In learning Japanese, I’ve come across a few phrases that are so similar to their English counterparts they sound like someone doing an offensive impression of someone from Japan without any knowledge of the language.
Whilst they sound quite humorous at first, they are so easy to learn for native English-speakers that they should be seen as a quick win for anyone trying to learn the language.
Here we go!
1. Gēmusentā – Game centre
Yep! That’s the phrase to describe a video game arcade. If you’re anything like me this is a key phrase for when you go to Japan as there are so many to experience in Tokyo.
2. Kurejittokādo – Credit card
A really useful phrase for shops and cafés. Even if you can’t construct “Do you take credit cards?” as a full sentence (“Kurejittokādo wa tsukae masu ka?”), holding your card and saying the English phrase with an “o” sound at the end is a start.
3. Merii Kurisumasu – Merry Christmas
Might only be useful for you for about three days in a year, but say it confidently despite the fact it sounds like you don’t know what you’re really saying.
4. Kukkī – Cookie
I mean, it’s not even different.
5. Sandoitchi – Sandwich
That’s not far off either. Just put a quick “oh” in the middle and an “ee” sound at the end and you’ve got a great accompanying snack for your kukkī.
6. Remonēdo – Lemonade
One thing that people in the west do when trying to impersonate Japanese speech in a derogatory manner is to swap all the “l” letters for “r” sounds and vice versa. This is because neither letter exists in Japanese. However, if you’re partial for lemonade then you’re in luck because that’s exactly how you say it. Just try not to look embarrassed when you ask for “Remonēdo kudasai”.
7. Kyasshu disupensa – Cash dispenser
Or you could have “e-ti-emu”. I’m not joking. In many ways, having two phrases in your arsenal for one thing is borderline fluent.
8. Hoteru – Hotel
An easy and very useful one to remember!
9. Aisu kurīmu – Ice cream
I love this one and can’t wait to use it next time I fancy some ice cream.
10. Amerikandoggu – American dog (or hot dog)
Not quite perfect translation on this one as people in the west don’t tend to order an “American dog”. Then again, I imagine “Japanese noodles” are just “noodles” in central Tokyo.
11. Koin rokkā – Coin locker
A little like number six, this does sound a bit like a westerner poking fun at the way Japanese people speak. Similarly “koin randorī” will be a useful phrase if you’re backpacking and you need to wash your clothes.
There you have it. In “tsumari” (another real one), if you find yourself in Japan around the 25th December and find yourself hungry in a Tokyo video game arcade but without any cash, then I have just sorted you out big time. You’re welcome.