You have been studying Japanese and learning lots of Japanese words. But what if you are heading to Japan and don’t have time to study or remember a lot of Japanese words? Well, I would say that there is always time if done efficiently, but just in case, here is a list of words that you must know.
I wanted to keep the list small and have decided to limit it to just 10 words. A Japanese words survival list if you will. If you can remember these words, then you should at be able to take care of your basic needs. They might not get you much further, but at least you will be able to get to the bathroom.
I should note that the grammar below is not complete. It is written for someone who only knows these ten words to get by.
1. Doko (どこ)-where
Knowing how to say where is really important. Especially if this is your first time to Japan. Just add the place name in front of this: Restaurant doko?
2. Ikitai (いきたい) -I want to go to
Similar to doko, but this allows you to tell someone where you want to go: Station ikitai.
3. Sumimasen (すみません)-Sorry, excuse me。
This word can be extremely useful because of all of the ways it can be used. Mainly, you can use it to say “sorry” or “excuse me”.
4. Ikura (いくら)-How much
You will most likely be buying things. This allows you to ask how much.
5. Otearai (おてあらい)-Bathroom
You will definitely want to remember this one. You can combine it with number one for: otearai doko?
6. Arigatou (ありがとう)-Thank you
This is the short form of thank you (thanks), but it is easy to say and easier to remember than the more polite arigatou gozaimasu.
7. Byouin (びょういん)-Hospital
This one is a bit of a no brainer. You can combine it with ikitai or doko to help you actually get there?
8. Tabetai (たべたい)-Want to eat
Not quite hungry, but about as close as you can get with one word. Also allows you to say what you want to eat: sushi tabetai!
9. Nomitai (のみたい)-Want to drink
Same as above, but for drinking. Omizu (water) nomitai.
10. Eigo (えいご)-English?
Said with a rising voice this will mean “can you speak English?” More and more people can these days, so it might be helpful if you need some help.
*Bonus 1. Speak English slowly- A lot of Japanese words now days are English words. speak slowly and enunciate clearly and they will likely understand.
**Bonus 2. Write it down-Japanese are required to study English from middle school (now elementary school) and actually have a pretty good understanding of grammer. Write it down and they will likely understand.
As I mentioned before, this definitely isn’t a complete list, and it is more for someone who has no experience with Japan. These words should help you get the basics, but not much more. On the plus side, anyone should be able to remember 10 words on the flight over. You could also print them out and stick it in your pocket.
Now’s your chance to tell me: what words would you put in your top 10 words you have to know.
For a much longer list of words see here: common Japanese words
You can also find a downloadable list here: 1000 Japanese words