Language Mistakes | Etiquette Mistakes
Hey guys, first off Happy New Year! I can’t believe it’s already 2017. I had a pretty great year last year, but I’m much more excited for what this year will hold for me! Graduating from university, moving to Japan, etc.! It’s all very exciting.
My first post for 2017 is going to be on common mistakes that foreigners make when speaking Japanese and when they’re in Japan!
- Particles - I think a lot of Japanese learners struggle with particles and more often than not, end up using the wrong particle in their sentence. は and が are often misused by non-native speakers. When は is used the meaning depends on the context that it was used in (it usually has multiple possible meanings and you just have to figure out what the meaning is depending on the type of situation it was used). For example: 私は魚です can mean “I’ll have fish” when speaking to a waiter or “I am a fish” in response to a question about yourself. As for が, it can be used to exclude other possibilities and to lock in your answer so 私が魚です means “I am a fish”. Another example is the overuse of と which means “and” but it can only be used to connect two nouns together. If you wanted to connect multiple nouns together you would have to conjugate and use て form not と.
- Using the word ‘あなた’ for “you” - in Japanese they don’t use pronouns such as 'you’ when addressing each other, this concept is a little hard for some Japanese learners to grasp and they use あなた in Japanese, just like you would use “you” in English, but actually it’s kind of rude to refer to someone as あなた in Japanese so please try to refrain from using it.
- Intonation and Nuances - intonation and nuances are important in Japanese, for example there are some words that have different meanings but are pronounced the same. 箸「はし」means chopsticks and 橋「はし」means bridge. If you want to say chopsticks you should place more emphasis on “は”, and if you want to say bridge you should place more emphasis on “し”. Another example is “ええ”, depending on what kind of intonation you use it in, it can mean “yes”, “what?!”, or “must I?”. Some Japanese learners speak in a monotone voice but it’s important to use intonation to properly convey your message across.
- Taking a phone call on a train or bus - making or answering a phone call and having a conversation is a common mistake that foreigners make in Japan. Being loud in public transport is rude in most countries but Japan takes this especially seriously, so don’t get caught out committing this social faux pas!
- Blowing your nose in public - this might seem strange to us foreigners who are quite used to openly blowing our noses in public and hearing others do it (all throughout my schooling life I’ve had class mates blow their noses in the class room so I’m quite used to this), but in Japan you won’t see this happening. So try to avoid this as much as possible.
- Not removing your shoes - I think a lot of people know about this by now, but when you enter someones home you have to remove your shoes. They’ll usually have quest slippers for you to use so you don’t have to walk around barefoot. Some Japanese restaurants might ask you to remove your shoes too, so make sure you’re always wearing matching socks ;)