The three typical mistakes of the Japanese language learners.

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Ne, Leto, kyo-no yoru wa shichiji ni au de OK?

Hey, Leto! Can we see at 7 tonight?


Iiwayo! Shichiji ni omise de shugo de.

Sure! Let’s meet up at the restaurant!


Sugoi! Ja, Atode ne!

(SUGOI! See you later!!


E? Nani ga sugoi no?

What? What was so “WOW”??



Kyan! Misheru wa “Great” wo nihongo chokuyaku shiteru mitai!

Oh, no!
The Michel’s translation is too literal! 

This article is about the typical mistakes of the Japanese learners.

In the past, I worked with many people from many nationalities. Through those days, I realized that so many of those Japanese learners are making the same mistakes when they try to speak in Japanese. Especially those who are already in the intermediate level.

 To make things worse, even though there is misunderstanding because of the mistakes between a Japanese and a Japanese learner, the Japanese do not even realize the mistakes as they do not see the background of the typical mistakes, so the conversation may be confusing or they may realize the mistakes later.

Even if a Japanese person realizes the mistakes, I would say they would not bother pointing that out to Japanese learners. If you are intermediate level of Japanese now, please skim through this article and check if you are making mistakes.

I hope this article helps some of you!

The three typical mistakes of the Japanese language learners.

Here are the three typical mistakes made by Japanese learners.

  • 「凄い!!」(sugoi)≠ (all of the)Great
  •  申し訳ございません(moushiwake gozaimasen)≠I’m sorry(sometimes)
  •  怖い(kowai)=I am scared  かわいい(Kawaii)=Cute

Let’s check out each sentence.

「凄い!!」(sugoi)≠ (all of the)Great!!!

Sugoi can be used only in “WOW” moment.

​Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

例 example:

Ne-, konya wa 7ji ni au de OK?
(Me: Hey, is that ok to meet up at 7 tonight?)

E-to, 7ji han de dou?
(Hanna: Ah, how about 7:30?)

Daijoubu dayo.
(Me: That’ll work)

Sugoi!! Ja ato de ne.
Hanna: Great, see you then! 

(Sugoi?? Nani ga Sugoi n daro.)
Me: Sugoi??? What is so “wow” for her…?

Japanese expression “Sugoi” can be translated to Great, Awesome, Wonderful, Super, Gorgeous, Marvelous.

However English expression “Great” cannot be translated to “Sugoi” all the time.

I would say “Sugoi” can be used only in “WOW” moment.

申し訳ございません(moushiwake gozaimasen)≠I’m sorry(sometimes)

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

例 Example:

Kaze hiita mitai dene, koe ga denai no.
(Me: Apparently I caught a cold, and I lost my voice…)

Sore wa moushiwake gozaimasen…
(Rachel: I am sorryto hear that.) 

Nande ayamarunnda?
(Me: Why is she apologizing??)

In English, “I’m sorry” can be used when you are feeling sorry for some circumstance that someone is in, or  you want to apologize. On the other hand, Japanese expression “申し訳ございません/ありません。-Moushiwake gozaimasen/arimasen” can be used only when you want to apologize sincerly.

If you just feel sorry for certain situation, you may say “残念ですね。Zannen-desune.”

In the conversation above, you may reply “それは大変ですね。Sore wa taihen desune.(I feel for you)” Or “大丈夫ですか?Daijoubu desuka(Are you ok?)”.

I’d say you’d better avoid apologizing easily to avoid any misunderstanding.

怖い(kowai)=I am scared  かわいい(Kawaii)=Cute

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Kawaii inu to aruiteru josei ni hanashi kakeru Thomas.
Thomas is talking to a lady who is walking her dog which is tiny and cute.

Thomas: Kowaii ne!

E?? Kowai no?
Japanese Lady: What???? Is he scared??

“KAWAII” is “cute“, and “KOWAI” is “I’m scared“. It is often mispronounced and can be very confusing.

Japanese vowels あ and お are not so close compared with English a and o. 

か and こ pronounciation excercise may work for this problem.

If you overcome these three mistakes, you can level up your Japanese very much!

Did any of them apply to you?

As the mistakes are so common and not corrected, there are so many people who use those phrases in the way. If you correct the expression in the way explained above, you will definitely level up your Japanese!