Phase One - Travel Lessons

Getting started with travel Japanese

Key Phrases

excuse me; I’m sorry; pardon me.
So, I get this idea.I’m gonna go visit fill-in-the-blank country! And it’s going to be the greatest thing.But I don’t speak fill-in-the-blank language!Luckily, I have a genius 5-step plan to get around this:
  1. Buy phrasebook or travel language course
  2. Fantasize about chatting it up with native speakers
  3. Study/Read nothing
  4. Go to country
  5. Suffer
I’ve repeated this process more times than I’d care to admit.That being said, we can produce some substantially more impressive results together in this course.In the following travel lessons, I’m going to assume that you’re starting with ZERO Japanese. Even if you know a bit (or a lot) of Japanese, there is still loads of useful info to be gained from these lessons.So, without further ado…

The most useful Japanese travel phrase

If I could teach you one single phrase to learn before an upcoming trip to Japan, it would be:

Excuse me. // I'm sorry.

excuse me

Female Voice

Hang on a second! I don’t know how to read or pronounce Japanese yet.Sorry about that.We have a set of tools that teach you the pronunciation and writing of all Japanese "letters." A set of tools you'll be seeing very soon. In our travel lessons, however, we'll just look at Japanese sounds and characters as they pop up in words, and you don't need to worry about memorizing them here.
I do have to mention that the 5 vowel sounds in Japanese — a, i, u, e, o — are pronounced like this:a is like the “ah” sound in “father” (U.S. pronunciation).
i is like the “ee” sound in “eel” (but don’t draw it out too long).
u is a bit like the “oo” sound in “tune” (but don’t purse your lips).
e is somewhere close to the “eh” in “egg.”
o is similar to the “o” in “ocean.”
Rather than memorize all of this, all you really need to do is listen to the native audio that we have included beneath each phrase included in these lessons. Copy those voices, and you’ll be good.
These images from the kana learning tool might help, too:
soup - - “su”
meow - - “mi”
marker - - “ma”
celery - - “se”
king - - “n”
Note that the mnemonic images included to help you memorize the sounds of Japanese are approximations. They can help you to avoid forgetting the sounds of these characters, but the best way to learn how to say them is to mimic the native audio.
Generally speaking, the sounds of Japanese can be divided into “syllables” that usually consist of a consonant-vowel combo (e.g. “su,” “mi,” “ma,” etc. all start with a consonant and end with a vowel).One exception to this is the (n) sound, which is the only standalone consonant in Japanese. It is also possible for vowels to appear without a consonant.
Back to すみません. Why is this such an awesome phrase?Well, here are some situations in which it might come in handy:Need to squeeze past someone when you’re getting off the train? すみません.Need to get that waiter’s attention? すみません.“Excuse me” isn’t the perfect translation because in certain situations, “I’m sorry” would be more accurate.For example, you could even say すみません if you rolled your luggage over someone’s foot at the station and you want to apologize. However, there is another word that would also be appropriate in this situation, a word that you can use when you want to apologize for doing something inappropriate, wrong, hurtful, etc.That word is…

I'm sorry.

Note how the "ah" sound in (sa) and the "ee" sound in (i) merge together to form something similar to the "i" sound in words like "bike" or "might." So, さい is close in pronunciation to "sigh."

Female Voice

We’ll break this word down in the next lesson.

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This is a small sample of our lessons which will take you from knowing no Japanese to achieving fluency. Consider signing up to gain access to all of our content or continue reading free lessons!