Beginner´s Japanese: Vocabulary & Basic Grammar

This post is for those of you who might be wondering whether to study Japanese or not. I found a blog that has some basic grammar and vocabulary that might be helpful if you already know (or have seen) hiragana and katakana. Sometimes it is really overwhelming to look for Japanese study guides and this blog is very concise, and I would say that the mini lessons get to the point. It is a good intro to start preparing yourself for what´s coming after that…  If you want to check it out, click here. Keep reading if you want to see lesson 1.

P.S This is another fun and interactive web for beginners.


Basic Vocabulary:

Basic Vocabulary:

Kurasu (koo-rah-sue) – Class.

desu (dess) – is/are. Japanese verbs do not change with the tense, so desu can mean “I am, you are, she/he/it is, we are, they are.” Although pronouns such as “I, you, we,” etc, exist in Japanese, they are not normally used unless the meaning of the sentence would be unclear without them. Japanese verbs always come at the end of the sentence. The final -u is almost completely silent, just barely vocalize it.

Nihongo (nee-hone-go) – The Japanese language. The suffix -go can be added to the name of any country to give that country’s language, e.g. Furansugo (Foo-rahn-sue-go) – French language. An exception is the English language, which is called Eigo (eh-ee-go).

Nihon-jin (nee-hone-jeen) – A Japanese person. The suffix -jin is added to a place name to form the word for a person from that place.

no (no) – Links two nouns where the first describes the second, e.g. Nihongo no Kurasu – a Japanese class.

sensei (sen-say) – Teacher

san (sahn) – Mr, Mrs, Ms. It comes after the name, and can be used with first names as well as family names. San is a term of respect used when talking about other people, so don’t use it on your own name.

hai (hi) – Yes

doozo (dooh-zoe) – If you please. This is one of the many words that means “please” in Japanese, but this one is used only in the sense of “please go first,” “please continue,” or “after you.” (Remember the pronunciation lesson on Long Vowels? This is one, so don’t forget to extend the first o sound.) Used in the lesson dialogue as in “Please, have a seat.”

sa (sah) – Well, right, ok.

to (toe) – And.

Kudasai (koo-dah-sie) – Please. This word for “please” is almost never used by itself. Rather, it normall follows the command form of verbs, as in phrases like “please eat.” It is also used with nouns to convey the meaning of “please bring me (something).”

wa (wah) – This word does not have any meaning itself, but is used to point out the main topic of the sentence by following directly after it.

ka (kah) – Adding ka to the end of a sentence changes it into a question. Because the final ka always indicates a question, it is not necessary to use a question mark after it.

soo Desu (sooh dess) – That’s right, that’s so, etc.

arigatoo (ah-ree-gah-tooh) – Thank you.

Aa (aah) – Ah, oh, an interjection.

iie (eee-ay) – No.

chigaimasu (chee-guy-mahss) – I’m not, that’s wrong, etc. Literally, “it’s different,” or “You’re mistaken.” Often used with iie.

watashi (wah-tah-shee) – I, me. Pronouns are not often used in Japanese, unless the meaning of the sentence would be unclear without it, or sometimes just for emphasis.

mina (mee-nah) – All, everyone, everything. When using it to refer to people, add san after it, e.g. Mina san, konnichiwa – Hello, everyone.

kara (kah-rah) – From. Unlike in English, kara always comes after the placename, e.g. Amerika kara – from America.

soo desu ka (sooh dess kah) – I see, or, is that so?

owari (oh-wah-ree) – The end, or, finish, e.g. Kurasu wa owari desu – It’s the end of the class.


Nihon (Nee-hone) – Japan.

Furansu (Foo-rahn-sue) – France.

Itaria (ee-tah-ree-ah) – Italy.

Amerika (ah-may-ree-kah) – America.

Igirisu (ee-gee-ree-sue) – England.

Doitsu (Doh-ee-tsue) – Germany. (Note: The Japanese -ts as in tsu is another sound that is difficult for English speakers to pronounce. The tongue should be in the t sound position at the beginning of the ssound. It’s like a sharp s noise.)

Kanada (kah-nah-dah) – Canada.

Nyuu Yooku (nyoo yooh-koo) – New York.

Pari (pah-ree) – Paris.

Rondon (rohn-dohn) – London.

Ribapuuru (ree-bah-pooo-roo) – Liverpool.

San Furanshisuko (sahn foo-rahn-shee-sue-koh) – San Francisco. Often shortened to Sanfuran (sahn-foo-rahn). There is no si sound in Japanese, so shi is used where necessary to say foreign words.

* Taken from Berlitz Basic Japanese book (Header)


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