japanese slang

Japanese Slang: 70 Phrases to Help You Sound Like a Local [with Audio]

Wanna let loose, relax and really have fun with the Japanese language?

Then you’ll need to know what Japanese sounds like on the streets.

If you’ve already learned how to infer subjects, now is the time to level up your casual speaking skills through slang!

Your Japanese language skills will improve overall and you’ll end up sounding much more natural.


Top 70 Japanese Slang Phrases

1. — Rough Masculine Version of “I”

Hiragana: おれ

Unlike English, Japanese has a lot of “I” pronouns, with (わたし) being the most gender-neutral. One of these is 俺, which men (especially the more “macho” types) use to refer to themselves around people they’re close to.

You’ll never hear a woman use this word in modern times, though the main character from the anime “Miss Hokusai” does (but note that the film is set during the Edo Period). 

2. おっす! — What’s up?

Want to surprise your Japanese friends? Just say おっす to them next time you meet. おっす used to be a military greeting and was considered highly formal. It’s still commonly used among martial artists.

Nowadays, it means “what’s up?” among young people. Not that many people actually use it, so it can be considered kind of quirky—but that’s all right if you’re already standing out as a foreigner.

For a more conservative approach try こんちは, a shortened form of こんにちは , which means “good day” or “hello.”

3. よー! — Hey!

This is the usual way of saying “hey!” as a friendly greeting.

You can also use おい !, which sounds like the British oi! and has the exact same meaning. It’s not very polite, so I don’t recommend using it with strangers.

If you’re saying “hi” to some close friends and you want seem cool, then use よー、お前ら! (よー、おまえら!) or “Hey, guys!”

This is part greeting, part friendly insult. It’s more like saying “‘sup dorkface,” which can be a friendly greeting if spoken to a close friend, but a bit too much with anyone else.

As a side note, the personal pronoun お前 (おまえ) is conventionally reserved for enemies. It’s extremely impolite except when used by close friends.

4. 調子どう? — How’s It Hanging?

Hiragana: ちょうしどう?

This simply means “How’s it hanging?” Next time you’re at a social gathering with friends, just ask everyone this question! And be prepared for a variety of responses.

You can also use おげんき? , which is a shortened version of お元気ですか ? (おげんきですか?), Japanese for “how are you?”

5. 相変わらずだよ — Same as Always, Man

Hiragana: あいかわらずだよ

This isn’t that commonly used, since Tokyo people are more likely to just say まあまあだよ meaning “so so.”

As far as 相変わらずだよ goes, the ending particle, , of that sentence asserts a sort of confidence in the same way that the English word “man” does when used as slang.

6. ごめんちゃい / ごめんくさい / めんごめんご — Slangy Apologies

These are all slangy forms of ごめんなさい (I’m sorry). Really, if you want to apologize properly, you should say ごめんなさい. But if what you did wasn’t that serious—or if you want to sound cute—then the slangier forms will work.

ごめんちゃい and ごめんくさい are sort of fun and light-hearted.

めんごめんご will make most people cringe when they hear it. They might just forgive you out of embarrassment.

Of course, there’s also a “cool guy” way to apologize. Just say わりぃーね which means “my bad.”

7. 奴ら — Very Informal “Them”

Hiragana: やつら

There are plenty of polite ways to refer to “them”—and 奴ら is definitely not one of these.

While it can be neutral depending on the context, it usually implies that the speaker holds some kind of contempt for whoever “they” are—like a stronger version of あいつ

8. またねー! — Later!

There are a few options here.

またねー and じゃーね are the most common ways of saying “see you later.”

あばよ is how a tough guy says “later.” The よ suffix basically means, “I’m certain,” showing your complete confidence in a future meeting. It’s a bit silly, though, so you may not be taken too seriously if you use this phrase.

9. ちょっと待て! — Wait A Minute!

Hiragana: ちょっとまて!

The beauty of ちょっと is that there are so many ways to use it

For example, if someone is about to leave you hanging, you can say “ちょっと待て!” You can also just say ちょっと if you’re pressed for time and want to get your point across ASAP. 

10. 一足す一は? — Say Cheese?

Hiragana: いちたすいちは?

一足す一は? means “one plus one is?” and the answer, in Japanese, is (に). As in にー , which is what you say when someone takes a photo of you. 

“Cheese” works as well, but you have to voice it with Japanese intonation, チーズ (ちーず).

11. 君は本当にいいヤツだな — You’re a Real Solid Guy

Hiragana: きみは ほんとうに いいやつだな

When you’re having a night out in Shinjuku, there might come a point when you manage to break the ice with one of the many patrons at a bar. The more they drink, the more they open up to you and start rambling about their lives, the state of society and what have you.

At some point, they may say 君は本当にいいヤツだな , basically just calling you a real good guy.

12. お前はイケメンだ   — You Darn Prettyboy

Hiragana: おまえは いけめんだ

お前はイケメンだ is something you should use between friends only. Again, the pronoun お前 is generally considered offensive, but close friends may use it to address each other in a light-hearted manner.

So, you can use this to convey light-hearted jealousy by pointing out the pretty boy ( イケメン ) in your group of friends.

13. モテる — Popular (With The Opposite Sex)

Hiragana: もてる

I remember my confusion when I first learned this word. I thought: “If ホテル (ほてる) means ‘hotel,” then モテる means…”

To my utter embarrassment (and my Japanese-speaking friends’ amusement), that’s not the case at all.

As it turns out, if someone says you are モテる, you’re quite a hit with the ladies/gentlemen!

14. 一杯どう? — How About a Drink?

Hiragana: いっぱい どう?

Saying 一杯どう? is a friendly way of offering a drink. Easy enough to remember, right?

If you want to follow it up with another drink afterwards, it’s もう一杯どう? (もう いっぱい どう?) or “one more drink?”.

15. うまい! — Delicious!

You’re probably heard of or uttered おいしい! at some point, because let’s be real: Japanese cuisine is drool-worthy!

In case you want to switch up your food vocabulary a bit, you can also say うまい which essentially means the same thing as おいしい. If you want to get really informal and express your enthusiasm for what you’re eating, you can also say うめぇ!

16. ちょうだい! — Please Give Me (More)!

Since we’re on the topic of food and drinks, might as well learn how to ask for more. 

If you want a refill of your glass or plate, just say ちょうだい to whoever’s listening. (Just make sure that person is actually okay with you being that chummy with them!)

17. いいね — That’s Good

Want to express your happiness with a piece of good news? Looking for a simple way to agree with someone close to you?

In both cases, いいね would suffice. You can accompany it with a soft tone and a smile to ensure your point really gets across. 

18. 山手線ゲーム、しようぜ! — Let’s Play Yamanote Line!

Hiragana: やまのてせんげーむ、しようぜ!

The Yamanote line in Tokyo goes in a circle around the city center. The Yamanote Line game is a popular drinking game in which a group of friends go around in a circle on the train. They clap in tune and say the names of stations on the Yamanote line aloud.

If you can’t think of something to say, or if you repeat something that’s already been said, you lose and have to drink.

Besides the train stations, the game can be adapted to use any theme, like “colors,” “cute things,” “anime titles” or any other theme.

Here are the girls from ECYJapan playing the game for your amusement:

19. 今夜は家でゴロゴロしてるよ — Tonight I’m Just Gonna Space Out at Home

Hiragana: こんやは いえで ごろごろしてるよ

Here we see an example where onomatopoeia—i.e. words that express an action or meaning through their sound—is used in slang. In Japanese ゴロゴロ means “rolling” and “turning.”

In any case, 今夜は家でゴロゴロしてるよ translates to something like “I’ll be rolling at home,” while the meaning is more accurately translated to “I’m going to space out at home.” It’s a great response to have on hand if someone invites you to take a spin on the Yamanote line.

20. サボる — Slack Off / Skip Work or School

Hiragana: さぼる

Doesn’t everyone get the urge to take a day off once in a while?

Of course, given how much hard work is prized in Japanese culture, サボる would have a negative connotation. You can gently chide a friend with this phrase, but best not to say this to a colleague or boss!

21. ゆるい — Easygoing/Laidback

Hiragana: ゆるい

Another way to chide someone who’s taking it way too easy is to say they’re ゆるい. While it usually means “gentle” (like the gentle curves of a hill), it can also mean “slovenly.”

22. お腹減ったなー — I’m Hungry

Hiragana: おなかへったなー

お腹減ったなー means my stomach is empty. It’s like saying, “I’m famished.”

お腹がゴロゴロ言ってる (おなかが ごろごろいってる) means “my stomach is growling.” The onomatopoeia ゴロゴロ this time means “grumbling.”

There’s a brutish way of saying stomach, which is simply (はら). Saying 腹減った (はらへった) , you sound like an anime character asking for food.

23. ヤバい — Wicked

Hiragana: やばい

When someone’s in danger or in a bad situation, they can use the word ヤバい. However, young people have started to use the term to mean “uncool” or anything negative.

In a reverse-Uno twist, the word is now being used for positive things too. So in general, ヤバい is an adjective that can be used to mean something good or bad depending on the context.

In English, the word ヤバい would probably be similar to the word “wicked,” in which “wicked” can have both positive and negative connotations.

24. 最悪 — The Worst

Hiragana: さいあく

You can use ヤバい to refer to a situation that’s bad. If it feels worse than ヤバい, you can say 最悪 instead. 

For example, a cancelled flight due to a storm that’s predicted to last for at least a few hours is definitely 最悪. 

25. ピンチ — Pinch/Difficulty

Hiragana: ぴんち

This is the Japanese equivalent of being “caught between a rock and a hard place.” Imagine yourself getting “pinched” by two giant fingers, and you pretty much have the gist of what this word means.

Of course, English speakers wouldn’t use “pinch” to refer to a difficult situation. But if you hear your Japanese-speaking friend say they’re in a ピンチ, it means you should probably give them a helping hand.

26. 微妙 — Weird

Hiragana: びみょう

The word 微妙 is currently used to express an unclear statement with a negative connotation.

In Japan, you want to avoid sounding too harsh. You don’t want to directly say something very negative. That’s why you use the term 微妙 to leave some uncertainty. In English, the word 微妙 would be similar to the word “weird,” but with a more negative touch to it.

27. ちゃう — Indicates Something You Did Wrong

Unlike many of the words on this list, ちゃう isn’t a standalone word. It’s the less formal version of – しまう , which indicates that something has been done or finished.

Often, ちゃう and its variations suggest that the speaker regrets what they just did. If you forgot to set your alarm, you can say アラームをセットし忘れちゃった! (あらーむをせっとしわすれちゃった!— I forgot to set my alarm!)

28. ダサい — Not Cool

Hiragana: ださい

If you’re a young person, you definitely don’t want to hear this adjective directed at you. It’s a catch-all term for “boring,” “tacky,” “uncool,” etc. 

Then again, if you don’t care whether people call you ダサい and you do your own thing, you’re pretty cool in my eyes!

And that brings us to our next entry…

29. かっこいい — Cool

You can use かっこいい to describe anyone who’s done something “cool”—like going into a burning house to save a dog, for example.

On the other hand, if you’re a guy and a woman calls you かっこいい, it can also mean she thinks you’re handsome. So that’s a double compliment—you both look and act cool! 

30. —Totally / Super

Hiragana: ちょう /  めっちゃ

and めっちゃ are interchangeable and they both mean “very.”

Formally in Japanese, you’d use the word とても  or in some cases すごい . However, with slang, you can use these two terms. In English, these words are similar to the terms “totally,” “super” and “so.”

31. スゲェ — Amazing!

Hiragana: すげぇ

スゲェ is the even more informal version of すごい. If you say that something is スゲェ, you’re saying it’s so incredible, you have to stretch out that last syllable since mere words can’t capture how incredible it is!

32. 最高 — The Best

Hiragana: さいこう

When you say that something is 最高, there’s probably nothing that can top it. 

On the other hand, when you describe something or someone as 最低 (さいてい), you’re saying they’re the absolute worst. 

33. マジで — Seriously

Hiragana: まじで

The word マジ comes from the word 真面目 (まじめ), which means “serious.” In English, you’d use this word as “seriously” or “really.”

You can use マジ or マジで. Both マジ and マジで are used when it’s followed by a couple of more words, and when you just want to say “seriously, man!?”

34. ハンパない — Outrageous

Hiragana: はんぱない

ハンパない is used to describe something as extraordinary, extreme or outrageous, though it’s generally meant in a positive way.

This word is actually very similar to the word ヤバい , and you can use the two interchangeably.

35. ふざけるな! — Don’t Mess With Me!

Japanese speakers rarely use ふざけるな when they’re happy with something. It’s the (very rude) equivalent of “Are you kidding me?” or “I can’t believe this is happening!”

You’ll often hear fictional yakuza characters utter this phrase when things aren’t going their way. 

36. ノリノリ   — Easily Hyped Up / The Life of the Party

Hiragana: のりのり

ノリノリ originally comes from the word 乗る (のる), which means to ride or get on (some sort of vehicle). This verb soon transformed its meaning to joining or going along with someone else’s happy mood, jokes or party mode.

This term is used often in concerts or discos where the DJ player screams “ ノッてる? (のってる?)” which means “are you having fun?” ノリノリ is the adjective form of のる.

If you describe someone as ノリノリ, it means that he or she can get hyped up easily and will go along with the excited atmosphere. In English, it’s the opposite of a party-pooper—it’s someone who’s the Life of the Party.

*Note: don’t mistake this word with the word for seaweed! That would be 海苔 (のり).

37. ワロタ — LOL/LMAO

Hiragana: わろた

Practicing your Japanese by lurking in forums? Then you’ll want to add ワロタ to your vocab.

Sometimes, you’ll see people use this to say that they find something funny. Other times, they just use ( ) (わらい) instead.

38. 可愛い — How Cute!

Hiragana: かわいい

Yes, you probably already know what 可愛い means, given that it’s all over the Japanese internet

Although you can easily sum up its meaning as “cute,” it’s a bit more nuanced than that. According to Sebastian Masuda, considered the “Godfather of 可愛い,” the word encompasses all the emotions you feel when you look at, say, a pink Hello Kitty plush toy.  

39. オシャンティー — Glamorous

Hiragana: おしゃんてぃー

オシャンティー comes from the word おしゃれ , which means “stylish.” It was widely popularized by the famous female idol group AKB48, where they explained in their blogs that they stylized the word おしゃれ and made it オシャンティー.

In English, this word is quite similar to the slang word “glam,” which is short for “glamorous”.

40. グロい — Horrific, Gory or Repulsive

Hiragana: ぐろい

This slang term comes from the word grotesque. Just like what the word refers to, it’s usually used to describe something related to horror. It can mean something is repulsive, scary or gory.

41. キモい — Disgusting!

Hiragana: きもい

Unlike グロい, キモい isn’t just for horror movies. You can use it for anything that makes you want to recoil or scrunch up your face. 

42. チャラい — Shallow and Flirtatious

Hiragana: ちゃらい

チャラい is an adjective to describe a shallow and flirtatious person. It usually refers to men who constantly try to pick up girls.

The word has several different forms.

One is チャラ男( ちゃらお ) which means the same as チャラい, but limited to only boys. The other form is チャラチャラ (ちゃらちゃら), which comes from the sound that accessories make—basically, the bling.

43. あざとい — Manipulative Person

This word usually refers to women who act in a way designed to attract people (usually men) to them. It can also refer to a person who’s good at getting others to do what they want, for better or worse.  

44. ラブラブ — Lovey-Dovey

Hiragana: らぶらぶ

This is one of those Japanese words that are likely derived from English. When you see a couple who just can’t keep their hands off each other even in public, you can say they’re ラブラブ. 

45. ニコニコ — Smile, Smile

People named “Nicholas” or “Nicole” might be happy to know that ニコ means “smile” in Japanese—or, more accurately, the “sound” of a smile.

When you say that someone is ニコニコ, you’re saying they have a really nice smile!

46. ダラダラ — Slowly / Lazily

Hiragana: だらだら

To remember the meaning of ダラダラ, picture yourself “dara-daragging” your feet when you have to go somewhere you’d rather not.

As you can imagine, ダラダラ has a somewhat negative connotation. It can mean something is moving really slowly, or that it’s going nowhere and is just stuck in place. 

47. 重い — Someone Extra / An Uncomfortable Situation 

Hiragana: おもい

This literally means “heavy” and can be used in two different ways.

The first way is to describe a person in a relationship. It’s a negative word and connotes that this person is simply “too much”—whether that means s/he is constantly complaining, demanding, expecting too much or is obsessive.

Their actions are overwhelming and ultimately push their partners away. Imagine the person hugging the partner’s leg and becoming a heavy load.

The second way to use 重い is when you describe something (a situation, feeling, words) as serious, uncomfortable or depressing.

48. 阿呆 — Stupid

Hiragana: あほ

You’ve probably heard of 馬鹿 (ばか) used to refer to someone who’s not exactly the sharpest crayon in the box. In most cases, 馬鹿 would be offensive.

阿呆 is its less offensive cousin—though you’ll still want to refrain from using it for anyone other than your closest friends and family!

49. ベタ — Plain / Uninteresting

Hiragana: べた

No, this isn’t the second letter of the Greek alphabet or shorthand for an old video storage device.

If your Japanese-speaking buddies say that something is ベタ, they mean it’s uninteresting or uncool. 

50. どうでもいい — I Don’t Care

This is another word where you have to be extra careful how you use it and with whom.

どうでもいい essentially means that you don’t care what the other person has to say or that what they’re saying is nonsense. 

If you don’t care about hurting the person’s feelings, you can tell them どうでもいい in the sharpest tone you can muster. 

51. しょうがない — It Can’t Be Helped

If you want to say that an event cannot be changed to the effect of “It is what it is,” you can say しょうがない.

The more formal variation of this is 仕方がない (しかたがない). 

52. 面倒くさい — What A Pain

Hiragana: めんどくさい

面倒くさい is used when someone wants to express frustration with the difficulty of a situation or person. 

When you’re applying for a job that involves filling out seemingly hundreds of pages of forms, you can say the process is 面倒くさい.

53. うざい — Annoying / Irritating

うざい is a much stronger version of 面倒くさい. It usually implies that whatever’s annoying you has an active role in doing so (i.e., a person).  

It’s also likely the shorter variant of うるさい , which can mean either “Be Quiet!” or “So Noisy!”

54. なんか — Something Like / Kind Of

When you hear a Japanese speaker start a statement with なんか, it means they’re not sure of what they’re about to say next.

For example, if you ask them about how the sushi they bought from a random shop tastes, they might respond with この寿司、なんか変な味がする (このすし、なんかへんなあじがする ー There’s something weird about the taste of this sushi.)

55. ぶっちゃけ — Frankly

ぶっちゃけ is like the opposite of なんか: They’re both used to start statements, except that ぶっちゃけ means the speaker is about to express the truth (or what they believe to be the truth). 

Let’s say your friend is in love with someone named Jane. They would say ぶっちゃけ、ジェーンにはまだ本当の気持ちを言えていないんだ.  (ぶっちゃけ、じぇーんにはまだほんとうのきもちをいえていないんだ — To be honest, I haven’t been able to express my true feelings for Jane yet.) 

56. 勘弁してくれ — Give Me A Break

Hiragana: かんべんしてくれ

Now this is a handy expression to know when you’re asking favors from someone!

For example, you’re traveling and you realize you didn’t bring enough clothes for the trip. You want to borrow some from your Japanese-speaking friend, but you’re not sure they’re completely on board with the idea. You can end your request with 勘弁してくれ to emphasize the urgency of the situation. 

57. ウケる — Funny

Hiragana: うける

First, it’s important to know that the likely origin of this slang word, 受ける (うける), means “to receive.” Because comedy is something that most people like to have, it’s possible that’s how this phrase also came to be used to describe amusing things. 

58. とんでもない — It’s Nothing

You probably know that どういたしまして (You’re welcome) is an appropriate response to ありがとうございます (Thank you).

とんでもない is another phrase you can use to respond to someone’s expression of gratitude. It’s most appropriate for close friends and family, and it usually implies that the person doesn’t have to worry about paying you back for what you did for them. 

On the other hand, you also want to be careful about the context where you use とんでもない. It can also be used to say that a statement is ridiculous and not worthy of consideration—that “it’s nothing,” so to speak. 

59. 可哀想 — Poor Thing / How Pitiful!

Hiragana: かわいそう

I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. If you see someone who seems to only experience misfortune in their lives, they’re 可哀想. Like all expressions of pity, it can be compassionate or patronizing depending on the context. 

60. オフィスレディ — Office Lady

Hiragana: おふぃすれでぃ

You may have heard of terms like サラリーマン (さらりーまん)(salaryman) and ビジネスマン (びじねすまん)(businessman). Both of them have the same meaning: a man who works a white-collar job.

The closest thing to their female counterpart is the オフィスレディ, often abbreviated as オーエル (おーえる or OL). I say “the closest thing,” because OLs typically perform clerical or secretarial jobs (i.e. “pink-collar” jobs) rather than white-collar ones. 

So if your female friend says they’re an “OL,” you can have a pretty good idea what they’re talking about.

61. パワハラ — Power Harassment

Hiragana: ぱわはら

Some of your Japanese-speaking friends may also complain about パワハラ in the workplace. 

It’s shorthand for the loanword “power harassment,” which is another ostensibly English phrase that English speakers don’t really use.  パワハラ is a broad term for any incident where a superior uses their position to harass someone underneath them.  

A subset of パワハラ would be セクハラ (せくはら), which is shorthand for “sexual harassment.” 

62. 頑張れ! — Good Luck/Do Your Best!

Hiragana: がんばれ

頑張れ is the shorter and more informal version of 頑張って下さい (がんばってください). You say it to wish someone well and encourage them to persevere in whatever they’re doing. 

63. いい感じ — A Pleasant Feeling

Hiragana: いいかんじ

This is one of my favorite expressions on this list. Think of 花見 (はなみ — flower viewing) season when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom: the sight of soft pink petals falling makes you want to say いい感じ. 

64. あのさ — Listen / You Know

When you want to get someone’s attention because you want to tell them something really important, you can start your statement with あのさ. You can also start with あのね , which is softer and more likely to be used by women. 

For example, if you want to ask someone to hang out together on Saturday, you can say あのさ、今度の土曜日に一緒に遊びに行こうよ . (あのさ、こんどのどようびにいっしょにあそびにいこうよ)

65. ほんま — Really / Truly

When you preface a statement with ほんま, you’re emphasizing the truth of that statement.

To illustrate, 彼女の言葉には、ほんまが感じられる (かのじょのことばには、ほんまがかんじられる) means “I can feel the sincerity in her words.” 

66. 何で? — Why / What On Earth?

Hiragana: なんで

You’ll often see this uttered by characters in movies or TV shows when something bad happens. It’s so bad that they can’t help but feel disbelief over it.  

Other variations include どうして? (Why?)

If you want to really emphasize how you feel, you can also say 何でやねん (なんでやねん). You’re more likely to hear this one in the Kansai region, though.  

67. 日本人はオモロいよね — Japanese Folks Are Fun

Hiragana: にほんじんはおもろいよね

The word オモロい (おもろい) is a shortened form of 面白い (おもしろい). It can be taken to mean interesting, fun or cool depending on the context.

Whenever your Japanese friends are doing something unusual, you can say 日本人はオモロいよね.

68. 大丈夫! — It’s (Going To Be) Okay!

Hiragana: だいじょうぶ

If you want to reassure someone that everything is (or will be) all right, tell them 大丈夫.

It can also be shorthand for 大丈夫ですか? (だいじょうぶですか? — Are you all right?), as long as your intonation goes up at the last syllable.   

69. 畜生 — Japanese Swear Word

Hiragana: ちくしょう

No list of Japanese slang words would be complete without at least one swear word. 

畜生 is arguably the least offensive Japanese swear word. Japanese speakers utter it when they’re in a situation that’s, shall we say, akin to smelly waste. 

If you want to really convey the strength of your feelings, you can also say くそ . Like 畜生, it’s the Japanese equivalent of all the foul four-letter English words you know.

70. ドキドキ — Sound Of A Beating Heart

Hiragana: どきどき

In Japanese dramas and movies, ドキドキ is often used by female characters who feel nervous around their crushes. You can also use it in non-romantic contexts that make your heart beat faster than normal—like excitement over an upcoming event, for example. 

How Japanese Slang Words Are Used

Sure, a lot of importance is placed on being polite in Japanese—but Japanese people use slang all the time!


Well, as a matter of fact, Japanese slang is very important to understanding the language and culture. Slang is what you use to let others know that you consider them close to you. Slang is like a secret you can share with friends and family members who have your trust.

That’s why slang is usually preferred when you’re not at work. As with many things in the Japanese language, the appropriate timing and usage of slang depends on who you are and the current circumstances. It’s an in-depth topic in which everything you say can be varied endlessly.

The Japanese slang vocabulary grows and takes on new nuances for every generation.

Indeed, though older generations use slang as well, they sound completely different to young people.

Some expressions you just have to know, but a lot of the time you can infer what people are saying by listening carefully.


A program like FluentU can also give you a leg up when it comes to slang and natural speech. The FluentU program uses authentic Japanese videos like movie clips, music videos, commercials and vlogs (among others) to introduce you to the language in a natural way.

FluentU also has interactive subtitles that use context to provide you with the correct definition of any word as you’re watching a video. This means you’ll be able to see when a word is being used as slang. Just hover your mouse over, click or tap on a word in the subtitles to see its meaning.

FluentU Adjective Clip

FluentU also lets you add words to your flashcards, which you can later study with personalized quizzes. Plus, you can access the FluentU program on your browser or use the iOS or Android apps.

For further reading, I suggest the book “Dirty Japanese” (NSFW) by Matt Fargo.

Why You Need to Take a Break from Formal Japanese

Formal Japanese can make you sound weird and out of place when used in the wrong contexts.

As you learn Japanese, you’ll learn to use proper grammar and to include the right particles in the right places. This is important because it gives you a proper understanding of the language, and this knowledge is what you should base your Japanese language proficiency on.

Not to mention, this is also what your language mastery will be evaluated on when you take more official tests.

However, if you’ve ever actually lived in Japan, you’ll know that most people don’t speak quite so properly in their daily lives. Speaking full, grammatically correct sentences with lots of particles is just too bothersome and inconvenient (or 面倒くさい, as they would say). You’ll have to pronounce more syllables than really necessary to get your message across.

What is correct usage of language, anyway?

It’s somewhat ironic that learners of the Japanese language sometimes go to great lengths to speak correctly by carefully choosing the right particles, when it’s often more correct to just leave them out.

And, yes, I do mean correct.

If you’re really serious about learning Japanese, then you should also learn casual Japanese.

It’s like how you never actually ask your friends in English “Would you like to go to watch a movie?” You say “Wanna see a movie?” For day-to-day conversations, most native English speakers know that the latter is more correct, even though that sentence doesn’t even have a subject!

The way Japanese people use Japanese is unquestionably the most correct way and, trust me, they use slang a lot! By trying to structure your sentences neatly and going out of your way to be grammatically right, you might actually be standing out.

A General Word of Advice

When you want to sound casual in Japanese you should really just try to leave out some of the unnecessary particles. Often, you’ll be uncertain as to whether to use は or が, when in fact the most natural choice is just to leave them both out. So that’s a cool little trick you can use to turn your uncertainty in Japanese into confidence—but seriously, learn the particles!

Some particles like ね and よ add flavor to an entire sentence. These are incredibly important in slang.

Often, when older men from the Kanto region speak, you’ll hear sentences ending in だよ. It’s too exhaustive a topic to give a full account of here, but look up some of these particles and see what they do. Often, being slangy involves just adding something like よ to the end of your sentence.


Now that you know how to sound more natural in Japanese, go and practice with some Japanese friends. Pay attention to how they speak Japanese and be on the lookout for new Japanese slang!

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