Words are the building blocks of language. In order to have any type of conversation in Japanese, you will need to know a certain amount of Japanese words. The more Japanese words you know, the more you will be able to communicate. However, it’s not just the number of Japanese words that’s important, but also which ones.
When most people think of learning the Japanese language, they think of the years of hard work they will need to put in. The majority of people consider this hard work and the amount of time it will take to reach fluency, and decide it’s impossible. Having studied Japanese and language learning for over 9 years, I have heard quite a few people say they could never do it. However, learning a new language, even one like Japanese, isn’t as difficult and doesn’t take as long as most people think. In fact, with diligent study and the right materials, I believe someone can have a level of fluency within a matter of months.
The Japanese language has hundreds of thousands of words, but it is only a small fraction of those words that makes up the majority of both the spoken and written language. Since the written words and spoken words will be slightly different, and because most of your communication in Japanese will be spoken, the quickest way to gain fluency is to learn the most commonly spoken Japanese words and phrases.
The key is too choose the right materials. I have used literally dozens of Japanese books and most of them have one common problem, they are full of Japanese words and situational phrases that you don’t need to know. Most also focus too much on learning to say things a proper way. This is great for someone who wants to learn proper Japanese, but will slow down someone who wants to gain conversational fluency. Also, don’t be afraid to use use materials such as comic books, tv shows, and movies. The latter two not only allow you to learn commonly used Japanese words, but practice your listening as well.
Below I have created a short list of some of the most common and most helpful Japanese words. These are words that should definitely be in a Japanese learners vocabulary and will especially be helpful for someone planning to visit Japan. Note that this list is by no means comprehensive or complete, but should help you get around when you visit Japan. In addition to the words listed here, I highly recommend that you study as many common Japanese phrases as possible. Learning common Japanese phrases will help you to better communicate and also to put words in context.
You can also find a much larger list containing 1000+ Japanese words in a downloadable pdf format at the below link.
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Common Japanese Words
|Me, I (for males||boku||ぼく|
|Nice to meet you||Hajimemashite||はじめまして|
|want to go to~||~ni ikitai||〜に いきたい|
|want to eat~||~wo tabetai||〜を たべたい|
|want to drink~||~wo nomitai||〜を のみたい|
|can’t eat~||~wo taberarenai||〜を たべられない|
|thank you||arigatou gozaimasu||ありがとうございます|
|want to buy~||~wo kaitai||〜を かいたい|
|want to see~||~wo mitai||〜を みたい|
|sorry||gomen nasai||ごめん なさい|
|good afternoon||konnichi wa||こんにちは|
|good evening||konnban wa||こんばんは|
|how are you?||ogenki desu ka||おげんき です か|
|I’m fine||genki desu||げんき です|
|where is~||~wa doko||〜は どこ|
25 Other Helpful Japanese Words
Numbers and Time