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Talk:Japanese phrasebook

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I think the best way to write the entries in this phrasebook is to write mixed kanji and kana (the way Japanese is normally written), then romaji, then the pronunciation according to the pseudo-phoneticization guide. For example:

Do you speak English? 
えいごをはなせますか eigo o hanasemasuka? (AY-goh-o-hah-nah-seh-MAHSS-kah?)

except that "hanase" should be written as a kanji, which I have no idea how to type. -phma 15:48, 8 May 2004 (EDT)

Not only the "hanase" but also the "eigo'. The complete kanji version is 英語を話せますか
Agreed, the phrases should use kanji, not just kana. Is it necessary to have both romaji and pseudo-phonetics though? Personally I don't like pseudo-phonetics and would prefer only romaji (given that it's the established phonetic representation), but the former is standard here, so I'd advocate dropping romaji. -- Paul Richter 15:38, 12 May 2004 (EDT)
Unfortunately even the romaji is nonstandard, it would be Hepburn but the long vowels are bizarrely written "o-o" instead of the correct "Ō".
Anyway, I'd go for kanji, romaji (Hepburn) plus pseudophonetics -- this way you can point to kanji for native speakers, read it right if you know Hepburn, and stab wildly in a vaguely correct direction if you read out the pseudophonetics. Jpatokal 06:01, 13 May 2004 (EDT)
Sounds good to me. -phma 00:45, 15 May 2004 (EDT)

Incorrect Pronunciation[edit]

I noticed that the common ending particle "desu" is written to be prounounced as "dess". That is incorrect. While the subtle "u" is not always noticed, it is still there. While it is true people may not make the distiction and pronounce it as "desoo", both "desoo" and "dess" are incorrect. I also noticed that the longer sounds are written as just strained. In fact, you are supposed to pronounce them longer: like "Bādo" (Japanese pronuctiation for Bird) is pronounced "Baado" (not ah-ah, but a continuous aah) not "Bah-do" (with only one ah). Edit: I just re-read the article. Some of this is just wrong. "f" is "fhu" with a very light "f". Desu and masu are NOT pronounced "des" and "mas"! Mishy dishy 17:48, 11 March 2007 (EDT)

Pseudophonetics are by definition quick and dirty, and English doesn't really do long vowels in the same way that Japanese does. です is best approximated as "dess", and バード as "bah-do" (which certainly beats "baddo". Jpatokal 02:27, 27 March 2007 (EDT)
Stupid English-speakers. Mishy dishy 18:29, 28 March 2007 (EDT)
Why not include a small preface to the phrasebook focusing on the sounds that are not native to english. For Desu and Masu you can just tell them that the "u" sound is made by not stopping the sound before you move your tongue from your palatte but just fractionally after... more like "D-eh-ss-uh" uh pronounced like in soup but very short. Its just one option, the other way is to have a sound clip attached demonstrating the difference. Imitation is easier than instruction 9 times out of 10 (no im not citing that.) S3RAPH1M


The phrasebook is well on its way to be being "complete" as a translation, but still needs a fair bit of localization in actual content: you'll be asking for chopsticks and soy in a Japanese restaurant, not butter and black pepper, and you'll need to ask if rooms are tatami etc. Please add these in (and take out useless stuff) as you spot them.

Well, in the last two weeks hosting some European visitors, not once has anyone asked for chopsticks or soy sauce; they have asked for pepper at least twice, and forks and spoons as well.
Anyway, other totally useless stuff: "Can I use Canadian dollars?", "Can I get it kosher?", and the entire driving section. -- Paul Richter 22:32, 25 Oct 2004 (EDT)
Plunge forward! Kosher is gone already (good luck explaining the concept to anybody in Japan...). But the driving section, while admittedly useless in Tokyo, may prove useful to someone in eg. Hokkaido. And generally it's better to add more than take away... Jpatokal 23:35, 25 Oct 2004 (EDT)

Hepburn only[edit]

Let's just drop the pseudo-phonetics. They're ugly and they clash with established romaji usage. Whaddya think? -- Paul Richter 22:35, 25 Oct 2004 (EDT)

I'm fine with the status quo, ie. keeping them for the basics but not the rest. Hepburn is not entirely trivial to learn, but anybody staying in Japan over a few days should make the effort — the others can survive with the basics. Jpatokal 23:35, 25 Oct 2004 (EDT)
I vote for keeping the pseudo-phonetics, sometimes its easier to read as romaji can be pronounced many different ways, and if i had the time to learn hepburn then i would just learn japanese instead ;/ User:S3RAPH1M

Offensive language[edit]

Somebody just went and added an "offensive language" section. Do we want to get into this? Jpatokal 21:33, 4 Jan 2006 (EST)

ふざけるなよ。Get rid of it :) -- Paul Richter 04:54, 5 Jan 2006 (EST)
何ゆうてんの、この野郎! I can actually see some value in eg. baka, aho and maybe kuso, but more as an infobox kinda thing. I'd still award Paizuri no tetsujin as the most creatively offensive addition made to Wikitravel so far though... Jpatokal 05:03, 5 Jan 2006 (EST)


A concept that I had a bit of trouble getting across is the fact that I'm allergic to certain foods. Something about allergies in this phrasebook would be a good addition. Note that much of the common allergens need to also be listed if they aren't already. Currently the stuff that I'm aware of that isn't listed: shellfish, seafood (as distinct from fish and shellfish - ie: includes octopus, eel, etc.), mushrooms and fungus, milk, sesame seeds, peanuts, tree nuts and wheat. Unfortunately I don't speak Japanese, otherwise I'd start adding bits myself. cef 14:38, 13 Mar 2006 (AEDT)

Omataseshimashita. Added the allergies, not 100% sure whether I nailed the best terms for them though. Double check welcome. S2k 06:48, 4 March 2008 (EST)


How about making a short list of common counters used? Like one/two/more tickets/cups/copies/pieces/etc? From a recent trip to Japan I found this would have been something useful to know. Even though you can get away with holding up fingers, it helps to be able to recognise these when a Japanese speaker says these to you. Stephen Mok 08:32, 30 July 2006 (EDT)

Good idea -- I've added it. Jpatokal 09:05, 30 July 2006 (EDT)

Deleted Pages[edit]

Hi, I use this phrasebook a lot to help me learn, however recently someone has deleted everything after "consonants", is there a backup or any way to rectify this? On the history page it lists my IP address as being the one that did it but I assure you I never intended to. please can someone help rectify mistake? Sorry again.Talkie_Toaster 19:30, 3 November 2006 (EST)

I see you figured out how to fix the problem. It is pretty easy to revert a change when we make a mistake, and we all do at time. Thank you for your contributions. -- Tom Holland (xltel) 07:05, 4 November 2006 (EST)


Sigh -- I hate to undo somebody's work, but Wikitravel:External links says we don't link to external guides. Jpatokal 00:09, 6 November 2006 (EST)

I didn't think it was another guide because wikitravel doesn't support sound files anyway so it wont lose incentive of contributors. I'm new to this but read the policy and thought that sound files were within the guidelines. I don't mean to sound angry but that took me a hell of a long time. Talkie_Toaster 18:16, 7 November 2006 (EST)
This is actually one policy I don't agree with myself, and it's been discussed before: Wikitravel talk:Image policy#Audio clips. You might want to chip in there. Jpatokal 21:46, 7 November 2006 (EST)
Thanks! I'm just glad all that all the info I put there is still archived and can be put back if they decide to amend the rule. Talkie_Toaster 10:23, 8 November 2006 (EST)
Additional: I was wondering if you could possibly lend some moral support, as I have said, I'm new to this, and I would appreciate the help on the discussion concerning audio clips. Talkie_Toaster 19:28, 8 November 2006 (EST)


I think that the basics section is getting too long and needs breaking down into sub-headings, what do you all think? Talkie_Toaster 20:10, 8 November 2006 (EST)


What is up with this terrible transliteration! Please use romaji for the Japanese Romanization. I will try my best to change them, but if you can help, then it would be greatful. Thank you.

External links[edit]

Hiragana table[edit]

May I suggest using the cleaned up Hiragana table from the German Japanese phrasebook? Sneeka2 01:18, 14 January 2008 (EST)


Please don't nuke the pseudophonetics without discussion here — the current consensus was that they should stay for the first section. I've rolled back your changes (and took out your other work along with it, I'm afraid; please rescue it from the history). Jpatokal 07:33, 4 March 2008 (EST)

That's why I put a bunch of pseudo-phonetic examples up in the prononciation section. For the sake of readability I think the phrases section should stick to one clean format. Also, it says in the prononciation section that the intonation should be kept as flat as possible, but the pseudo-phonetics seem to want to imply some sort of unnecessary word stress. So I'm not sure if they're really any better than the standard romanization.
If you want people to read the pseudos even when they skip straight to the phrases, what about putting an infobox up there first thing? S2k 18:58, 4 March 2008 (EST)
I'm inclined to leave the phonetic examples as well. English speakers tend to say "kerry-OH-key" when they see romaji karaoke, "kah-RAH-dee" when they see "karate", and I think most people who haven't memorized the sounds of romaji are likely to make the same mistakes. As this guide is supposed to be of immediate use, I don't think it's fair to expect the reader to memorize the proper way to pronounce romaji and then get it right on their own the rest of the way. Texugo 22:16, 4 March 2008 (EST)
Without getting into a whole philosophical debate about blindly attempting to speak foreign languages without reading up a bit about them, can we at least agree on keeping the pseudos all lowercase, as there's no real intonation? S2k 23:45, 4 March 2008 (EST)

The way I see it, the first section is intended for people who are in Japan for only a few days. These people are not going to have the time to study and understand Hepburn and Japanese phonetics, so by giving them the pseudos they can at least attempt a few ohayous and arigatous.

As for the emphases, while Japanese has little stress, English as a language does, so English speakers should be directed to put the stress in the right/least harmful place. For example, I suspect most people would attempt "anata wa?" as AN-ata wa?, which sounds a lot weirder than an-ATA wa? Jpatokal 00:55, 8 March 2008 (EST)

If I may, seeing the the upper case letters in the pseudo-phonetic guides would just confuse me, since I know Japanese is an unstressed language. I think mentioning that it is unstressed—and perhaps suggesting techniques for English speakers to cope with this (e.g., speak with a weak stress on the first syllable of what you say)—is an appropriate thing to do in the initial pronunciation guide. That's how I handled the Georgian phrasebook anyway.
For me, a Japanese speaker of about 10 memorized phrases, seeing something like "toy-reh wah DOH-koh dess kah?" is just confusing—what's that DOH supposed to convey? Is that related to Japanese intonation, which really would be too complex for a casual travel phrasebook, or to vowel length (also too complex)? --Peter Talk 01:15, 8 March 2008 (EST)

How is gh supposed to be pronounced?[edit]

ai > igh

Referring to this example:

"onegai shimasu → oh-neh-gigh shee-mahss (not ouneeGAY SHYmessu)"
  • I think using (igh) is ambiguous, if it meant /aɪ/ (aı) in IPA. Instead, it can be left as it is, or written (ay). Am I the one confused here :( ?--MKM 19:23, 21 April 2009 (EDT)
If it were written (ay) it would be even more misleading, with a lot of people assuming it rhymes with "day" rather than "high".
Thanks, "Texugo" for your help :) --MKM 04:58, 22 April 2009 (EDT)


The correct Hepburn for 今日は is konnichiwa, not kon'nichiwa, because konnichi can only be read こんにち. The apostrophe is only used when the syllable boundary is not clear: san'yo (さんよ) instead of sanyo (さにょ). Jpatokal 01:04, 8 March 2008 (EST)

Couldn't konnichi be read as either こっにち or こんにち by the untrained speaker? っな, っに etc are more slang than anything else in Japanese, nonetheless possible. S2k 04:13, 9 March 2008 (EDT)
っな, っに are not legal kana combinations as far as Hepburn is concerned. Jpatokal 14:52, 9 March 2008 (EDT)
True, but people shouldn't have to study Hepburn to get the pronunciation right, right? S2k 19:30, 9 March 2008 (EDT)
I passed the JLPT Level 2, but I have no idea what っな or っに would sound like if they actually existed. Never even occurred to me. I don't think a beginner is going to stumble on it in any deleterious way. 20:27, 9 March 2008 (EDT)

Ten objects[edit]

In my experience to is almost never used for ten of anything -- it's always jukko. Jpatokal 02:51, 9 May 2008 (EDT)

  • I learnt it in my basic Japanese lessons so it might be good to know, though I didn't really hear much of it when I went to Japan.
Counters are a nightmare, hitotsu, futatsu, mittsu should just be used generically for pretty much everything, at least as long as you need a phrasebook to get by... --Stefan (sertmann) Talk 19:36, 21 April 2009 (EDT)

Changes to "emergency" section[edit]


While reading through one of the little side boxes and the emergency phrases section, I noticed a lot of unnatural, strange, and downright wrong translations. I fixed the ones I found and tried to make them sentences most people in Japan actually use. Just for example...

Whomever wrote the article first had

"I'm lost" = 迷子 (maigo) which actually means a lost or missing child. Thus telling a stranger 迷子です! (maigo desu) would be letting them know that you are a lost child.


What does this mean? It's under "Lodging" as "bedsheets" but I've never heard the word before. I asked a Japanese native and he said (quote) "toko no mai [that's how he read the kanji]? I've never heard of such a expression. we usually call such a thing 布団カバー or ベッドシーツ or something. who the fuck says toko no mai."

This may need to be changed, but I'd like a second opinion first. CharonM72 23:02, 14 April 2012 (EDT)