Five useful Japanese phrases for professionals

The Japanese language is one of the most difficult communication systems to learn for an English speaker. It has three different writing systems which are entirely unique to each other namely the hiragana, the katakana, and the kanji. These writing systems are said to have their own alphabets which are distinct from one another.


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To further add to the complexity, terms and verbs of the language have to be adjusted in order to suit the situation. In terms of politeness, there are three different levels – sonkeigo, the respectful language; kenjougo, the humble language; and teineigo, the polite language.


However, learning the various intricacies and nuances of this gem is truly rewarding especially for those interested to work and/or reside in the Land of the Rising Sun.


An author of a blog in GaijinPot discusses five very useful Japanese phrases for daily communication with their corresponding use depending on the circumstance and the person on the other end of the communication.

(O-me ni kakaru koto wo tanoshimi ni shiteorimasu)

The first of these phrases connotes a very friendly and polite manner of approach without necessarily losing the formal touch needed for professional use. As the author puts it, this phrase is usually used when speaking or communicating with a person of a higher position or when asking for a favor. This phrase translates to “I look forward to seeing you” but stated in an extremely polite fashion.

“まことに勝手ではございますが ~”
(Makoto ni katte de wa gozaimasu ga ~)

According to the author, this phrase truly comes in handy during circumstances where a final stand has to be made without compromising relations in the workplace especially when speaking to a superior. This phrase connotes an apologetic tone and loosely translates to “I realize this is an imposition, but…”

“~ できかねます” or “~分かりかねます“
(~ dekikanemasu or wakarikanemasu)

Stuck in a situation where you have to refuse a request but you’re unsure how to? Then these phrases are perfect for you. The first one is used to say “I cannot do it” or “I am unable to” while the second phrase means “I cannot understand”. Both of these phrases include the term かねます which is understood to mean as “I’m sorry” in order to make the refusal in a polite manner.

恐縮ですが ~
(Kyoushuku desu ga ~)

This phrase finds value when you are caught in a situation where you need to ask for a deeper explanation to a current topic or subject matter. This is said to be the equivalent of “Forgive me for asking, but…” Be careful though as the intonation for this particular phrase is very important. The wrong tone could lend others to believe that you are simply asking a rhetorical question leading to some very awkward situations.

お言葉ですが ~
(O-kotoba desu ga ~)

The last phrase in this list is not something that should be taken lightly. As explained by the author, this phrase technically means “Sorry, but I disagree.” The phrase carries an authoritarian effect which, when delivered properly, injects a sense of alarm or panic against the recipient(s) of the conversation. Think carefully before using this phrase.



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