My (Mostly) Worthless Phrasebook 

I decided to be proactive by buying a Japanese phrasebook before I left home. Unfortunately, time and time again this book has disappointed me. Japanese in Plain English, by Boye De Mente, is written with the premise that you can pronounce any Japanese word if you reduce it to individual sounds. In that sense, it works. 

The quirks of the book limit its utility. Some of the problems, such as its 1990 publication date, are no fault of the author. I had no idea that Japanese pronunciation would have changed in such a short time. Furthermore, I didn’t realize that popular verbs change. For example, I would sputter out “Watakushi no namae wa Patrick desu” and get strange looks. My Tokyo friends were the ones who told me to use “Watashi” since “Watakushi” was so out of date that I sounded like a time traveler. 

Unfortunately, some of the flaws can be blamed on the author. For example, one of the “Common Expressions” was “I am the bus driver.” That phrase is of limited use since I’m not planning on hijacking a city bus. You can find some terms, like “fortune teller,” easily in the back of the book. I had trouble finding some truly useful terms like ‘bathroom’ and ‘help’ though. 

For five dollars (including shipping), having this was better than nothing. I probably could have bought a newer edition for what it’s worth. The real value of it is showing it to people to make it look as if I’m trying my best. That itself is priceless. 

Here is the Japanese I’ve encountered so far:

  • Good morning = Ohaiyo gozaimasu 
  • Hello = Konnichi wa
  • Good evening = Komban wa
  • Pleased to meet you = Hajimaemash’tae 
  • Sorry = Sumimasen 
  • My Japanese is bad = Watashi wa nihongo ga umakunai 
  • One moment, please = Chotto matte, kudasai
  • Do you speak English? = Eigo ga dekimasu ka? 
  • Delicious = oishi
  • Cool! = Kokkoi (or Sagoi!) 
  • Beautiful (place) = Uts’kushi (tokoro) 
  • Interesting (place) = Omosh’roi (tokoro) 
  • Pretty (woman) = Kawaii
  • I’m in your hands (after ‘nice to meet you’) = Dozo yorosh’ku onegaishimasu 
  • Thank you = arigato gozaimasu
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4 thoughts on “My (Mostly) Worthless Phrasebook 

  1. Domo arigato Mr. Roboto!!! Patrick, I am enjoying traveling in Japan vicariously through your interesting and witty blog. Such beautiful people and gardens! I’m relieved that you are negotiating your route so successfully and impressed with your initiative. I will share your blog with Alana and her family as they will be in Japan later in the year. Keep on writing and ue no iwa, dude!!! Love, Alice

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