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weepinbell
April 2nd, 2015, 02:32
Anything you wish you knew how to communicate when you first got to Japan? I feel like there are those super common phrases/situations in all countries you would never learn in a textbook... Now that I know I'm going, I figure I should take my Genki I level Japanese a lil further lol.

naginataonthebrain
April 2nd, 2015, 03:32
The first phrase that my study abroad program's staff taught us on day 1 of orientation was "mottainai", which translates to "What a waste". I thought that was a really good phrase to know because there are so many opportunities where you might be tempted to play it safe (whether it's trying a new food or going out with people you don't really now). Also, I really wish I had been given a primer on Kansai-ben before I left for study abroad because my host family used it constantly and I felt so lost for like a month or so. Therefore, when I learn my placement, I want to see what kind of dialect they use and try to prep on that beforehand.

weepinbell
April 2nd, 2015, 04:00
The first phrase that my study abroad program's staff taught us on day 1 of orientation was "mottainai", which translates to "What a waste". I thought that was a really good phrase to know because there are so many opportunities where you might be tempted to play it safe (whether it's trying a new food or going out with people you don't really now). Also, I really wish I had been given a primer on Kansai-ben before I left for study abroad because my host family used it constantly and I felt so lost for like a month or so. Therefore, when I learn my placement, I want to see what kind of dialect they use and try to prep on that beforehand.

yeah dialects are a big concern for me since my Japanese is so remedial haha. I requested Osaka for one of my placements.... if I get it... that'd be cool, but... Imma be so lost haha....

webstaa
April 2nd, 2015, 08:28
You'll probably get a cheat sheet with few basic things like a basic self introduction using a bit more formal language and advising to use plenty of yoroshiku onegaishimasu and gambarimasu. Just use what you know.

Maybe one you won't hear but the sentiment will follow you around is 'shoganai' - sort of a too bad mixed with a 'nothing can be done to change the situation' sort of resignation.

Unless you want to dive down the hole of local dialects when you get your placement info.

Ananasboat
April 2nd, 2015, 08:50
I wouldn't worry about dialects too much when you first get here. They're sticky business, but I feel like they're best learned when you're exposed to them. Useful Japanese, obviously, is greetings, basic grammar forms and learning hiragana and katakana. If you have time to learn some kanji, start that as well. There's more than enough time to get a basic grasp of the language before you head out. But, you should also focus on business style Japanese. There's going to be lots of talk about contracts and paperwork and various buildings that you'll be going to in your first weeks.

mothy
April 2nd, 2015, 08:53
Food kanji is useful to know right away. Especially if you have any dietary restrictions.

BifCarbet
April 2nd, 2015, 09:50
I'd recommend learning job titles of people within a school (kouchou, kyouto, etc.), and some words used in the daily schedule (#-jikanme, kyuushoku, souji/seisou, nicchoku, uchiawase). Also, it couldn't hurt to things like city hall, board of education, supervisor, etc.

If you find yourself somewhere with a cool dialect, just add it to your studies. Keep studying the language normally, and try to figure out when people use weird stuff. Once you have the real (hyoujungo) way to say it, try to work the dialect into your speaking. After a couple years, you'll be translating your dialect into regular Japanese for people from out of the area.

AyaReiko
April 2nd, 2015, 12:53
I think something really useful would be "Sumimasen, nihongo ga (yoku) wakarimasen." (Sorry, I don't understand Japanese (well).)

Good Osakaben to know:
- shindoi = tired
- ya = da/desu (ex: seyakedo = sou dakedo)
- na = ne
- verb-hen - verb nai (ex: wakarahen = wakaranai)

Poeple don't actually say Ookini, but they do say Nandeyanen!

webstaa
April 2nd, 2015, 13:01
Poeple don't actually say Ookini, but they do say Nandeyanen!

In my experience, the only time I've heard ookini is when somebody was trying to use Osaka-ben and the other person thought it was funny/cute.

AyaReiko
April 2nd, 2015, 13:06
I've only ever heard it said as an example of Osaka-ben.

soh
April 2nd, 2015, 13:48
osakini shitsurei shimasu when you get off work

naginataonthebrain
April 2nd, 2015, 22:07
I think something really useful would be "Sumimasen, nihongo ga (yoku) wakarimasen." (Sorry, I don't understand Japanese (well).)

Good Osakaben to know:
- shindoi = tired
- ya = da/desu (ex: seyakedo = sou dakedo)
- na = ne
- verb-hen - verb nai (ex: wakarahen = wakaranai)

Poeple don't actually say Ookini, but they do say Nandeyanen!

I definitely heard shopkeepers in Kyoto say ookini but never in Osaka so maybe it's just a Kyoto thing?

weepinbell
April 3rd, 2015, 01:19
YES thank you guys. Super helpful. I know maybe a little over 100 kanji, but... we all know how that is. I'm definitely gonna start trying to improve that number before I go. And yeah, looking at business Japanese is definitely not a bad idea either....

acpc2203
April 3rd, 2015, 07:31
Kore onegaishimasu (this please) is useful when you order food from a menu, since you can just point at something on the menu instead of having to say it what it is.

Lorenzo
April 3rd, 2015, 11:15
As I'm beginning to learn what a helpful, kind and empathetic guy you are, Ini, especially to new, fresh-faced, rabbit-in-the-headlights JETs, I thought I better Google that one before memorizing it. Probably a good thing I did.

weepinbell
April 13th, 2015, 07:39
I'm bringing this back because omg I'm at such a studying block. I feel like actually BEING there is gonna help me improve so so much, but right now I feel like I know zero Japanese even though I've been in class consistently for a year ugh.... I'm gonna be so discouraged when I get there haha. It'll be so overwhelming no matter how much I study, so that's something to prepare for for suuuure.

I'm finishing up Genki I, so I know some really good basics and I'm definitely gonna get Genki II. I sometimes use Anki, but I don't think it really works well for me. I'm definitely the type of person where repetition through writing helps more than repetition through flashcards... any suggestions? Right now I'm just kind of doing the work in Genki, memorizing vocab/kanji... I feel like I could be doing a lil more but I'm not sure where to start!

acpc2203
April 13th, 2015, 07:55
I'm bringing this back because omg I'm at such a studying block. I feel like actually BEING there is gonna help me improve so so much, but right now I feel like I know zero Japanese even though I've been in class consistently for a year ugh.... I'm gonna be so discouraged when I get there haha. It'll be so overwhelming no matter how much I study, so that's something to prepare for for suuuure.

I'm finishing up Genki I, so I know some really good basics and I'm definitely gonna get Genki II. I sometimes use Anki, but I don't think it really works well for me. I'm definitely the type of person where repetition through writing helps more than repetition through flashcards... any suggestions? Right now I'm just kind of doing the work in Genki, memorizing vocab/kanji... I feel like I could be doing a lil more but I'm not sure where to start!
I'd try to start reading native Japanese stuff, books and magazines geared towards kids are a good start since they don't have complex grammar and often have furigana. Helps a ton with grammar since you see how it is actually used instead of having a book explain it to you, also it's a good way to pick up new words. Also you can practice your writing on Lang8 and native Japanese speakers will correct it for you. I really liked anki but for it to work you need to be religious about doing your decks everyday (same for all SRS stuff really) or you will forget it and/or have a huge backlog. Finally be sure to study at least a bit everyday, it definitely helps with retaining things you learned.

BifCarbet
April 13th, 2015, 09:07
you see how it is actually used instead of having a book explain it to you

This is great. Mild immersion helps out a lot. Also, jisho.org is great for vocab, because it offers a lot of sample sentences so, again, you can see how a word is used.

Don't worry about slow progress. If you've only been studying for a year, being at a pretty elementary level is normal. Getting to Japan will definitely help. Give it time.

webstaa
April 13th, 2015, 09:16
If writing works for you, just get a bunch of Japanese kids books/manga etc and transcribe them into notebooks. You can double that up by translating everything you get your hands on. I did this for my school - I translated all the 1,2,3rd year, health, and principal's newsletters for a while. Which usually helps with vocabulary around the school as well.

weepinbell
April 13th, 2015, 10:01
I really like that idea webstaa, I'm gonna start doing that. Thanks guys.

crayon
April 13th, 2015, 12:24
When I first arrived I knew numbers, basic greetings, basic shopping vocabulary and very little else. Learning from books is all very well, but there is nothing like the immersive experience to increase your knowledge. The writing activity webstaa suggested is good. I used to carry round a small spiral notepad for when I picked up a new word at school/enkai/other social activity. I picked up speed in my reading of kanji by learning some karaoke songs - anything I didn't pick up in the lyrics I noted down (although not all song lyrics are useful in daily life, obviously). There are many ways to learn Japanese, but the main thing is be positive about learning and, if you have a rural placement you will almost certainly have to pick things up a lot quicker.

Jiggit
April 13th, 2015, 13:12
Days of the month. If you try to say ichinichi instead of tsuitachi people will have no idea what you're talking about.

CUPS
April 13th, 2015, 13:16
osakini shitsurei shimasu when you get off work

I have never said this and don't intend to.

Ananasboat
April 13th, 2015, 13:17
I have never said this and don't intend to.

Wait, why? It's a perfectly acceptable phrase, and it's very polite. What do you say instead?

greyjoy
April 13th, 2015, 13:19
I have never said this and don't intend to.

Watashi mo, yo. My teachers get a few otsukares on my way out the door. None of this "sorry for leaving early" nonsense.

Ananasboat
April 13th, 2015, 13:20
It's not "leaving early," it's "leaving before you."

I guess it's all up to the individual, but I'm a super mega tryhard so I say both.

Jiggit
April 13th, 2015, 13:20
Watashi mo, yo. My teachers get a few otsukares on my way out the door. None of this "sorry for leaving early" nonsense.

But why?

greyjoy
April 13th, 2015, 13:22
Days of the month. If you try to say ichinichi instead of tsuitachi people will have no idea what you're talking about.

This might be regional, as nobody in my japan seems to care. Most of my students and teachers just append nichi to a number. Maybe ojiisans who survived the war keep to the old ways, but I never managed to learn them, and it hasn't troubled me at all.

Ananasboat
April 13th, 2015, 13:26
This might be regional, as nobody in my japan seems to care. Most of my students and teachers just append nichi to a number. Maybe ojiisans who survived the war keep to the old ways, but I never managed to learn them, and it hasn't troubled me at all.

I mean, tsuitachi, futsuka, mikka and then yonichi**, gonichi, etc., (plus a couple additional annoying ones) Counters are awful, but after 10th and 20th they're all just number plus nichi.

Edit: **Maybe your kids will sometimes say yonichi. They also get confused with muika once in a while if they're young.

Jwang
April 13th, 2015, 13:26
Katakana and Hiragana, greetings, numbers, where is OO? this please, self introduction, days of week, months of year, time etc. If you can arrive with the basics of JLPT N5 you should be able to get through most situations. If you don't have the time to study before you arrive then I would say at least try to learn Katakana and pick up a small phrasebook to help you navigate yourself around your new town for the first few weeks.

CUPS
April 13th, 2015, 13:27
Lots of reasons.

I'm not sorry for leaving before anyone. I've done my work, I've got paid for it and now I'm going home.

I also think the whole idea of drawing loud attention to anyone who's leaving is (yet another) really 'off' form of keeping the masses under control. It's not enough that you have to be pressured to work ridiculous unpaid overtime but also you can't just quietly leave? You have to draw attention to it, thus drawing (negative) attention to people just because they are going home for the day?

The phrase is essentially a tool of oppression :D Sod that for a game of soldiers.

CUPS
April 13th, 2015, 13:28
What do I say instead?

"Bye, see you tomorrow!" / "Bye, have a nice weekend!"

Jiggit
April 13th, 2015, 13:30
Lots of reasons.

I'm not sorry for leaving before anyone. I've done my work, I've got paid for it and now I'm going home.

I also think the whole idea of drawing loud attention to anyone who's leaving is (yet another) really 'off' form of keeping the masses under control. It's not enough that you have to be pressured to work ridiculous unpaid overtime but also you can't just quietly leave? You have to draw attention to it, thus drawing (negative) attention to people just because they are going home for the day?

The phrase is essentially a tool of oppression :D Sod that for a game of soldiers.

So is potentially making your coworkers think you're rude and considerate worth making zero change to the social structure you claim to be rebelling against?

Please do not listen to this guy. Greetings are important in Japan. Just use them. Would you refuse to say "good morning" to someone because it was raining?

greyjoy
April 13th, 2015, 13:31
But why?

My own private war with Japanese philosophy? It just doesn't come naturally to me, and I fit in almost seamlessly with Japanese level politeness otherwise. It's abnormal to me to call attention to my leaving in the first place. And I disagree wholeheartedly with the working hours mentality here, wherein the person staying longer is perceived to be working harder(dubious) and especially its corollary(excepting me, flat false).

To me, saying otsukaresama is a nice courtesy. Saying osakini is a product of shaming, not politeness.

But mostly maybe because I didn't say it when I first came, and can't start now.

Gizmotech
April 13th, 2015, 13:33
I never say it either. I get quite a few syonaras from other teachers which I love.

Jiggit
April 13th, 2015, 13:38
My own private war with Japanese philosophy?

Right, and what changes have you made to that?


It just doesn't come naturally to me, and I fit in almost seamlessly with Japanese level politeness otherwise.

It's a different language and culture. If you think the rest of it "comes naturally" to you then you probably haven't got it.


It's abnormal to me to call attention to my leaving in the first place. A

No, it's abnormal for you not to do so in Japan. Normality is defined entirely by social context.


To me, saying otsukaresama is a nice courtesy. Saying osakini is a product of shaming, not politeness. [/QUOTE]

I could just as easily argue that otsukaresama is a passive-aggressive/sarcastic phrase meant to highlight your laziness in being tired when they're still going. For me, meaning is determined by intention. They aren't really sorry for leaving, you don't really think they're lazy for doing so, just get along with people. There's no point acting weird if no-one understands why you're doing it and it doesn't change anything.

greyjoy
April 13th, 2015, 13:38
I mean, tsuitachi, futsuka, mikka and then yonichi, gonichi, etc., (plus a couple additional annoying ones) Counters are awful, but after 10th and 20th they're all just number plus nichi.

It's not yonnichi though, it's yokka. The first ten are all irregular, along with 14, 20, and 24. It might be that I just don't notice when they use the right terms. I still have it in my mind that they're all different from being an idiot back in university.

greyjoy
April 13th, 2015, 13:51
Jiggit, I'm not expecting to effect any change. It's entirely due to my personality defects that I have responded to the greeting culture like this. I can't stand calling attention to myself when I get in every morning and when I leave every day. But I do it when I'm in japan. It may be nothing to add an additional string of syllables as a sop to everyone else, but it's a step too far for me. You won't disagree that there are thousands of simple things that you're expected to do everyday to assimilate, but because you're not actually Japanese, maybe you don't do every one of them, right? I've heard some of my teachers say osakini on rare occasion, and some of them do leave earlier than me pretty regularly, but I don't know that anyone does it all the time. Nobody at my schools ever does any ittekimasu/itterashai greetings either. Maybe my staff rooms are pretty casual, but I sincerely doubt anyone remarks on my lack of this particular greeting.

I'm not advising anyone to emulate me, but it's just not my thing.

Jiggit
April 13th, 2015, 13:55
Oh sure, there's plenty of shit that I don't do, that's kind of the point, that I do do the stuff that doesn't affect me. Am I gonna stay in till 8 to make myself look like a good employee? Hell no. Then I might as well say the thing as I stroll out the door at 16:01.

Also I just want to emphasise to newbies that greetings are way more formalised and important in Japan than back home. Kids have classes on this stuff. Saying the right words at the right time is a big part of fitting in here.

Ananasboat
April 13th, 2015, 13:55
It's not yonnichi though, it's yokka. The first ten are all irregular, along with 14, 20, and 24. It might be that I just don't notice when they use the right terms. I still have it in my mind that they're all different from being an idiot back in university.

You're right. I hang out with the little kids way too much. Imagine your mind breaking when you say "muika" and the kids are like "sensei, does that mean rokunichi?" I tried countering your argument, but then I realized that I'm actually used to it as well. Woops.

But still. LEARN YOUR GREETINGS people. I argue that they're not a form of oppression, and just natural Japanese courtesy. When you tell someone to "have a good day," you're not forcing them to have a good day against their will, it's just something you say. Saying "otsukaresama" and "osakini shitsureishimasu" isn't going to make your coworkers think poorly of you leaving early. But if you have passable Japanese and don't use the greetings they may think you're cold. You're not above it, either, as you're an employee in Japan.

When in Rome, right?

greyjoy
April 13th, 2015, 14:51
You both make compelling arguments that I'll take under serious consideration.

Jiggit
April 13th, 2015, 14:55
Nah come on, it is totally a form of oppression. Why do you think they drill it into their kids every day at their schools which are run like the goddamn military?

BifCarbet
April 13th, 2015, 15:12
I'm not sorry for leaving before anyone. I've done my work, I've got paid for it and now I'm going home.

So is potentially making your coworkers think you're rude and considerate worth making zero change to the social structure you claim to be rebelling against?

I'm not an authority, but...

Cookie-cutter phrases shouldn't always be taken literally, and they're kind of important in Japanese culture. In my view, when you say OSAKI NI SITUREI SIMASU, you're not really giving someone a heartfelt apology that they're going to accept and be like, "Well, he's nice about it at least." It's just what you say when you leave. They know you don't have to stay as late as they do. They know you don't feel bad about going home, especially when your work is done.

They might think you're rude for not saying it anyway. Choosing not to assimilate is your own prerogative, but purposely avoiding common courtesies, simply because you're not Japanese, is kind of how foreigners get the reputation of being discourteous in the first place.

I would feel weird about saying the literal English translation of some of the things I say in Japanese (and vice versa), but is refusing on that principle worth looking like a jerk or a tight-ass? Not to me.

Also, imagine a forum full of Japanese people debating over whether, while working in America, you should actually inquire about your superior's weekend, and if it's rude to say "How are you this morning?" instead of "Good morning."

Just say what other people say, and mix in your own personality with it.

Jiggit
April 13th, 2015, 15:30
Also, imagine a forum full of Japanese people debating over whether, while working in America, you should actually inquire about your superior's weekend, and if it's rude to say "How are you this morning?" instead of "Good morning."

This is actually the kind of thing people would obsess over in Japan though...

BifCarbet
April 13th, 2015, 15:38
This is actually the kind of thing people would obsess over in Japan though...

Haha yeah, and apparently we do it too.

weepinbell
April 13th, 2015, 23:08
This whole debate kinda reminds me of some common courtesy stuff we say in America. I feel like a lot of our polite anecdotes come in the form of commands, so maybe that's a thing Japanese people might find a little offputting since commands without a polite modifier sounds really abrasive in professional situations? But we don't mean anything 'rude' by it in our culture. Like someone was saying 'have a good day/night', obviously isn't something we're trying to command anyone to do, just being polite. Or like 'feel better!' Idk that kinda stuff. It probably goes both ways. There are always expressions that don't really translate cross-culturally (or when you reaaally think about it in the native language...).

I mean if you wanna talk about drilling things into kids heads, we've got the Pledge of Allegiance here in Amurrca... talk about brainwashing for the sake of nationalism lol.

ambrosse
April 14th, 2015, 00:46
The Pledge of Allegiance. Do they still require kids to do that?
I did all through elementary school. Thinking about it, it does seem a bit....brain-washy.
People get all up in arms about "God" in it, but to be honest, saying the Pledge of Allegiance to me is equal to singing choral music where the main subject is the high heavens, lol.

weepinbell
April 14th, 2015, 01:29
I know they still do it every morning, but I'm thinking they're a lot less strict with it than when we were kids. Like when I was 12 was when it was officially 'ok' to substitute 'God' for something else. Then in high school, kids would sit it out. I remember I'd stand up but wouldn't say it lol.

Yeah but the difference between choral music and the Pledge is you elect to be in choir... the Pledge is pretty much imposed on literally every student and required to be taught at a very young age where you don't even know what you're even 'pledging your allegiance' to haha.

Zolrak 22
April 14th, 2015, 01:30
"The land of Borinquen
where I was born
is a flowery garden
of magical beauty."

Oops wrong anthem.

I mean

"O say can
you see by
the dawn's
early light,"

[emoji14]

weepinbell
April 14th, 2015, 01:37
C'mon Zol that's not the pledge, that's the anthem... where's your Amurrcan patriotism? the pledge is what all the American kids have to stand up and say every morning at school when the bell rings.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America
And to republic, for which it stands
One nation, under God
Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all

It's basically like a cult chant when I think about it haha, how creepy...

who else used to say "I pledge of allegiance" when they were a kid? :P

Zolrak 22
April 14th, 2015, 01:38
Yeah... I don't remember having to do that.

I wasn't part of the cult. [emoji14]

weepinbell
April 14th, 2015, 01:41
Cuz you're not a state, you're a territory lol. Isn't that still kinda exclusion? Come on, US. Liberty and Justice for ALL except for Puerto Rico? I mean I guess you narrowly escaped brainwashing at least.

Zolrak 22
April 14th, 2015, 01:42
Can't take anything you say seriously.

Your avatar is just too adorable.

Ananasboat
April 14th, 2015, 07:13
Liberty and Justice for ALL except for Puerto Rico?

And women. And black people. And minorities. And muslims. And ....

gibbity
April 14th, 2015, 08:10
YAY! I still get liberty and justice!

greyjoy
April 14th, 2015, 09:31
Courtesies in English are largely in the subjunctive. While you could interpret them as being soft demands, it makes much more sense within the language to read them as a desire instead. "I hope you will have a good day" rather than "have a good day, or else..."

The pledge is an awful remnant of nationalism and imperialism, and the only thing worse than it is the fact that nobody recognizes it as such. No other country that I know of that would even purport to have a free society has anything like it.

acpc2203
April 14th, 2015, 14:36
ITT: Self hating Americans

greyjoy
April 14th, 2015, 14:51
O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

x_stei
April 20th, 2015, 23:13
Can't take anything you say seriously.

Your avatar is just too adorable.

I'm with you on this one.

I think knowing greetings would be definitely a plus. Also directions and understanding directions. How to ask where the bathroom is, where something is. That might be helpful.

Colours, numbers, dates and months. How to say year perhaps? I don't know how that might be helpful.

Updated: Also! I just remembered that honorifics are a good thing to know: what each means and when it's appropriate to use each.

acpc2203
April 21st, 2015, 15:17
Actually you can get pretty far just by going "mmmm soukka" in response to people talking to you.

greyjoy
April 21st, 2015, 16:39
Mmmm mmmm mmm mmmm mmm sou ka would be even better, with the best results including vigorous head nodding.

Someone's doing that right this moment in fact.

uthinkimlost?
April 21st, 2015, 17:00
Mmmm mmmm mmm mmmm mmm


www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIbcqgXh5-4

?

Ebi
April 21st, 2015, 18:38
Here's the basic Japanese I sent to my family before they came over. If you really are starting from nothing, I think these should cover the most basic social interactions when you first arrive:

はい hai (sounds like "high") = Means "yes", but is also said to indicate you're listening or you understood someone. If you make a request, their reaction is more telling than hearing "hai".

いいえ iie (sounds like "ee-ay") = Means "no", but you won't hear it much. People familiar with foreigners will probably use an X gesture made with their fingers or their arms to express "no" or "don't". If you're making a request and someone takes in a deep breath and says something like "muzukashi" (lit. "difficult", sounds like moo-zoo-kah-she) it means "no". A sad expression with a long stream of polite apologies means "no". Extreme reluctance in general should be taken as "no".

お願い します onegai shimasu (sounds like "oh-neigh-guy-she-moss") = A standard polite way to say "please". You can also say kudasai (sounds like "coo-duh-sigh") for "please", but I feel like "onegaishimasu" is the safer choice since it applies to more situations. Either way, you can get your point across. When it's useful:



ordering food (point at your choice and say "onegaishimasu")
answering in the affirmative ("Do you want this?" "Onegaishimasu")
any other time you want to say please


大丈夫 です daijoubu desu (sounds like "die-joe-boo dess") = Means "OK" or "I'm fine" or "I'm fine without [what you're offering]". If said as a question, (Daijoubu desu ka?) it means "Are you alright?" or "Is that OK?"

Sounds complex, but survival usage is pretty easy:
Someone offers you something. Do you want it? / Someone offers you help. Do you need help?

Yes -> say "onegaishimasu"
No -> say "daijoubu desu" (waving you hands will further emphasize "no")

ありがとう arigatou (sounds like "ah-ree-gah-toe") = Means "thank you". If you forget, "sankyuu" (thank you) is understood by most people nowadays too. In any case, be sure to show your appreciation. Truthfully adults often don't bother saying thank you to service people, but I like having good manners.

わかりません wakarimasen (sounds like "wah-kah-ree-mah-sen") = A standard way to say "I don't understand."

But probably the most important word of all is this:

すみません sumimasen (sounds like "sue-mee-mah-sen") = It's used all the time to mean "I'm sorry", "Excuse me", "Sorry to be a bother" and even "Thank you" depending on the context. Any time you approach a stranger or service worker, this is a good way to start your conversation. If a restaurant doesn't have a buzzer, you're expected to yell sumimasen to get the waitress/waiter's attention.

Also, you can introduce yourself by saying this: "Hajimemashite. Watashi wa (your name) desu." (sounds like "hah-gee-meh-mosh-tay. wah-tah-she wah (your name) dess.") It basically means "My name is ___. Nice to meet you."

Here are a few extra words you might hear since they're used a lot. I include them just because they highlight some cultural differences since they are really hard to translate into English.

よろしく yoroshiku [+onegai shimasu] = Used when it's understood you and your audience will be undertaking some task in cooperation and are asking for their support, be it direct or indirect. It's also usually said at the end of a self-introduction. It's also used similar to how we'd say "Give my regards to (someone)."

頑張る ganbaru = It's a verb often used in the imperative form "Ganbatte!" It's used in a similar fashion to express "good luck", but with more emphasis on encouraging the listener to do one's best and keep trying.

お疲れ様でした otsukaresama deshita = Could translate as "you have worked hard". More literally "You are tired". Said to anyone, especially peers and coworkers, when you want to acknowledge their efforts. But it's used for even trivial, clearly not physically exerting tasks. The concept of "tiredness" due to exertion, physically or otherwise, is valued. You'll also probably be told to "rest" and "be careful not to catch a cold" a lot, if you appear to be working hard. (In response, you'd probably apologize for making them worry about you and keep working.)

お先に失礼します osaki ni shitsurei shimasu = Translates literally as "I'm being rude by going before you". It is commonly said when you leave work to go home to acknowledge the other people who are still (supposedly) working hard. Guys especially tend to shorten it to "osaki shimasu". But it can be used in other situations, like if you're waiting for someone to arrive at a dinner but they tell you to start eating without them. It would be polite to say "Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu" before you start eating.

お邪魔します / 失礼します ojama shimasu / shitsurei shimasu = Translates as "I'm being a bother." or "I'm being rude." When entering a room or someone's house, you announce your presence by saying "ojama shimasu" or "shitsurei shimasu". I'm sure there are technical differences between the two, but in practice I usually see: enter someone's house = "ojama shimasu", enter a room inside of a larger building = "shitsurei shimasu". And if you're entering a room of an important person (i.e. your principal's office) you should say "shitsurei shimashita" when you leave ("I was totally rude just now").