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Learning and communicating in a new language is a great experience. I can still remember the first time I really engaged in Japanese conversation. It was like I had passed through some invisible barrier. But what if you are traveling to Japan before you have had a chance to study much Japanese or need to get a point across you just don’t know the Japanese words for? The answer is actually easier than you might think. Do your best with Japanese and use simple, clear English where you don’t know the Japanese.

Japanese people are required to study English for 6 years in school. The problem is that the English teaching is focused on passing grammar tests rather than actually communicating. Since most of the English teachers are Japanese, they also don’t get the chance to hear English from native speakers. They do however learn a pretty large vocabulary.

So how does knowing this help you communicate in Japan?

  1. Most Japanese people understand grammar and have a large vocabulary, but don’t have much listening practice. Speak very clearly, use simple sentence structures, and be sure to leave small pauses in between each word.
  2. If you understand the Japanese alphabet pronounce the words using the Japanese syllables. For instance: hotel becomes “hoteru”.
  3. Lastly, if you are not able to get your point across verbally, write it down.

* The article was rewritten due to the original being lost due to a problem with the server. It is basically the same, but the wording may be slightly different.