-san Mr, Mrs or Miss
ohayo‾ good morning (casual form)
ohayo‾ gozaimasu good morning (polite form)
hajimemashite how do you do?
dozo‾ yoroshiku pleased to meet you
Listening and speaking
Konnichiwa, Sumisu-san. Hello, Mr Smith.
Konnichiwa, Yamada-san. Hello, Mrs Yamada.
Ohayo‾ gozaimasu, Sumisu-san. Good morning, Mr Smith.
Ohayo‾ gozaimasu, Honda-san. Good morning, Miss Honda.
Sumisu-san, hajimemashite. Mr Smith, how do you do?
Yamada-san, hajimemashite. Mrs Yamada, how do you do?
Sumisu-san, do‾zo yoroshiku. Pleased to meet you, Mr Smith.
Honda-san, do‾zo yoroshiku. Pleased to meet you, Miss Honda.
Polite and casual forms
Some Japanese phrases have two forms: polite and casual. Generally the longer form is the more polite one. It is best to use the polite form when you talk to someone you don’t know well – the casual form may sound impolite. Use the casual form with your friends and family.
Japanese names and -san
In Japanese, surnames come before first names. So, looking at the name Yamada Naomi, Yamada is her surname and Naomi is her first name.When addressing someone, you should always add -san after their name unless you are very close to them. It is a sign of respect. For example, Mrs Naomi Yamada can be called either:
You should never use -san with your own name. If your name is John Smith, call yourself Jon or Sumisu or Sumisu Jon, but not Jon-san or Sumisu-san!
You can ask someone’s name by saying Onamae wa? – Your name?
And they will probably reply in this way: Watashi wa Tanaka desu –I’m Tanaka.
Muted sounds: ‘i’ and ‘u’
You may have noticed that the ‘i’ in hajimemashite and do‾zo yoroshiku and the ‘u’ in Sumisu and ohayo‾ gozaimasu are not pronounced. These sounds disappear when they are next to certain other sounds. But don’t worry too much about this – just try to repeat what you hear on the Audios.
In Japan, people usually bow when they meet for the first time. A bow with a deeper and slower motion is thought to be more polite. Men place their hands on their thighs and women cross their hands in front of them when bowing. You should keep your chin pulled in towards your neck, so make sure the person you’re addressing isn’t too close before you start bowing! On business occasions, people will also shake hands and exchange business cards (meishi – literally “name cards”). It is polite to offer your card with both hands and to bow slightly at the same time. You should also take the other person’s business card with both hands and examine it for a few moments to show your respect. It is a good idea to get some business cards with your name printed on them in both English and Japanese script. Remember to put your
surname first in Japanese!