[ESP] The Emotional Sentence Pack, Vol. 7: Why Don’t Japanese People Speak To Me In Japanese?

This entry is part 7 of 18 in the series The Emotional Sentence Pack


It’s a perennial gaijin complaint: being responded to in English despite initiating a conversation in Japanese. It used to bug me, but ever since hookers and blow became the unquestioned center of my life I mean wait I love family values. At any rate, I’ve had some really amusing experiences with this phenomenon. My own reaction used to be to persist in speaking in Japanese. But lately I just switch to English until the other guy falls apart and then goes: “You can speak Japanese?! Why didn’t you say so?”. It’s a form of bullying on my part. I’m a jerk.

The important thing to realize is that most people don’t do this out of malice. Most Japanese people are too busy and overworked and (like everyone else) self-absorbed for petty malice 1; it’s a just panicky reflex. A “knee-jerk” reaction. People panic so hard that they won’t even remember that you started the conversation in Japanese.

I’m not gonna lie. I kinda enjoy it. I enjoy being foreign. I didn’t come to Japan to fit in; I came to stand out. I didn’t cross continents and oceans so everything would be the same. I like how I can do whatever I want and not be questioned about it. “No one to tell us ‘no’ or where to go”, that’s my typical experience here. My every eccentricity is either welcomed or politely ignored, but never harshly questioned. If I wanted to just be one of the guys, I’d have stayed where I grew up. Being normal is overrated. Being family 2 is overrated. Being a guest is where it’s at: you can ask for ice-cream and your friend’s Mum has to give it to you 😛 .

Being a guest means always getting the benefit of the doubt. And I’m all about the bennies 😛 .

Anyway, here are some Japanese responses to that oh-so-common and oh-so-helpful gaijin…question…complaint…quibble…whatever — compiled, edited, analyzed, synchronized, collated, translated and consecrated just for you:

Gaijin Side:

  1. なぜ日本人は日本語で話しかけても英語で答えようとするの?

    Why do Japanese people try to answer me in English even though I speak to them/open the conversation in Japanese?

  2. 彼らは日本語を話す外國人に慣れてないからね。
    They’re not used to foreigners who can speak Japanese.
  3. 日本人は「白人=英語が話せる」と洗脳されてる。
    Japanese people have been brainwashed into thinking that all white people speak English, so…
    “=” is pronounced 「イコール
  4. 私達が日本語を喋ると車のヘッドライトで照らされた鹿みたいな顔になるのはなぜだろう。
    Why do they look like a deer in the headlights when we speak Japanese to them?
  5. 言語の壁より精神的な壁の方が越え難いんだよね。自分達の言語の特別性や神秘性を崩してほしくないって「願望」もどこかにあるのかも。こういう文化的感覚が変わるには時間がかかるだろう。
    The psychological barrier is perhaps larger than the language barrier. The psychological barrier is perhaps harder to overcome than the language barrier. Perhaps, at some level, they don’t want the specialness or mysteriousness of their language to be destroyed. Cultural attitudes like that take time to change.
  6. なんで俺が日本語なのに英語で返すの?
    Dude WTF, I spoke Japanese, why’d they answer me in English?

Japanese Side:

  1. てめぇらが英語は世界標準語だと思い込んでるからだろうが
    You a##holes are the ones who think English is the world’s lingua franca.
  2. だからそう思ってる事自體がお前ら日本人の幻想なんだよって話だろヴォケ
    You’re the a##hole, azzhole. Don’t you get it? What they’re trying to say is that that idea [=English is the world language, everybody should speak English] is itself a Japanese fantasy/misconception.
    ※※※自體=自体=じたい ヴォケ→ボケ→呆け=ぼけ
  3. 世界の共通言語は英語じゃなくて笑顔だと思うとかってあったな
    I remember someone somewhere once saying that the world’s lingua franca isn’t English, it’s the smile.
    ※※※英語=えいご and 笑顔=えがお sound similar, so this is a pun.
  4. うっぜ
    Your punniness makes me want to shoot myself.
    Alt: Grooooooooaaaaaaan
  5. どうせコンニチワしか知らんのだろうとおもってるからじゃね
    It’s prolly because we think/assume that they only know how to say “KONNICHIWA”, so…
  6. どこまで分かってるかが分かんねーんだよ
    We don’t know how much Japanese you know, man.
  7. 海外アーティストの來日ライブ行ってもあいつら容赦なく英語で喋るよな
    When overseas musicians come to do concerts in Japan they speak English fast and mercilessly, man.
    But when Japanese artists go overseas they bust a nut trying to speak the local language, if only haltingly.
    We Japanese should just lay down the kid gloves and bust out our own language, too, man.
    ※※※来日=らいにち 容赦=ようしゃ
  8. >私達が日本語を喋ると車のヘッドライトで照らされた鹿みたいな顔になるのはなぜだろう。
    >Why do they look like a deer in the headlights when we speak Japanese to them?

    I don’t quite get what this expression means but it made me lol.
    I guess they’re referring to that “eyes transfixed and wide open” look?
    ※※※ワロタ→笑った 笑う=わらう
    Note: “Deer in the headlights” is very much an American expression, so…
  9. お前らがちゃんと俺達の話す日本語が理解できる位流暢だったら日本語で返してるよ
    それ以外の場合は英語で返すよ 察しろよ
    If you motherf####ers’ Japanese were good enough to understand our Japanese, we would answer you in Japanese.
    But whenever it’s not, we don’t. Read between the lines!
    ※※※位=ぐらい 俺達=おれたち 察する=さっする
  10. 英語で挨拶すると「コニチワ」って返してくる外人もいるが
    Well, there are gaijin who go “KONEECHEEWA” when I greet them in English, so…
    Note: Lol
  11. お前らが日本語を使いたいように俺らも英語が使いたいんだよ
    Hey, we want to use our English just as much as you want to use your Japanese, mang!
  12. >日本人は「白人=英語が話せる」と洗脳されてる。
    >Japanese people have been brainwashed into thinking that all white people speak English, so…
    That’s true, there are plenty who don’t as well.
  13. 東南アジア人が日本語で道聞いてきたのに英語で答えた俺は池沼
    I feel like such a retord [sic] for suffering and stumbling through an English answer to those South East Asian people who asked me for directions [the other day].
  14. 日本語の発音がドヘタクソすぎるからだな
    Because their Japanese pronunciation is utter s##t.
    If they had awesome Japanese like [gaijin sumo wrestlers] Hakuhou and ASA Shouryuu (Dorji), then any and all of us would speak to their a###es in Japanese.
    ※※※下手糞=へたくそ 過ぎる=すぎる
  15. facebookでアメリカ人が「俺日本語上手だぜ!!話そうぜ!!」って言ってきたからチャットしてみたら思いっきり機械翻訳された日本語でワロタ
    This American on Facebook came up to me and was all “I speak awesome Japanese! Let’s chat!”, so we chat and I am just lolling at the machine-translated Japanese this guy is giving me.
    Why do they write such s###t Japanese with so much confidence?!?!

Further Reading:

  • 外人「こんにちは!」 日本人「は、hello」 外人(なんで俺が日本語なのに英語で返すの?):ワロタニッキ is.gd/mzfy1W


Series Navigation<< [ESP] The Emotional Sentence Pack, Vol. 6: One-Liner First Reactions to the 2012 Evangelion Movie (Q)[ESP] The Emotional Sentence Pack, Vol. 8: Yet More Reactions to the 2012 Evangelion Movie (Q) >>


  1. Don’t get me wrong, there are richardheads, but they’d have been richardheads anyway. Richardheadiness knoweth no nationality.
  2. See “Hoarders” for details

  4 comments for “[ESP] The Emotional Sentence Pack, Vol. 7: Why Don’t Japanese People Speak To Me In Japanese?

  1. tokyostyle
    2013年1月20日 at 18:23

    That thread is priceless. Anyone who got this far without clicking on the “Further Reading” link needs to scroll up immediately.

    OL2L: is.gd/mzfy1W (笑)

  2. LauraSampaolesi
    2013年1月21日 at 05:54

    言語の壁より精神的な壁の方が越え難いんだよね。Here I prefer to say: “the psychological barrier is perhaps harder to overcome than the language barrier.” Could this translation be fine too?

    • 2013年1月21日 at 11:24

      LauraSampaolesi » Yeah actually your translation is MUCH better 🙂 . Remember also that the English ultimately doesn’t really matter…what matters is the Japanese. The English is just a signpost, a map, the Japanese is the terrain. But yeah…I’m switching to your translation lol

  3. LauraSampaolesi
    2013年1月21日 at 19:01

    you are right, but english is not my mothertongue so i want to be sure about what I understand. Sorry If I make you too busy with this silly comment.

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