Japanese is a pretty tough language to learn. Three different types of characters, consisting of 50 hiragana, 50 katakana, and over 2000 common kanji—with so much to start out with, sometimes it can be tricky to build up on the vocabulary aspect of the language.
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But fear no more; I have chosen three Japanese words that are used extremely frequently upon native speakers, all of which can be applied to a vast variety of situations. By mastering even one of these handy words, you will be able to impress your fellow Japanese natives because of how native-ish you sound.
Let’s take a look.
いしだひでヲ on Ashinari
- お疲れ様です : Otsukare-sama desu
Commonly used situations: Business, Among friends
Example situation: When saying good-bye after a long day of work.
“I should get going now. Otsukare-sama desu.”
However, this phrase has been used so much, that its use has gone beyond its simple meaning. Among Japanese natives, it is often used as a way to say good-bye, or even as a decorative word used in the beginning of a conversation (often on the phone, or even in e-mail) to show that you care for the other.
Slipping in a little “otsukare-sama desu” instead of “sayonara” (many natives do not use “sayonara” nowadays—it is quite old-fashioned, and its usage is almost limited to class-room situations) will make you sound more like a natural Japanese speaker.
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- よろしくお願いします : Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu
Commonly used situations: Everywhere, especially business.
Example situation: Asking someone a favor; the finishing line of an e-mail; introducing yourself to someone
“My name is John. Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu.”
“Can you get me a cup of coffee? Yoroshiku.” Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu literally means “please do (insert something here) to a reasonable extent”, and it is often used when asking someone a favor. However, whatever you are asking them to do can be omitted from your sentence, and it will be dependent on the listener’s interpretation. Therefore, the phrase has an infinite potential, and is used almost everywhere among natives.
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- どうも : Doumo
Commonly used scenes: Friendly talks
“Doumo konnichiwa!” (Why, hello!)
“Doumo arigato-gozaimasu.” (Thank you very much)“Doumo” is a handy word that can be used as either “hello” or “thank you”. When formally used, it will go in front of greeting words (like “konnichiwa” or “konbanwa”) and “arigato-gozaimasu” (meaning “thank you”), serving as an emphasis. In an informal situation, it can be used alone to hold a slightly lighter feeling. Either way, a thoughtful “doumo” is perfect in expressing your friendly, heart-warming soul.
An advanced way to use it is to put it in front of “sumimasen” (“sorry” or “excuse me”). It combines the nuance of “thank you” and “sorry”, showing the modest nature of the Japanese. For example, if somebody picks up and returns a cell phone that you have dropped, saying “doumo sumimasen” would mean something like “I’m sorry I made you work for me, but I really appreciate your kindness”.