-doko-desu-ka). These words that use Katakana are quite common and if you learn them you can have an instant vocabulary of words that are borrowed from other languages. This is really helpful because when you are trying to learn a language that is so different from your language you need something to hook onto that you can connect to something you already know to help you understand the rest of the sentence. I’ll write a post on this but for now lets get back to asking for directions.

ホテルはどこですか hoteru-wa-doko-desu-ka where is the hotel?

The は in this sentence pronounced wa indicates what we are talking about in the sentence, the thing that came before it in the sentence, which in this case is ‘hotel’ ホテル hoteru. Think of it as saying something like, as for the hotel…

When you look at the last character in the sentence, it’s か (ka) This turns a sentence into a question. You don’t need to change the tone of your voice at the end of a sentence like in other languages. Then when we look at the middle part of the sentence, we can see the word どこ (doko) This means where, and finally we have です (desu) (don’t over emphasise the u when you say it, it’s usually just pronounced dess). です (desu) you can think of it as kind of like ‘it is’. It makes the sentence more polite to use the word desu.

So the whole sentence again,

ホテルはどこですか hoteru-wa-doko-desu-ka Where is the hotel? (You can think of it as: As for the hotel where is it?)

So what you do now is change the first word and just memorize the last part of the sentence and you can ask directions to anywhere.

For example here a few places you might need to get too,

駅  えき (eki) means train station.

郵便局  ゆうびんきょく (yuu-bin-kyoku) means post office.

銀行 ぎんこう (Ginkou) means bank.

居酒屋 いざかや (Izakaya) is a Japanese style pub where you can also get tasty Japanese food.

So you can just add these words to the beginning of the sentence.

So you can say for example, 駅はどこですか  えきはどこですか (eki-wa-doko-desu-ka) Where is the train station? (as for the train station, where is it?) As for the Eki where is it?