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Essential Japanese Phrases for the Classroom

When you have to speak Japanese to your students.

By 4 min read 7

Unfortunately, summer is over. That means it’s time for students and English teachers to return to the classroom. Heck, teachers working for eikawa (conversation school) may have never even left. Autumn is also considered the next hiring season for schools in Japan, so many teachers meet entirely new classrooms.

Around this time, deciding whether to use Japanese in the classroom is always a tricky decision. Perhaps more so with the stress of the coronavirus pandemic still looming over our shoulders. Teachers want to immerse their students in English, but Japanese comes in handy for new or unruly students.

There are also occasions when teachers might be expected to use Japanese in the classroom to help communicate more effectively or when the learners are too young to be effectively engaged in English.

For these situations, here are some practical Japanese terms and expressions you can use in the classroom.

Taking attendance

Japanese students in the classroom.

One situation where speaking Japanese is useful is during roll call. It can be an essential part of the job at some schools to record attendance and even make reports about it. You can try encouraging them to “I’m here,” but in Japan, students will typically answer roll call by saying hai (はい).

Englisj Japanese Romaji
I’ll be taking attendance first. まず出席(しゅっせき)をとります mazu shusseki wo torimasu
Present 出席


Absent 欠席


Is everybody here? みんないますか

minna imasuka?

Who’s absent today? 今日きょうだれがおみですか? Kyo wa dare ga wo yasumidesu ka?
Every student is in attendance today. 学生全員がくせいぜんいん出席しゅっせきしました gakusei zenin ga shusseki wo torimashita
She is absent from school. 彼女(かのじょ)学校(がっこう)欠席(けっせき)しました kanojou ha gakkou wo kesseki shimashita
That student is absent due to an illness. 生徒(せいと)病気(びょうき)のため欠席(けっせき)しました seito ha byouki notameni kesseki shimashita

Classroom order and discipline

Kao wo age nasai.: “Show me your face.”

In Japanese, there are many ways to tell someone to be quiet. Not surprisingly, the Japanese word closest to the English phrase “shut up” ((だま)る) shouldn’t be used in class. It sounds rude, too direct and cold.

Instead, when the students are misbehaving, Japanese educators are more likely to speak more indirectly, such as “be quiet,” which is conveyed by calling the students “noisy” (煩い(うるさ)い).

English Japanese Romaji
Noisy 煩いうるさい urusaii
Please keep quiet. はなしをやめなさい hanashi wo yame nasai
Show me your face. かおを上げなさい kao wo age nasai
Behave yourself. 行儀ぎょうぎくしなさい gyogi yoku shinasai.

Giving commands

The shinasai form (-しなさい) is a Japanese word used to tell someone to do something. Likewise, the –nasai form (~なさい) is a useful contrast to the -te form (-て) that most students learn early on.

Using -なさい puts you on a higher level than the person you are speaking to. This makes it especially useful for the classroom as it enforces the teacher-student roles.

English Japanese Romaji
Speak clearly. はっきり()いなさい hakkiri iinasai
Say it with me. 一緒いっしょいってください isshoni ittekudasai
Please listen carefully. よく()いてください yoku kiitekudasai
Please repeat after me. ()(かえ)してください kurikaeshite kudasai
Please open your books. (ほん)()けてください hon wo aketekudasai


Of course, not everyone is teaching children. Sometimes it’s inappropriate to remind someone that you have senior status in the class. In private lessons with adults, it may be better to use the ~て form to give a friendlier vibe to the conversation.

Phrase in English Kanji Reading Romaji
Please say that one more time. もう一度言(いちど い)ってください mou ichido ittekudasai
Please say that in a louder voice. もっと(おお)きい(こえ)()ってください motto ooki koe de ittekudasai
Please keep to the planned meeting time. ちゃんと約束時間(やくそくじかん)(まも)りなさいよ chanto yakusoku jikan wo mamorinasai yo
Please pass these to the back of the class. (うし)ろに(わた)してください ushiro  ni watashite kudasai

Restrictive forms

While -て and -なさい forms can be tricky, making the opposite form is a lot easier. The easiest way to make a firm order not to do something is by simply adding -な on the end of verbs, so for example, くる (kuru) becomes くるな (kuruna).

The only problem with the -な form is that it can seem too harsh. Hence, Japanese women will try to avoid using it entirely. As a result, -ないで (naide) is often more helpful in classes as it is less direct and bossy. One exception to this is when issuing commands to a room full of students, in which case the な-form is used so you can make the order stand out.

To complicate matters, in the slangy speech of some young, rough Japanese students, な can be used as a contraction of なさい. So for these students, べるな and べな have the opposite meaning! Thus, be careful of the situation.

English Japanese Romaji
Don’t speak to the people near you. (となり)(ひと)(はな)さないでください tonari no hito to hanasanaide kudasai
Don’t tell lies. うそ()わないで uso wo iwanaide
Even if I am late, please don’t wait for me. もし(わたし)(おく)れても、待たないでください moshi watashi ga okuretemo, matanaide kudasai
Don’t speak ill of others. 悪口(わるぐち)()うな waruguchi wo iuna

Repeat after me

Toorini (とおりに) is attached to words to means that someone should copy the speaker. This is especially useful during writing classes for younger students or for older students when you say something that listeners should do.

As you get more confident at using Japanese in the classroom, you will want to mix this form with other forms you learned earlier.

English Japanese Romaji
Do as I told you. ったとおりにしなさい itta tori ni shi nasai
Do it as I explained it to you. 説明(せつめい)したとおりにしてください setsumei shita tori ni shite kudasai

Do you have any tips or phrases teachers should use in the classroom? Let us know in the comments!

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  • kevin says:

    Was just wondering. What is the correct way to say ” I’m present or I’m here” In japanese. Like you would when answering the Roll Call at school!

  • Kita says:

    Love it! Thanks~

  • Ross McCallum says:

    Thanks for making this, I really appreciate articles like this. Nicely presented too, Gaijinpot. πŸ™‚

  • B says:

    ζœ¬γ‚’ι–‰γ˜γ‚‹ means to close a book.
    開いてください or 開けてください is the phrase you should use I think.

  • renzkun says:

    Very informative thumbs up!

  • Derek says:

    There’s an error here. ι–‰γ˜γ‚‹ means to close, 開ける is the proper term for opening.



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