Nihongo no Benkyou


By Roisin McGowan

Today’s Topic:  Talking on the telephone.

Talking on the telephone in a foreign language is one of the most daunting tasks I have ever faced. But there comes a time when you must book your karaoke venue and time just isn’t on your side.

The reason talking on the phone in Japanese is so difficult is that Japanese telephone etiquette is laced with keigo, the honorific form.

Below are typical phone phrases:

Japanese: もしもし
Romaji: Moshi moshi
Translation: Hello

When you have a relationship with the speaker, e.g. a school, say:

Japanese: お世話になります。
Romaji: Oseiwa ni narimasu
Translation: Thank you for your patronage / always taking care of me.

When you don’t know the person you are calling:

Japanese: お忙しいところすみません。
Romaji: Oisogashii tokoro sumimasen
Translation: Sorry for disturbing you at such a busy time.

Always introduce yourself first.

Japanese: ローシンです。
Romaji: Rooshin desu.
Translation: It’s Roisin.

Otherwise, the other person will say:

Japanese: しつれいですけどどちらさまですか。
Romaji: Shitsure desukedo dochira sama desu ka?
Translation: Excuse me but who is speaking?

Japanese: 田中先生がいっらしゃいますか。
Romaji: Tanaka Sensei ga irrashaimasu ka?
Translation: Is Tanaka Sensei there?

Japanese: あとでかけなおします。
Romaji: Atode kakenaoshimasu.
Translation: I’ll call back later.

Japanese: 予約をしたいんですけど…
Romaji: Yoyaku wo shitain desukedo…
Translation: I want to make a reservation. (Hotel, karaoke)

Japanese: 忘れものを報告したいですけど…
Romaji: Wasuremono wo houkokushitai desukedo…
Translation: I want to report a lost item.

A useful guide can be found at: