Dialogue

Vocabulary

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Lesson Transcript

In today’s lesson, we will cover a useful phrase for when the Japanese is coming at you fast and furious and the content is a little bit too much to handle. So today’s phrase is I am sorry. I don’t understand. In Japanese, I am sorry is Sumimasen. Su-mi-ma-se-n. Sumimasen. Sumimasen also means excuse me. So this is very useful. You can use Sumimasen when you bump into a person or if you want to get someone’s attention at the restaurant for example, you can say Sumimasen. or if you want to apologize for something. If you spill coffee on someone, you can say Sumimasen very, very useful. Now the latter half of today’s phrase, I don’t understand is Wakari masen. Wa-ka-ri-ma-se-n. Wakari masen.
Now literally translated, this just means don’t understand. In Japanese a sentence doesn’t necessarily have to state the subject. It’s pretty obvious when you say it that you don’t understand. So you don’t have to say Watashi wa wakari masen just say Wakari masen. Now this word stems from the root word Wakaru which means to know or to understand. Wakarimasen is the polite way of saying the negative form. So it’s I don’t understand in the polite form Wakari masen. Wakari masen. It kind of rhymes Sumimasen, wakari masen. Sumimasen, wakari masen. pretty simple.
Now if you can’t remember all of this, don’t worry, you can just say Wakari masen. Building on this, we can add the phrase, I don’t understand Japanese. We can use the same word we used earlier Wakari masen. We simply say Nihon-go wa wakari masen. The first word Nihon-go means Japanese. Nihon is Japan, the country name, Go means language.
So together Nihon-go is the language used in Japan or Japanese. It’s pretty simple. So if you wanted to say the language used in Spain, you just put the country name first Spein-go, Spein-go. So Go is just language. So the first word in our sentence is Nihon-go. This is followed by Va, the topic marking particle. After this is Wakari masen, I don’t understand. So altogether, that’s Nihon-go wa wakari masen. I don’t understand Japanese and now time for Sachiko secret. If you are visiting a major city in Japan like Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama most likely people will try to speak English to you. Whether or not they can speak English is a different story but they can try to at least try their English on you.
So you don’t really need to worry about Japanese people talking really, really fast in Japanese to you. Another great thing is most adults in Japan I would say have at least 3, 6 or 9 years of English language education in schools so they can understand written English. Their listening comprehension and their speaking skills maybe lacking a bit but if you write it up for them, they might be able to decipher what it is you are trying to say. So for example, if you want to figure out where a station is, you can write it on a piece of paper, where is Shibuya station? You give it to them, they will notice the words where they will notice the words Shibuya and station and they might be able to point you in the right direction.
So that’s a good sign. Adults are always a safe bet. Children are an even bigger bet actually because a lot of mothers are making sure their kids become bilingual. They are taking their kids to all these language schools and completely taken back sometimes when on the train a little child goes up to a foreigner and just starts yapping away in English. It’s like hi, I am Tarō. I like baseball, where are you from? It’s really amazing. It’s a big fad right now. So if worse comes to worst, don’t feel scared to use your English but again remember the simple phrases Sumimasen for I am sorry or excuse me and Wakari masen for I don’t understand and luckily they will try to get help for you. Okay so to close our today’s lesson, let’s practice what you’ve just learned.
I will give you the English equivalent of the phrase and you are responsible for shouting it out loud in Japanese. You got that. I will give you a few seconds before I give you the answer. So good luck Ganbatte kudasai.
I am sorry, I don’t understand. That was Sumimasen, wakari masen and the second sentence, I don’t understand Japanese Nihon-go wa wakari masen. Ni-ho-n-go-wa-wa-ka-ri-ma-se-n. Nihon-go wa wakari masen. All right. That’s going to do it for today. See you later which in Japanese is Matane.

26 Comments

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JapanesePod101.com Verified
August 18th, 2009 at 06:30 PM
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Hi everyone! The phrases in this lesson are good to know if you find yourself not understanding what someone is telling you. Don't be afraid to say "Nihongo ga wakarimasen"!

JapanesePod101.com Verified
June 24th, 2020 at 05:15 PM
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Ivanさん


質問(しつもん)ありがとうございます😄

That is a good question! Yes, わかる (wakaru) is a verb. We use the particle が (ga) for the objects of ability. To understand is an ability, so for example, "I don't understand Japanese." will be にほんご が わかりません。(Nihongo ga wakarimasen).


Please let us know if you have any questions :)


Sincerely

Ryoma

Team JapanesePod101.com

Ivan
June 23rd, 2020 at 12:08 PM
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Konnichiwa! !correct me if i'm wrong i'm kinda confused but WAKARIMASEN is a verb right? so can we use object particle "o". Nihongo o wakarimasen? or is that wrong thanks

JapanesePod101.com Verified
November 15th, 2018 at 08:45 AM
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Hi Shaliza,


Thanks for the comment! We are glad to hear you enjoyed the lesson!


Thanks for studying with us! 😄 If you have questions, please let us know in the comment!


Sincerely,

Miki H

Team JapanesePod101.com

Shaliza
November 7th, 2018 at 07:22 PM
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Luv it!

JapanesePod101.com Verified
February 24th, 2018 at 04:49 AM
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Hi David,


Thank you for the feedback and sharing your experience in Japan. I'm sorry to hear your experience was very different from what's been described in this particular lesson. Like your actual experience, most Japanese people won't start talking in English, unless you (a visitor) appear to be needing a help or look really lost. But once they realize a help is needed, people usually try their best by using as much English as possible.


Sincerely,

Miki H

Team JapanesePod101.com

David
January 12th, 2018 at 10:42 AM
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These lessons are great, but saying people will try to practice their English or speak English to you is super misleading and I was told that constantly before my trip there. I spent a month in Tokyo and visited Osaka and Kyoto a couple times too, but mostly Tokyo...The only people who spoke English to me were people who had to know English for their every day jobs, such as the woman who had the JR Pass or the person who owned the AIRBNB I stayed at, a bar for foreigners, or a couple of tour guides. No one else even attempted to speak it in Shinjuku, Akihabara, Asakusa, nowhere. I was so unprepared I was really relying on that, so people definitely should not count on people speaking English.

Japanesepod101.com Verified
September 5th, 2017 at 09:55 PM
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Hi Angela,


Thank you for your message.


It's great to know that ! :)


If you have any questions, please let us know.


Sincerely,

Cristiane (クリスチアネ)

Team Japanesepod101.com

angela staats
September 5th, 2017 at 01:39 PM
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When I was in Japan, I used these phrases a lot. I actually became very good at saying them.? Thank you for the lesson.

JapanesePod101.com Verified
May 11th, 2016 at 10:23 AM
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Ruth M-san konnichiwa,


Thank you for your feedback.

Unfortunately the Writing Questions on Review section marks answers based on the English translation on Vocabulary on Lesson Materials section.

Since the English translation is "I don't understand." your answer was marked as incorrect.

We understand this inconvenience.

Please feel free to ask us when your answer is marked as incorrect. Our teachers will check out your answer.


Thank you for your understanding,

Motoko

Team JapanesePod101.com

JapanesePod101.com Verified
May 5th, 2016 at 10:14 PM
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Ruth M san,

Konnichiwa.

Of course, I can understand what you said.

Thank you for your feedback.

Yuki 由紀

Team JapanesePod101.com