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Essential Japanese Phrases for the Classroom

When you have to speak Japanese to your students.

By 4 min read

For teachers, deciding whether to use Japanese in the classroom is always a tricky decision. After all, many teachers want to immerse their students entirely in English and ensure their students hear nothing but English for the duration of the class. Of course, there are occasions where teachers will be expected to use Japanese in the classroom to help communicate more effectively or where the learners are too young to be effectively immersed in English.

For these situations, here’s 5 useful pieces of classroom Japanese.

Presence or absence

One of the situations where Japanese can be useful is when talking about absence or attendance in class. At some schools it can be an essential part of the job to record attendance and even make reports about it. For people working in these types of schools, being present at school is 出席(しゅっせき) and being absent is 欠席(けっせき).

まず出席(しゅっせき)をとります ー I’ll be taking attendance first

学生全員(がくせいぜんいん)出席(しゅっせき)しました ー Every student is in attendance today

彼女(かのじょ)学校(がっこう)欠席(けっせき)しました ー She is absent from school

生徒(せいと)病気(びょうき)のため欠席(けっせき)しました ー That student is absent due to an illness

(かれ)欠席(けっせき)しがちだね ー He is apt to be absent

Getting them to shut up

In Japanese, there are many ways to tell someone to be quiet. Interestingly, the Japanese word that is closest to the English word ‘shut up’ ((だま)る) isn’t used so frequently in class. Most teachers I spoke to reported that they felt it was a little too direct and cold.

Instead when the students are misbehaving, Japanese educators are more likely to speak more indirectly. The meaning of ‘shut up’ is usually conveyed by calling the students ‘noisy’ (煩い(うるさ)い). For a more direct meaning (しず)かにしなさい (Do be calm) is used instead.

Order forms

The しなさい in 静かにしなさい is a Japanese word used to tell someone to do something. ~なさい is a useful contrast to the ~て-form that most learners learn early on. Using the ~なさい-form 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.

はっきり()いなさい ー Speak clearly

一緒(いっしょ)()ってください ー Please speak along with me

よく()いてください ー Please listen carefully

()(かえ)してください ー Please repeat after me

(ほん)()けてください ー Please open your books

Of course, there are many different kinds of lessons and sometimes it may not be appropriate to remind someone that you have senior status to them in the class. In private lessons with businessmen/ ladies, it may be better to use the ~て-form to give a friendlier vibe to the conversation.

もう一度言(いちど い)ってください ー Please say that one more time

もっと(おお)きい(こえ)()ってください ー Please say that in a louder voice

ちゃんと約束時間(やくそくじかん)(まも)りなさいよ ー Please keep to the planned meeting time

(うし)ろに(わた)してください ー Please pass these to the back of the class

Restrictive forms

While making some of these ~て and ~なさい-forms can be tricky, making the opposite form is a lot simpler. These easiest way to make a strong order not to do something is by simply adding ~な on the end of verbs, so for example くる becomes くるな.

The only problem with the ~な-form is that this form can seem harsh even at the best of times. Women will usually try to avoid using it as much as possible. As a result, the ~ないで-form is often more useful 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 often used so you can make the order stand out.

(となり)()(とはな)さないでください ー Don’t speak to the people near you

(うそ)()わないで ー Don’t tell lies

もし(わたし)(おく)れても、待たないでください ー Even if I am late, please don’t wait for me

悪口(わるぐち)()うな ー Don’t speak ill of others

To complicate matters, in the slangy speech of some young, rough Japanese students, な can be used as a contraction of なさい. For these students, 食べるな and 食べな have the opposite meaning! Careful listening and the situation it is said will ensure that you don’t make any mistakes.

とおりに

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. So for example, you may put the order form together with とおりに to make a direct order such as in 言ったとおりにしなさい (Do as I told you!) or 説明(せつめい)したとおりにしてください (Do it as I explained it to you).

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