6 Japanese Mistakes Japanese People Make all the Time
You want your Japanese to be perfect, just like a native? Great. Except they mistakes too. What, you forgot how many mistakes you make in your own language? You have two options: make those same mistakes as native Japanese do. Or take the high road, and turn your Japanese into a beautiful work of flawless design.
But first, what are some of the worst offenders?
6. うる覚(おぼ)え (a vague recollection)
The best mistakes are the ones the dictionary not only points out to you, but if you try to search incorrectly, it redirects you to the right definition.
うる覚え is wrong.
うろ覚え is correct.
That’s what you get for characters that are so close to each other. Try putting in the word into this online dictionary ( https://dictionary.goo.ne.jp/jn/21251/meaning/m0u/うる覚え ) and see what happens.
5. ふいんき(雰囲気) – Mood/Atmosphere/Feeling
Ever have trouble pronouncing Japanese words? Well Japanese do as well. And when words are hard to pronounce, they sometimes take on new life, as mistaken pronunciation.
ふいんき is wrong.
ふんいき is correct.
Just make sure if you mistake the pronunciation, do it like a native Japanese does. Don’t create your own foreigner mistake like ふにき.
4. すいません (Sorry!)
Making a mistake while you apologize doesn’t leave the best impression. Luckily, すいません isn’t so much a mistake as it is a very broken down, colloquial way of saying すみません.
However, try using this is in a business email to your boss and see your salary drop.
3. いばらぎ (茨城) – Ibaragi
Imagine if everyone mispronounced the name of the prefecture you were from. And they were adamant that they are saying it correctly.
いばらぎ is wrong.
いばらき is correct.
You may be thinking “I hear it all the time as Ibaragi!” Yes, you do. Because people make the mistake all the time.
2. アボガド (Avogado)
Sometimes there are advantages to being a foreigner speaking Japanese. When you have the word in English, you aren’t ever going to make this mistake and call an avacado an avagado.
アボガド is wrong.
アボカド is correct.
1. 爆笑 (Explosion of laughter)
Besides being one of the greatest visual expressions ever, it is one of the most misused.
爆笑 is supposed to be used when a lot of people all suddenly explosively laugh. Yet everyone likes to use it to say that they personally found something extremely funny and can’t stop laughing.
大笑い (big laugh) is used for one person, but it just doesn’t have that same appeal.
Native mistakes are endless in the Japanese language. But the great thing about native mistakes is that if enough people use them over a long enough time, they are no longer mistakes. They become part of the language. For example: すいません has been long accepted as just being impolite, 爆笑 is nearing non-mistake status, and 雰囲気 as acceptable pronunciation. So enjoy the mistakes while you can!
What are some other native Japanese mistakes you hear all too often?
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.
As someone who lives in Ibaraki, I can confirm that I’ve had to correct 95% of my Japanese friends who don’t live here! Most people have no idea that Ibaragi is wrong.
It’s like it’s some kind of conspiracy.
> アボガド is wrong.
> アバカド is correct.
Shouldn’t it be アボカド?
Yes it should be :)
I think すごい可愛い should get an honorable mention?
The 雰囲気 thing blew my mind when I learned the real pronunciation. I think I had known the word at least a few years before finding out nearly everyone says it wrong.
That’s another good one. すごい + adj has been so common amongst younger Japanese for years, I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes completely accepted with a little more time.
I agree that すいません is not a mistake, just sloppy pronunciation.
I wouldn’t say it’s “impolite,” though—just casual and not something that should be used in a formal situation.
If you are in a formal situation, you shouldn’t be using すみません anyways, you should be using some variation of 申し訳ありません (apology), 恐れいりますが… (“excuse me” to get attention, etc.), 失礼します (saying “excuse me” for something that does not require a serious apology) or ありがとうございます (to express thanks) depending on what you are trying to say.
And that tendency to use すみません or すいませんinstead of clearly apologizing or saying “thank you” in formal situations is itself a common etiquette mistake which I’m pretty sure I have seen called out in multiple Japanese sources.
If you get into the subject of 敬語, then there are so many common mistakes made by Japanese people that you could fill a whole book with them (try Googling 間違いやすい敬語), but here are just a couple:
If you do a Google search on this phrase, all sources will tell you the same thing, which is that とんでもない is all one word, it isn’t とんでも＋ない, so grammatically, you can’t just switch out ない for ございません。
Another common complaint is that young people these days, who we all know don’t know how to use 敬語 properly, attach ～させていただくto everything. There are some additional nuances to when it can and can’t be used, but basically, it is supposed to be used when you are doing something after having obtained someone’s permission to do so and should not be used in cases where you didn’t need to get anyone’s permission. For example, 頑張りさせていただきます: you do not need to get someone’s permission in order to try your best!
I had always heard that すいません was kind of a Tohoku pronunciation. It definitely seems more common up here than it is down in Tokyo.
Interesting. On a side note, you might enjoy this chart of how different dialects say すみません。
Showed this to my coworkers from Fukushima and Aomori and they had no idea what the words were written next to their prefecture. These words have to be from a few generations back.
I remember sitting in an izakaya with a buddy from Kumamoto, and he thought I was wrong when I said “すみません”, instead of “すいません”, lol. Definitely not just a Tohoku dialect thing.