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Visit Japan-if you can't speak japanese

Travel Forums Asia Visit Japan-if you can't speak japanese

1. Posted by tinatin (First Time Poster 1 posts) 13y

tinatin has indicated that this thread is about Japan


I would like to visit Japan but I can't speak a word of Japanese,

is it going to be difficult if you can't speak Japanese?
Will getting a pocket-size conversation guide help?
Or is joining tour group to have a tour guide help you out better?

2. Posted by deportfred (Budding Member 4 posts) 13y

Don't worry, you can get by. id recommend buying a phrase book and small dictionary, but you shouldn't need to go to any great lenghts to avoid language problems.
i wouldn't join a tour, you never know what your getting and its better and more fun to see the sights on your own.

3. Posted by winspice (Budding Member 6 posts) 13y

Hi - so sorry for not replying sooner.

Don't worry, you can visit Japan without speaking Japanese. You will find people are incredibly nice and welcoming. However, it would be a good idea to invest in a phrasebook to get a few key phrases and expressions. Your travel book might have a section on language to cover the basics.

Depending on where you're planning to visit, it might also be a good idea to learn Katakana (one of the phonetic scripts), which will help you decypher things like menus and names and which you can pick up with a few hours' practice. You could also learn Hiragana (the other phonetic script). If you don't want to spend time doing this, make sure the phrasebook you use has a Katakata and a Hiragana table. They will be so useful, I promise!

My experience has been that the further away from the big cities you get, the less people tend to speak English. However, they appreciate any efforrt on your part and you'll almost always find someone to help you out. :)

4. Posted by tmkrecords (First Time Poster 1 posts) 13y

Hey im from japan but you dont have to worry much about trying to speak japanese. of course, it will be better but some street signs and other stuff are also written in english especially in touristy towns like kyoto. also japanese people are thrilled to find that they can communicate with "foreigners" so im sure youll have a great time

5. Posted by IMonaghan (Respected Member 431 posts) 13y

One thing I do whenever I go to Japan, is on my first day or two there, find a cabbie who speaks English, or two of em. Get there business cards, and if they seem to do a good job for you call em when you need something. I speak a bit of Japanese now so I get by ok, but on my first trip there all I knew was Baka, and wakarimasen(sp?) That's a useful word to remember... it means I don't understand. You'll surely find that the Japanese will be very patient with you if you don't speak their language. I've even had shop owners send someone to a neighboring shop to get someone who speaks English. If you learn some of the basics like "Arigato and Dozo, thank you and please... You'll find that just those couple words can get you a long way in Japan.

Another thing that I learned on about my 4th trip through Asia is don't sit with the souls of your feet showing. It is considered mildly to very offensive depending on who is around....
Just a tip I like to throw in for people travelling to the far east... hehe, If you're one of the people I met on my first three trips... sorry about that.

Ian Monaghan

6. Posted by HaadRinGuide (Travel Guru 542 posts) 12y

I wouldn't worry about not being able to speak Japanese, especially if you just plan on visiting the main cities, as lots of Japanese people there speak English. Just learn how to say 'arigato gozaimasu' in a Japanese accent (i.e. really fast) and that's enough for most situations.

Having said that, a phrasebook is useful if you visit more off the track places. And if you do decide that you'd like to learn some Japanese you'll probably find it's a lot easier that you think. The grammar is a bit weird but the vocabulary isn't too bad and at least every word is pronounced the way it is spelt, unlike English. You have to spend a few weeks living in Japan before you sort of learn the 'rhythm' to the way Japanese is spoken though.