Basic Japanese words you need to know to build your Japanese vocabulary

Common Japanese words: facts and figures

The Japanese language is one of the most polite languages in the world, and its beauty lies in its words.

The Japanese language is estimated to be made out of a total of 500000 words with the most popular Japanese dictionary having over 200000 words. This can seem a really big and frightening number to someone wanting to start learning Japanese, but here's the good news: you only need to know roughly 5% of the total words to be fluent in Japanese. This means that focusing your efforts on learning the most common Japanese words you will be fluent in Japanese in no time.

What’s even more encouraging is that knowing as little as 100 words helps you understand half of the words in an article or book written in Japanese. Learn the most common 1000 words and you get to a 75% understanding of texts in Japanese. Also, each new word you learn helps you guess the meaning of up to 185 words you have never seen before. This means that knowing only 1000 words enables you to guess up to 185000 Japanese words. Doesn't seem that frightening now, right?

Top 10 common and cool Japanese words pronounced by native Japanese speakers

1. こんにちは。 = Hello.

Let's naturally start with "こんにちは。" which means "Hello" in Japanese. This is one of the most known words in Japanese and a great way to start a conversation with someone from Japan. Click play below to listen to the actual pronunciation:


2.= love

Love is a universal feeling and we definitely had to talk about it here. Japanese people have a lovely way of saying they love someone or something through the word "愛". Hear it in action here:


3. 幸福 = happiness

When there's love, there's definitely happiness. We are all chasing "幸福" as Japanese speaking people would say. Listen closely and you might just get some “happiness” in your life today:


4.= cat

Let's talk pets. There are two types of people in the world: cat people and dog people. We are going to talk about cats first or how people in Tokyo would say: "猫". Listen to how it sounds like:


5.= dog

But let's not forget our lovely and loyal companions, dogs. A dog in Japanese is "犬", a really useful word for dog lovers worldwide. Here is how you would pronounce it:


6. 微笑む = smile

Now it is time to smile or how someone from Japan would say "微笑む". Smiling makes us happy and helps us stay healthy, so that's why we all need to smile every day. Here's the Japanese pronunciation:


7. 日本の = japanese

Next, let’s see how people in Japan call Japanese people. The correct answer is "日本の". Listen to how a Japanese speaker would pronounce it:


8. はい。 = Yes.

Yes, we have arrived at number 8 where “yes” is the subject to be discussed. Japanese speakers say “yes” by simply saying "はい。". Enhance your understanding by listening to how a person from Japan would pronounce it:


9. ありがとうございます。 = Thank you.

Thank you for reading this far or should I say "ありがとうございます。" as they say in Japanese. Here's a native speaker thanking you in Japanese:

Thank you.

10. さようなら。 = Goodbye.

No polite conversation can end without a good old goodbye or "さようなら。" how Japanese people usually say. Now it's time for a delightful Japanese voice to say "Goodbye" to you:


Improve your Japanese vocabulary online

Online language courses nowadays are fun, effective, affordable and use the latest technology to teach you a new language. This makes them a great solution to build your vocabulary. Meet Mondly, one of Apple’s best new apps of 2016 helping millions of people around the world learn a new language. Our expert linguists have selected the most common Japanese words so you start by learning what’s really important. No more learning random words you will probably never use in real life.

Each Mondly lesson revolves around a certain theme or situation: from family to colors to animals or shopping-related Japanese lessons. You quickly get immersed in different situations like ordering food in a restaurant, booking a hotel room or having a casual talk with a native speaker you’ve just met. Organizing the lessons into themes makes learning basic Japanese words a lot easier by creating powerful associations in your brain.

Basic Japanese words spoken by native speakers

It’s been proven that you learn any language faster when you hear natives speak. That’s why our linguists have made listening to natives an essential part of the learning experience. All phrases within our language learning app are recorded by professional Japanese speakers so you can sit back and absorb the correct pronunciation of the most basic Japanese words effortlessly.

Now, let’s explore the ultimate goal of learning Japanese: having real conversations. That’s precisely why we’ve made speaking exercises an essential part of our lessons so you can practice the cool Japanese words you just learned. You have to try our Voice Chatbot, a computer program so advanced you can actually have an intelligent conversation with. Just engage in a conversation and you get asked questions, you respond and the Chatbot understands what you're saying and continues the chat. It’s a remarkable technology that made millions of people fall in love with Mondly.

Japanese words you can learn with Mondly

Did you know?

A lot of languages around the world have loaned words from Japanese, we may take a lot of them for granted, but words like tycoon, karaoke, tofu, emoji or tsunami are all originated in Japanese.

The Japanese word "karaoke" means “empty orchestra". Daisuke Inoue built the first karaoke system as a young musician that wanted to play in different locations without the need for a whole band behind him, unfortunately, he never quite patented his invention, and the karaoke machine was later registered by a Filipino man named Roberto del Rosario. Nowadays the karaoke remains hugely popular across the world, especially in Asia, establishing itself in various forms, though the karaoke box remains the most popular.

Japanese itself borrowed words from languages like English, German or Portuguese. Today English is probably the most borrowed language when it comes to describing something that has no real and direct equivalent in Japanese. But don't expect to recognize these words easily as they are entirely adapted, respecting Japanese pronunciation rules.

The benefits of learning the most common Japanese words first

Make Japanese learning fun and easier

Starting with the Japanese basics means you will begin by learning the easiest words first and gradually increase difficulty. This way you will feel great while learning and see how your language knowledge broadens.

Have basic Japanese conversations in no time

You'll be able to speak to someone from Tokyo or Osaka about regular topics like weather, politics or family. This will make you confident in your Japanese skills and eager to learn more.

Become fluent in Japanese faster

By learning the most basic Japanese words first you are learning the smart way. Why learn the most unusual words in Japanese when you might never use them in real life?

You improve your Japanese vocabulary list

Each new Japanese word you learn piles up until your vocabulary builds stronger and stronger. Each lesson gets you one step closer to fluency.