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Lesson Transcript

Peter: Welcome back to JapanesePod101.com, the place to learn and to love Japanese. In this lesson, we’re taking years of experience in Japan and boiling it down to a few essential phrases that are a great place to start in Japanese.
Naomi: In this lesson we’ll introduce you to 5 phrases that will help you every day!
Peter: Yes, words and phrases that you’ll be really glad you learned. We’ll teach you not only the phrases but more importantly, when and where to use them.
Naomi: Let’s listen to the first phrase.
English: I’m sorry, Excuse me or Thank you
Man : すみません す・み・ま・せ・ん すみません
Woman:  すみません す・み・ま・せ・ん すみません
Naomi : It’s a good phrase to use, say, if you’re trying to make your way through a crowd or something.
Peter: If you ever visit Tōkyō, or in English, Tokyo, you should keep this word at the forefront of your brain, because you might need it when you’re trying to navigate your way through all of the people!
Naomi: You can use it to get someone’s attention…
Peter: …like to call the waiter over at a restaurant, get the attention of a shop clerk, get the attention of a passerby you want to ask a question to… and what’s really nice about it is it kind of acts as a double for the phrase “thank you” in some situations.
Naomi: Oh yeah, that’s true!
Peter: If someone does something for you, or gets you something, you can say
Naomi: “Sumimasen”.
Peter: And in this case it’ll mean “thank you”. It’s kind of like you’re partly apologizing for the trouble they went through to help you.
Naomi: Right, I think that’s a very good way to explain it.
Peter: When you use it to say “thank you”, it’s almost like a mix between thanking and apologizing. It’s quite a humble phrase.
Naomi: The correct pronunciation is sumimasen, but you might hear some people pronounce it like suimasen. Some people leave out the “m” sound.
Peter: Yeah, you hear this quite a lot.
Naomi: Suimasen - it’s quite common in spoken Japanese now. But the correct way to say it is sumimasen, so we recommend that.
Peter: Can we hear it again?
Naomi: Sumimasen
Peter: So this expression has three uses. One: to apologize. If you accidently bump into someone or you make a mistake. Two: To get someone’s attention, such as a waiter or a person you want to ask a question to. And three: “Thank you”. So this is an absolutely phenomenal, versatile phrase that you should memorize now. Commit it to memory now.
Naomi: Okay, what’s next?
English: Thanks, Hi.
Man : どーも。ど・う・も どーも
Woman: どーも。ど・う・も どーも
Naomi: Dōmo
Peter: This is another amazing phrase. Much like sumimasen, it’s very versatile. I actually call this one the “swiss army knife” of Japanese linguistics because it’s the perfect phrase for you to get through your journey. You’ll actually hear this word combined with a lot of other phrases, but it’s also used on its own a lot. Dōmo is like a simple and easy way to say “thank you” or “hello”.
Naomi: It’s like a light-hearted “hi!” or “hey!” in English.
Peter: So, for example, if you’re being introduced to friends of friends, or something like that, you can use:
Naomi: Dōmo!
Peter: …as a greeting meaning “hi”.
Naomi: Right, in situations where you’re not required to be so formal, dōmo is a convenient phrase to use.
Peter: It also can be used for “thank you”, right?
Naomi: Right!
Peter: I hear people using it to shop clerks and other people.
Naomi: Yeah, I think I often use it to people working at stores. Dōmo!
Peter: If you remember one phrase, just one, I think one is the best to remember, because if you’re in Japan and you get something, you’re going to want to say “thank you” a lot.
Naomi: Right. In that case, you should say “dōmo”.
Peter: And if you meet somebody, it’s a great way to say “hi”.
Naomi: Dōmo!
Peter: So this is a high-frequency phrase that you can go a long way with.
Naomi: OK.On to the next phrase.
English: go ahead.
Man : どーぞ。ど・う・ぞ どーぞ
Woman: どーぞ。ど・う・ぞ どーぞ
Naomi: So… “dōmo” is “thanks” or “hi” and “dōzo” means “go ahead”.
Peter: These sounds almost the same, so be careful!
Naomi: You can use dōzo when you’re offering something to someone.
Peter: For example, if you’ve brought someone an omiyage, or souvenir, and you’re presenting it to them, you’re about to pass it to them, you can say:
Naomi: Dōzo!
Peter: Or, if you’re sitting at a table, and you ask someone to pass the chopsticks, or the soy sauce, or the wasabi…
Naomi: They might say: Dōzo!
Peter: “Here you are”. And then you can use the previous phrase:
Naomi: Dōmo.
Peter: “Thank you.” So, this is a phrase you use when you give something, and you’ll hear it when you get something. “Please” “Here you go”.
Naomi: Or, like if you open the door for someone… you would say dōzo.
Peter: Implying that please - go ahead of you. So I think a good translation for this is “go ahead”. Anytime you want someone else to “go ahead” you can use this word. So someone’s handing you the chopsticks, they’ll say:
Naomi: Dōzo.
Peter: “Go ahead, take ‘em!” Or if two people in an elevator, and… which one’s going to go out first?
Naomi: Dōzo.
Peter: “Go ahead, go first!”
Naomi: Onto the next phrase.
English: Please
Man : お願いします お・ね・が・い・し・ま・す・お願いします
Woman: お願いします お・ね・が・い・し・ま・す・お願いします
Peter: Okay, this is a big one. You hear this one all the time. The nuance of this phrase varies a little bit depending on the situation, but I think the underlying message is always the same:
Peter: “Please!”
Naomi: “Please!”
Naomi: You can ask for a tangible object, by adding “onegai shimasu” to the item. For example, “Kōhī onegai shimasu”.
Peter: Which means “Coffee, please”. It’s a pretty easy way to ask for something.
Naomi: “Menyu onegai shimasu”
Peter: “Menu, please.” You’ll find that this expression is used a lot to ask for favors or to make requests of other people. And a lot of times it can be translated as “thanks in advance”.
Naomi: Mmm, that’s a good translation!
Peter: “Menyu onegai shimasu” “Menu, thanks in advance!” Now in English that sounds forward and a little bit rude, but in Japanese, think of the complete opposite meaning – it’s a very humble expression that is super polite, and it’s a very, very nice way of asking for something, or someone to do something for you. What you need to notice about this phrase is that it’s contextual, so the meaning can change depending upon the context. We’ll explain more later, but when asking for something, or someone to do something for you, it has the meaning of “please.”
Naomi: Okay, onto the next expression.
English: Yes, right
Man : はい は・い はい
Woman: はい は・い はい
Peter: The shortest phrase of them all!
Naomi: Hai! Right.
Peter: Now, hai usually means “yes”, or “right”. In some situations it means “here you go”, and while technically this word does mean “yes”, there is something important to keep in mind! It doesn’t always mean yes.
Naomi: That sounds like it could be confusing.
Peter: It is confusing, but I think we have this in every language. Allow us to explain. If you are answering a yes/no question, then hai means yes. Japanese people, however, use the word:
Naomi: “hai”
Peter: …a lot just to show that they are listening to and following what you are saying. In that case it functions as a filler word.
Naomi: Hai. I mean Yes.
Peter: Now Japanese has a lot of these words, and they’re called “aizuchi”.
Naomi: “Interjection?”
Peter: Exactly. And what they show is that the listener is listening and keeping up with the conversation, and hai is one of these.
Naomi: The thing you have to realize is that just because they’re saying hai doesn’t mean they are agreeing with everything you’re saying!
Peter: They’re simply acknowledging they’re listening.
Naomi: Right. I think in business situations, this could cause some misunderstandings!
Peter: That’s right, so please just try and keep this in mind! This idea of “aizuchi”, like, the fact that when one person is speaking, another person is interjecting – it’s kind of like in English: “uh huh, uh huh, yeah”. But a lot of times in English when someone’s speaking, it’s quite respectful to be silent, and just give the stage to the person who’s speaking and listen. In Japanese, that attitude is expressed with “aizuchi”. The fact that they’re interjecting is politeness. To stare directly at them, not saying anything, kind of makes them wonder “um…”
Naomi: “Are you following me?”
Peter: Exactly. So, it’s something you’ll have to get used to, as while you’re speaking, there could be “aizuchi”. “Hai, hai”.
Naomi: “Hai hai hai!” There’s another way to use hai. If you say it with rising intonation: hai? It turns it into a question, like “excuse me?” or “I’m sorry?”
Peter: And this is really helpful – if you don’t catch what someone says to you, you can use:
Naomi: “Hai?”
Peter: …to show that you didn’t catch what they said.
Naomi: And then they’ll repeat it for you.
Peter: And it’s easy to use! So remember this other meaning for hai. You’ll be very glad you did.
Naomi: I think that just about does it!
Peter: So, we’ve gone over our Top 5 must know phrases in Japanese. Let’s recap them before we go. What did we study?
Naomi: Sumimasen
Peter: Remember, three meanings depending on context: “Excuse me”, “I’m sorry”, or “Thank you”. Next?
Naomi: Dōmo.
Peter: Two meanings: casual “hi”, “hello”, and “thanks”. Next?
Naomi: Dōzo.
Peter: “Here you are” “Go ahead”, and “Please [do something]” – “Please take it” “Please go ahead”. Next?
Naomi: Onegai shimasu.
Peter: Please, as in “please give me something” or “please do something for me”. Next?
Naomi: Hai.
Peter: “Yes” “right” What?”
Naomi: That would be “hai?”
Peter: Now, knowing these five phrases will take you a long, long way.
Naomi: Right.
Peter: So keep those phrases in mind, and we’ll see you next time!
Naomi: Hai!