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Starting Conversations in Japanese

written by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 6/30/2014

When learning Japanese, you will want to know how to talk with people. Learn the different phrases in Japanese for starting a conversation, such as "good morning" and "hello." Also learn why two different phrases are used for "thank you for the meal," depending on when they are said during the meal.

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    Introduction/Greetings

    As with every language, we need to know how to converse. Let's start with some phrases that we will use to start a Japanese Japanese Language conversation. The time of day is important when choosing which Japanese phrase to use. For example, if it is before 10 am, we use the phrase:

    おはよう (ohayou) Good morning

    In more polite situations, we would use the polite version:

    おはよう ございます (ohayou gozaimasu).

    The rule of thumb is once 10 am has passed, we use the Japanese greeting:

    こんにちは (konnichiwa) Good afternoon/hello

    At nighttime, the greeting becomes:

    こんばんは (konbanwa) Good evening

    Now, if this is the first person we have met, we will need to introduce ourselves. In Japanese conversations, two phrases are always used:

    はじめまして (hajimemashite) How do you do?

    どうぞ よろしく (douzo yoroshiku) Nice to meet you

    In between these two phrases, we can tell the other person our name. The easiest is to use the ~です )

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    Saying Goodbye

    After we have had our conversation, we need to know how to end it. To say goodbye in Japanese, we say:

    さようなら (sayonara)

    If we are saying good night, we say:

    おやすみなさい (oyasuminasai)

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    Phrases For Home

    Certain Japanese conversational phrases are used when at home. When we are leaving home, we announced to whomever is still in the house that:

    いってきます (ittekimasu) I'll go and come back

    Whoever is home would say:

    いってらっしゃい (itterasshai) Please go and come back

    When we return home, we would say:

    ただいま (tadaima) I'm home

    The response to this phrase is:

    おかえりなさい (okaerinasai) Welcome home

    There are also special phrases we use when eating in Japanese. While not part of the overall conversation, it is important to say them before and after the meal, for the sake of politeness. Before a meal, we say the phrase:

    いただきます (itadakimasu) Thank you for the meal

    After the meal, we say:

    ごちそうさま (gochisousama) Thank you for the meal

    While both of these phrases translate the same in English, the unsaid translation is where in the meal they are said.

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    Reference

    Banno, E., Ohno, Y., Sakane, Y. and Shinagawa, C. An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese. The Japan Times, 1999