“We start ageing when we stop learning” – Japanese Proverb
This proverb perfectly illustrates how important learning is in our everyday lives. Our lives need to be full of learning and it doesn’t matter whether we learn music, languages, or maths.
Learning a language or a musical instrument is stimulating and it allows us to learn more about the world and get out of our usual comfort zones. So with that in mind, why not choose to move away from Western culture by learning Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, or even Japanese?
Whether you take Japanese classes in order to travel to Japan or just to read mangas, there are a few facts about learning Japanese that you need to get to grips with.
Firstly, knowing how to introduce yourself and start conversations is hugely important in any language, especially Japanese. In fact, in Japanese culture, there’s a strict system of etiquette that you need to be aware of, too.
Learning to introduce yourself can be seen as a positive sign that shows willingness to integrate yourself into Japanese culture as well as showing that you’re interested in the Japanese language.
If you want to be comfortable when it comes to speaking, you should learn a few important Japanese words and phrases in order to introduce yourself. Getting private Japanese tutorials is a great place to start and plenty of other students have already started taking classes in order to achieve this goal.
You’ll also have to learn how to read the Japanese writing systems of kanji, hiragana, and katakana as well as learning the necessary expressions to tell people who you are and ask about them, too.
Luckily for you, this article covers exactly how to do all this!
There are a few things that you’ll need to know before you start learning Japanese and introducing yourself to Japanese people.
Japan is a country between modernity and tradition, making it one of the most interesting countries in the world. (Source: pixabay.com)
Despite Japan’s disastrous entry into modern capitalism following the Second World War, it managed to climb its way up to becoming one of the world’s most powerful countries while still managing to retain the ancient traditions from its long and fascinating history and culture.
Japan’s history is rich in elements borrowed from the Shinto religion which is native to Japan. That’s why the exchanges between individuals still seem almost cryptic, even nowadays! The manners seem very strict in comparison to what we’re used to in the West.
Don’t worry, though! The Japanese usually allow exceptions for Westerners as they’re fully aware that their systems seem really complicated to us. However, to properly introduce yourself in Japanese, there are a few rules that you still need to respect:
Avoid all physical contact with the person. No handshakes, no hugs, and certainly no kissing on the cheek.
You have to bow with your head in order to greet someone.
You have to say “hajimemashite” (“nice to meet you”) for each new conversation.
You respond with “yoroshiku onegaishimasu” which means “nice to meet you too” in this instance.
Bow slightly with your head to apologize and say “sumimasen” (“sorry”).
Once you’ve learned these expressions, you’ll need to move onto the Japanese expressions we use to introduce ourselves.
In every country around the world, when you meet someone for the first time, you greet them and introduce yourself.
Never shake hands the first time you meet a Japanese person! (Source: pixabay.com)
Most countries tend to do this formally in order to avoid insulting the other person, and Japan is no exception.
In Japan, they use “jikoshoukai ” 自己紹介 (self-introduction) to do this.
Don’t shake hands, hug, or kiss when you first meet people in Japan. One expression you should know by heart before going to Japan is “はじめまして” (hajimemashite). This expression roughly translates into English as “Nice to meet you”. You should pronounce each syllable individually like: ha-jee-may-ma-she-tay.
You should also bow your head slightly whenever you say this expression. This is one of the many ways to be polite in the Land of the Rising Sun.
The literal translation of hajimemashite is “it is the first time”, and it comes from the verb “hajimeru” which means “to start”. Anyone who practiced martial arts will probably be familiar with the term “hajime” which marks the beginning of combat in both karate and judo.
A meal is a great way to meet people. (Source: pixabay.com)
In addition to the expressions you need to start a conversation, there are also expressions you need to use when you end your first conversation with a new person in Japanese.
After spending some time in Japan, you’ll probably start to hear the expression “dozo yoroshiku” which roughly translates to “delighted to meet you”.
At this time, you should thank the other speaker for this new relationship and request their kindness in future conversations. In order to do this, you’ll have to use the expression “douzo yoroshiku onegai shimasu” (よろしくお願(ねが)いします) which doesn’t really have a translation into English but sort of means “I hope you like me”. It’s also used for establishing good relationships with other and even asking for a favor.
There are plenty of great places to go with your new Japanese friends. (Source: Aden Ardenrich)
When somebody says “yoroshiku onegaishimasu” to you, you should say “kochira koso yoroshiku onegaishimasu” (こちらこそよろしくお願いします) back to them so that they know that the feeling is mutual. This basically means “nice to meet you”. This will probably be one of first expressions that you’ll learn in Japanese classes.
The expression “yoroshiku onegaishimasu” is a generic way of being polite which you can use in a large number of different social situations. You can use it at the start of a business meeting to thank the person who’s about to start speaking or just to express encouragement for the work ahead. It can also be used to end letters and emails like we use “Sincerely” or “Best regards” in English. Finally, the expression’s also used in advertising to politely ask potential customers to buy products.
It can even be used to both express gratitude and to apologize in the same way we’d use either “thank you” or “sorry”. While this term could be used in an interview, it’s recommended that you use more elaborate and polite expressions.
When you first start learning Japanese, giving your name with a phonetic transcription in rōmaji or using a Japanese writing system is one of the first things you’ll learn how to do.
The traditions of Japan have heavily influenced the etiquette used in the country. (Source: pixabay.com)
There are also a few other rules you’ll need to learn. For Japanese native speakers, using somebody’s given name is a sign of extreme closeness and is reserved solely for close or intimate couples. This is why family names appear before given names in Japan.
Additionally, when you first present yourself, you’ll present your family name in order to show respect and distance. However, in more relaxed situations, it wouldn’t be impolite to present yourself using your given name.
There are several ways to present yourself. Just like in English, you say things like “I’m called…”, “My name is…”, or “I am…”. In Japanese, the equivalent to “I” or “me” is “watashi”.
Finally, the Japanese use four or five common honorifics to address other people but never themselves.
Sama: in formal situations (letters, emails, important people)
Kun: employer/employee relationships and well as for people we know really well.
Chan: for young girls and children
Sensei: for qualified professions such as teachers, lawyers, and doctors.
After saying someone’s family name, you should add at least “san” after it. For the Japanese, it’s considered very rude to directly refer to someone using their family or given name. Adding an honorific is similar to using something like “Mr.”, “Mrs.”, “Miss”, or “Ms.” in English.
The rules for introducing yourself around Japan change significantly when introducing yourself in more friendly settings. You can introduce yourself using your given name or both your given and family names depending on the situation you find yourself in.
Here’s how you’d say “I’m Peter” in an informal situation:
Peter desu (though the “u” in desu is almost silent in some cases).
Cultural trips are an interesting way to learn more about the manners in Japan. (Source: pixabay.com)
In order to be polite to somebody you’ve never met, you should use the following expression:
Peter to iimasu (in romaji)
I am called Peter
This is a very formal way to introduce yourself:
Peter to moshimasu
I am called Peter
Thus, you can change the expression depending on the formality of the situation you find yourself in. The informal and friendly versions can be used to introduce yourself at a party, for example.
However, it’s usually better to use an expression that’s too formal over using an expression that’s too informal. The honorific version should be reserved solely for very special occasions.
You must never present yourself with an honorific suffix (San さん, Kun 君, Chan ちゃん, Sama 様, Dono 殿) since this comes across as being incredibly pretentious and arrogant. It’s considered very rude in Japan to show off or boast, after all. You should never place any importance on your actions and you should always politely decline compliments.
Now that we know how to start a conversation (“Hajimemashite”), end a conversation by indirectly thanking the other participant (“yoroshiku onegaishimasu”), and give our names, it might be worth developing your Japanese vocabulary in order to say a little more about yourself (such as where we live, our nationality, job, age, hobbies, etc.)
Translation: I’m American.
Pop quiz: How would you say “I’m Spanish”?
What does “Watashi wa igirisujin desu” mean?
If you’re an astronaut, you’ll just have to look up the Japanese word yourself. (Source: pixabay.com)
Of course, you’ll need more than just a few words to be able to find a job in Japan. However, these expressions are perfect for anyone who’s planning a trip to the land of the rising sun. If you want to say how old you are, you’re going to need to learn how to count in Japanese.
Once you’ve told people your name and how old you are, it’s very common to asking people about what they do.
Why? Because asking what somebody does shows that you’re interested in them.
Translation: I’m a journalist.
Talking about Hobbies
Shumi ha ____ desu
My hobby is ____.
You can also say “Suki desu” + the hobby which means “I like” with the words for hobbies like dancing or football, for example.
With just a few expressions and words, you can now tell people what kind of things you like and you could even use the phrase “ni kyoumi ga arimasu” which means “My interest(s) is/are…”
You should also consider investing in a small English-Japanese dictionary if your hobbies aren’t on the list.
Hajimemashite. (Nice to meet you)
Watashi no namae wa Peter desu. (My name is Peter)
Watashi wa ni-juu go sai desu. (I’m 25)
New York ni sunde imasu. (I live in New York)
Gakusei desu. (I’m a student)
Suki desu suiei. (I like swimming)
Douzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu. (I’m delighted to meet you).
You now know enough Japanese to go for a meal with your Japanese friends. (Source: stock.tookapic.com)
You could also add “Konichiwa”, which means “Hello”, to the start of the conversation. It should be noted that the greetings in Japanese change depending on what time of the day you’re greeting somebody.
In Japanese, “Konichiwa” is generally used after 10:30am and before the evening. In the morning, you should use “ohayô” (the most polite form) which means “good morning” or “konbawa” in the evening, which relates to “good evening” in English. Of course, these are only greetings and not really a way of having a conversation with someone.
If you’d like to go further and ask about the person you’re talking to, you can use some of the following expressions:
Anata no namae wa nan desuka? What’s your name?
Anata no shoukugyou wa nani desuka? What do you do?
Nansai desuka? How old are you?
Ogenkideska? How are you?
Kimi no shumi ha nan desu ka? (What are your hobbies? What do you like to do in your free time?)
You should also learn how to tell the time in Japanese. This is also useful for starting conversations.
Starting to learn a language isn’t easy. This is especially true when the writing system isn’t the same as the one you’re used to. The same is trues for languages like Arabic, Chinese, and Russian, which all use different writing systems to English.
Life in Japan is governed by a series of rules that you should follow if you want to be thought of as well-mannered, and there are a number of thing you can do to be polite in Japan. Introducing yourself isn’t difficult to master but you should take care to follow the rules of how to be courteous. Learning to speak Japanese can take a lot of time but you can learn a few important expressions before you travel there.
You can find resources to learn Japanese online that will help you find the expressions you’ll need in order to have a conversation and introduce yourself. Don’t forget that the Japanese have introducing themselves down to an art.
In order to learn effectively, we recommend learning to read, write, and speak Japanese. You should also get a notepad and a dictionary in order to practice writing the characters as well as the phonetic transcription of them.
You should also check out the Minna no nihongo method for learning Japanese.
Make sure you take your Japanese friends somewhere nice! (Source: 邱 韬)
Here’s a table summarizing the Japanese expressions that you’ll need in order to introduce yourself.
Nice to meet you
Watashi ha … to moshimasu
My name is… (very polite)
Watashi ha … desu
Dozo Yoroshiku Oneigaishimasu
Thank you for this new relationship/friendship
Kochira Kosso Oneigaishimasu
Equivalent to “me too”, “likewise”, or “nice to meet you too”.
Watashi wa Amerika jin desu
私 は アメリカ人 です
… sai desu
I’m … years old.
ni kyômi ga alimass
My interests include…
… ni sundeimasu
I live in …
These simple Japanese expressions obviously won’t make you fluent in the language. However, they’re useful expressions for anyone who’s just started learning the language or anyone who’s planning a trip to Japan.
Once you’re there, the Japanese will appreciate a foreigner making an effort to introduce themselves in Japanese and follow the general rules of politeness observed in the country.
If you’re still interested in learning Japanese, then you should definitely take a look at Japanese tutors available on Superprof. A private tutor can plan their tutorials to you and soon you’ll be able to speak, read, and write Japanese.
If you want to go to Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, or anywhere in Japan, your first stop should be Superprof!