When I first came to Japan, I couldn’t speak the language at all. I had bought a phrase book and tape which I listened to a few times, but never got much out of. I remember pulling out the book and asking a ticket clerk what time the next train for Nagoya was, but he kept telling me the time now. It wasn’t till much later that I realized that even though the book’s phrase for “What time is it?” was ima nanji desu ka?, the word ima actually means ‘now’.
My first three months in Japan were a homestay-style arrangement at a Japanese friend’s house. So here I was, a 21 year old guy, spending the summer in a country where girls thought I was really handsome! This was quite hard to believe since I had the opposite affect on girls in England. However, I didn’t have the ability to talk to any of the Japanese girls. That was until I found a phrase book that actually worked, Making Out in Japanese.
Making Out in Japanese, and its sequel More Making Out in Japanese are designed as a quick start to Japanese relationships. They cover everything from flirting and making love, to fighting and marriage! To be honest, using the book so openly and reading the phrases in a posh British accent probably helped me with the girls more than the actual phrases themselves, but nevertheless I was grateful.
Anyone who knows me would crack up at the thought of me saying to a girl:
Suki-na koto nandemo kiite ii kedo nani iro no shitagi-ka wa dame.
That translates as:
Ask me anything you want except what color underwear I’m wearing.
That was ten years ago, but the language in the books is just as relevant today, which is why I’m happy to point you to OmoshiroiEigo.com. This is the work of Mike McKinlay, the guy who lurks about on the LongCountdown “Most Comments” list. Inspired by the Todd and Erika Geers’ books above, Mike has provided a bunch of pages listing Japanese slang for topics such as dating, insulting and old man jokes. Everything is romanized so anyone can read it, but he’s got a pronunciation table there if you want to work on your Japanese accent!
While Mike is no doubt working on his Japanese pick-up lines for his forthcoming trip to Japan, I think I’ll swat up on my Japanese Street Slang. This is a book for those who have progressed beyond the Making Out series, and need something even more gritty. And it really doesn’t get more hardcore than this. Peter Constantine delves into topics such as drugs, the mafia, and prostitution, covering language that most Japanese themselves don’t know!
So Mike is coming to Japan later this month to practice his slang. Hopefully I can get him to write a guest post for this blog while he’s here. In the meantime, he’s posted his thoughts about coming back to Japan on his own blog. Have a read!If you like, you can find me on Twitter at @nick_ramsay. I'd love to hear from you!