Culture

Joseigo: A HOW TO on Japanese Girls’ Language

DID YOU KNOW Japanese girls have a special way of talking?

Many languages have what are known as feminine and masculine forms of speech that are ESSENTIAL to know in order to speak the language correctly. Spanish is a good example of a language with gendered words. The Spanish word for “the” is either “el” when it’s masculine or “la” when it’s feminine.

But Japanese’s gendered language is a little different than from the others because it only contains a handful of words and particles that are considered feminine or masculine.

The good news is that this difference between female and male speech only occurs in the informal form of Japanese. You’ll hear it when speaking to family or friends, but not your boss.

I watch a lot of anime in Japanese and I hear it ALL THE TIME! It pops up a lot in manga too 🙂

So let’s hop right into some joseigo 女性語 (women’s language)!

How to say “I”

For the most part, you’re only going to run into onna kotoba 女言葉 (women’s words) at the beginning of a sentence when she says word like “I, me, or mine” and at the end of a sentence with some end of sentence particles.

The normal way to say “I” in Japanese is watashi . But a lot of girls drop the “w” and just say atashi あたし instead. This gives the word a softer feeling to it. Actually, you’ll run into that a lot with the onna kotoba 女言葉 : they give the word a more feminine (softer) feeling to them.

Interestingly enough there has been a recent trend for girls to say boku for “I” instead of watashi or atashi あたし. It’s interesting because, for the longest time boku was the informal way that GUYS would say “I”!

When a girl uses it, it gives her a tomboyish quality. It also shows how the meaning of words can change over time. I just finished watching the anime Danmachi and the main girl Hestia used boku the entire time.

And one more thing, the Japanese word まあ can be used to mean “oh” or “oh my” and it is also only used by women. It usually starts off a sentence.

They also say ara あら which means “oh my!”

Ending Particles

Japanese has a lot of different ending particles. It’s pretty cool how one syllable, added to the end of a sentence can change its nuance and meaning. There are two that fall into the category of feminine words: wa わ and no の.

When wa わ is added to the end, it turns the whole sentence into an Emphatic one. If you’re familiar at all with the ending particle yo よ, then you’ll know just how to use it. If you don’t know how yo よ works, then let me give you two ways to think of it.

  1. It gives the whole sentence a feeling of certainty.
  2. It functions as a spoken exclamation mark (!)
  • まあ、これは美味しいわ!
    mā, kore wa oishii wa!

    Oh my, this is delicious!

This last example brings up another common thing when Japanese girls speak: the dropping of the copula “da”.

Just in case you’re not sure, a copula is “a connecting word, in particular a form of the verb be connecting a subject and complement.”

So the informal Japanese word for “to be” is “da” and it is often dropped by women when they are speaking casually.

As for no の, it acts just like the ending particle ne ね. You use it when you expect the other person to agree with you just said.

  • これは美味しいの?
    kore wa oishii no?

    This is delicious, isn’t it?

It’s a pretty easy one to understand.

Last one: there are several words that mean yes in Japanese, but one in particular is used primarily by women: ee ええ.

The Kabuki Theater!

Kabuki is classical Japanese theater that includes song, dance, and drama. And here’s a little fun fact: the entire cast is played by MEN! And the guys who play the women’s roles use the  joseigo 女性語 that we’ve been talking about today.

So whether you’re a dude and want to talk to Japanese girls, or you’re a lady and want to sound like a native, these few onna kotoba 女言葉 should help you to do just that. Until next time! (^_^)b


I wanna hear from you now! Have you heard any of these words in anime or manga? Do you use them yourself? Leave me a comment and let me know!


 

2 Comments

  • Riaz Shah

    Hey Nikku,

    I’m still a bit blurry, correct me if I’m wrong but joseigo is a way for Japanese women to speak right? Very interesting! I love watching anime too and I never noticed this.

    I think it’s a way to make them sound more feminine, more sexy, more cute or something like that. Do their tones change as well during joseigo?

    • Nick Hoyt

      Hey Riaz, yeah you are exactly right! It’s a way of talking that is used pretty much only by women, so it gives the words a very feminine quality. And yeah, their tones actually do change, although not the same way that a “tonal” language would work, per se. Generally speaking, Japanese women will talk in a higher register to give them that feminine sound.

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