73 Basic Japanese Phrases to Survive Your First Conversation With a Native Speaker

Japanese cherry blossoms along river

Whether you’re in the early stages of learning Japanese or you’ve been practicing for a while, the thought of having a conversation with a native speaker can be nerve-wracking. 

I've been there plenty of times too. So I bet your inner monologue is along these lines:

These thoughts are perfectly normal reactions to doing something scary in Japanese, like chatting to a native speaker.

Thankfully, you can go into your first conversation armed with a ton of useful basic Japanese phrases.

Check out the rest of this article to learn 73 handy turns of phrase that will serve you well in any Japanese conversation.

These are also great starting points if you’re just jumping into Japanese for the first time. These basic Japanese phrases will be the backbone on which you can build your Japanese knowledge. 

8 Must-Know Japanese Greetings

8 must-know Japanese greetings

When you meet someone for the first time, you tend to start out with pleasantries like “Hello” and “It’s nice to meet you,” right? Japanese is full of basic phrases to start out a conversation. Try some of these on for size next time you meet a new friend:

5 Ways To Learn More About Your Conversation Partner 

basic Japanese phrases to continue the conversation

After you’ve greeted your new conversation partner, it’s likely that you’ll need to know more about them. Keep it rolling—you’ve got this.

7 Essential Japanese Politeness Expressions 

basic Japanese phrases to be polite

You’ve done great so far. You’ve introduced yourself, learned your friend’s name and maybe where they’re from. And now you’re ready to move on to other topics.

First, try out some of these traditional Japanese phrases that are often used early on in conversation, plus some others that are just great to know anytime.

For more on Japanese culture, customs and politeness check out this post.

9 Ways To Get Clarification In A Japanese Conversation

basic japanese phrases for clarification

You’ve been puttering along in a conversation for a while now! But what happens if everything you feared takes place and you get confused? First, remember not to panic. 

Even in your native language, you probably have to ask people for clarification or to repeat themselves. You won’t offend anyone. Just take it slow, one sentence at a time.

6 Can't-Live-Without Japanese Questions

basic Japanese phrases asking questions

Japanese is one of the easiest languages to ask questions in—so ask away! In order to make a question in Japanese, just add ka to the end of any sentence.

On top of that, though, there are a few question words that will make your conversations go a lot smoother.

Getting To Know Each Other In Japanese 

basic Japanese phrases for getting to know each other

Perfect! You’ve been talking with someone for a few minutes now, introducing yourself and asking any questions you need to know. Maybe you’ve found out your speaking partner’s name and you’re walking to a coffee shop together.

Now’s the perfect time to find out more about each other. Try out some of these phrases to open up a whole new avenue of conversation!

11 Answers To Common Japanese Questions

basic Japanese phrases to answer questions

You’ve been learning a lot about your new friend, but now the tables have turned—they’re the one asking you questions! How should you respond to many of the most common questions Japanese native speakers might ask you? Try these answers out.

A special note on the difference between daijoubu and ii. If someone is asking you if something is “all right,” daijobu is what fits there (think “We don’t sell that here; can I get you X instead?” to which you’d respond with “yes, that’s all right, I suppose”).

If you approve of something or find it nice, that’s the time for ii (think of your friend saying “Hey, we should go to that sushi place!” and you’re really excited to go there. If your friend suggested sushi but you really wanted ramen instead, that would be a case for just using daijoubu.)

5 Japanese Phrases For Special Occasions

basic Japanese phrases for special occasions

What if you’ve found yourself speaking to a native Japanese person for the first time because you decided to go to a celebration or special event, like a birthday or festival? Here are a few useful phrases for almost any situation you might find yourself in.

4 Types Of Japanese Goodbye

You’ve had a lot to talk about, but now the time has come to finish your Japanese conversation. How do you wrap things up?

By the way, if you're wondering how to start a conversation with Japanese people in the first place, you'll love these 28 Japanese conversation starters.

And if you're based in Tokyo or elsewhere in Japan, but you're still looking for someone to speak to here are my 4 tips for finding a language partner in Japan. 

3 Japanese Phrases To Use In Emergencies

I can’t wrap up a list of some of the most important phrases in Japanese without making sure you know a few of the words that could come in very handy. If you find yourself in serious trouble, use these phrases to call for help.

Hopefully you never have to use these last three. But it’s always a good thing to remember them in case you need them.

The Key To Stress-Free Japanese Conversations

73 basic Japanese phrases

If you’ve mastered even a small number of the important Japanese phrases in this article, you’ll be well on your way to holding a solid conversation with any native speaker you might happen to encounter.

In language learning, you don't need to re-invent the wheel each time you speak to someone new. Nor do you have to come up with all your answers on the spot.

Try thinking about your answers to some native speaker questions beforehand so you can find the right words (like your age, occupation, and country or language name) to describe yourself!

When you know what to expect, and you've prepared in advance, you'll find that conversations with native speakers go much more smoothly. And most importantly, you'll feel more confident about speaking in Japanese.

So, which of these phrases did you know and which ones are new to you? And when are you planning to have your first conversation with a native Japanese speaker? Let me know in the comments.

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