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Japanese spoken language

Last updated Jan 10, 2023

Spoken Japanese, like English, contains slang and contractions, which I recommend learning naturally through exposure to conversation and native material. Many words and phrases are gender-specific. If your friends or instructors are not the same gender as you, be wary of mimicking their speech patterns. In particular, Japanese has a large number of first-person pronouns and each carries unique connotations—be careful. For example, men generally don’t say atashi.

Unlike English, Japanese has several regional dialects that have different conjugation, slang, and pitch accent. Two of the most popular are the Tokyo dialect and the Kansai (southwest) dialect. The Tokyo dialect, often called Standard Japanese, is used by the government and the vast majority of textbooks. You do not need to specifically study non-standard dialects unless you plan on visiting rural areas and want to fit in, since pretty much all Japanese people will understand the Tokyo dialect.

Some notes: