Hello, hi, hey, howdy, and yo!The first word for “hello” in Japanese that most of us learn is:
Hey. // Hi. // Hello.
Hey. // Hi.
But are you sure that you're pronouncing it correctly?Are you using it at the right times? Because many foreign speakers of Japanese are not. こんにちは。
How do you pronounce こんにちは?If you’ve been studying Japanese for a while, then there is a good chance that you know the word for “today,” which is 今日.きょう is an irregular reading of 今日. But it is also possible for the reading of 今日 to be こんにち, as in this sentence:
今日 is pronounced こんにち when we are talking about “today” in a more general sense. That is, it means something like “these days,” “nowadays,” etc. That was not always the case, though, as you’ll see below.First, let’s talk about the pronunciation of こんにちは — in particular, the difference in intonation between the こんにち you see above and こんにちは.In the former (i.e. the meaning of “these days,” “nowadays,” etc.) the pitch drops after the initial こ sound:Pitch accent chart coming soon.But in the greeting こんにちは, which means “hello,” we would maintain a consistent pitch throughout the entire phrase (i.e. it does not go up or down):Pitch accent chart coming soon.That might seem like a really intimidating thing to be worrying about when pronouncing Japanese. Luckily, if you’re listening closely to how Japanese people are speaking, you should develop a natural ear for pitch over time, especially if you’re using our shadow loops. 今日では電報はあまり使われない。
Telegrams are rarely used nowadays.
todaydewatelegramwanot muchbe usedThis sounds like written language, as is often the case with the こんにち reading of 今日 (as opposed to きょう).
What does こんにちは really mean?A long time in the past, こんにち actually just meant “today,” so saying 今日は back then would be like saying 今日は in modern Japanese.
In case you didn’t already know this, は (pronounced wa in this case and not ha) is a topic-marking particle in Japanese.Because of this, you would have heard 今日は quite a bit back then in everyday language in sentences like these:
How are you today?
todaywawell-beinghowdesukaThis is outdated language.
Nobody wants to be saying super-long phrases when they are just trying to greet someone. Accordingly, it is believed that those greetings got shortened to just こんにちは over time, and it took on the meaning of “hello.” 今日は良い天気ですね。
The weather is nice today, isn’t it?
todaywagoodweatherdesuneThis is outdated language.
This also explains why the は in こんにちは is being pronounced wa and not ha — because it’s coming from the particle は！You may also see people writing わ at the end of the word, even though this is technically incorrect: こんにちわ.
The Correct Usage of こんにちはIf you’re feeling extra lazy, yeah, just go around saying こんにちは any time you want to say “hello” to someone.It would be a bit better, though, if you were careful about when you were using it.If you use こんにちは with everyone and at any time, your Japanese will sound a bit unnatural.Most importantly, I want to point out that こんにちは is not something that you would say to someone that you are on close terms with. Friends and family don’t really use it with each other, and you wouldn’t normally use it when strolling into the workplace and seeing your coworkers, either.Instead, こんにちは is a phrase you use with strangers, neighbors — people you don’t intimately know or have regular close interaction with.Timing is important, too. If it’s morning, go with this instead:
I love going for long walks in Japan. Do it in the morning, and eventually some nice old lady will hit you with one of these greetings, and it’ll be a feels-good moment, I promise you.In English, we often say, “hello” or “good morning” in the morning, but in Japan they’re a bit more clearly separated.Oh, and if you’re talking to a friend or family member, you can also drop the ございます off the end to make it more casual: おはようございます。
If it’s evening, opt for: おはよう。
good morningUnlike こんにちは, the phrase おはよう is commonly used with people you’re on close terms with, like family and friends.
good eveningLike こんにちは, the phrase こんばんは。 is not commonly used with people you’re on close terms with, like family and friends.
Slang for saying “hello” in JapaneseAll of the phrases below are playful, slang versions of “hello” in Japanese. These are very casual, so don’t go saying them to your boss!To be perfectly honest, I only rarely say any of these, but I do hear them every once in a while…
A lot of “slang” for “hello” in Japanese are just shortened versions of the word こんにちは. For example... おっす。
what's upThis was probably the first slang I ever learned in Japanese. To my disappointment, I’ve only heard a few Japanese friends actually using it..
And then we can make that shorter... こんちわ。
Hey. // Hi. // Hello.
And shorter…Or just give up and start using English…Try saying one of these slang versions sometime. Then when you get laughed at, you can wonder if it’s because your pronunciation is off or because it just seems silly that a foreigner is using slang. ちわっす。
Hey. // Hi.
heyっす is a contracted form of です. It has a messier, rougher nuance than the full です. It doesn’t sound very professional, for example.
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