Dialects of Japan

As a language learner, you may know that there isn’t a unique variant of a language. English, for example, has many dialects like American or British English. The same goes to Spanish too. But also, inside the countries there are variants of the same dialects depending on the region. Japanese is no exception to this and it has many dialects (方言 h**ōgen in Japanese), 16 to be accurate, which are spoken in different regions of Japan.

Which are the differences between them? Well, they differ on words, pronunciation, suffixes and in some cases words’ meanings too. But don’t be afraid, because in most cases they don’t differ too much and you can always use the Standard Japanese or 標準語 hyōjungo , which it’s based on the Tōkyō or Kantō dialect and it’s the variant that is taught at schools around Japan and the world. The extended use of the Standard Japanese caused some dialects to be replaced by it, like the Okinawan one. However, most dialects are far from being dead and thanks to the Internet you can know more about them and even learn them. What’s more, people tend to use the dialect to talk with friends or family because it’s warmer and more familiar than the Standard Japanese.

But, apart from the 標準語 hyōjungo, which is the most famous Japanese dialect? Clearly, that’s the dialect from the region of Kansai (Kyōto, Ōsaka, Nara, Wakayama, Mie, Hyōgo and Shiga prefectures) or 関西弁 kansaiben (Note: ~弁 ~ben is used when naming a dialect from a certain region). It appears on many TV shows here on Lingopie:

On Actually I am, Yōko Shiragami (白神葉子) is a vampire that speaks with a Kansai accent. She uses phrases like: ほんま honma (really, 本当 hontō in Standard Japanese), せや seya (that’s right, そうだ sō da in Standard Japanese), ちゃう chau (no/it’s different, 違う chigau in Standard Japanese), using や ya (to be) instead of だ da at the end of the sentence. Grammar can also vary depending on the dialect.

Or have you watched 3 Dads? Minako (美奈子), the takoyaki (たこ焼き) shop owner, speaks on Kansai-ben too. Even her store is named after a phrase used in that dialect: どない donai (what, how, in what way).

Another character that uses Kansai-ben it’s Asuka Tennōji (天王寺飛鳥) from Z/X Ignition. Since he lives and works in Kōbe, an important city in the Kansai region, he uses that dialect.

As you can see, the world of Japanese is wide and rich in words and expressions. Stay tuned for more shows with dialects of Japanese here on Lingopie!