Japanese Slang – Part I

Japanese Slang – Part I


When we learn a language, it’s always best to play safe and use words we have already learned. As we have learned in our lessons, the word “とても” (totemo) means ‘very’. Naturally, we use the word for every single adjective we know. For example:

この ラーメンは とても おいしいです。
Kono ramen wa totemo oishii desu.
This ramen is very delicious.

しゅくだいは とても むずかしかった。
Shukudai wa totemo muzukashikatta.
The homework was very difficult.

Sounds perfect, right? Well it may make you sound proficient in Japanese, but did you know there are other ways to express an adjective other than using the word ‘totemo’? In today’s article, let’s learn some trendier words to achieve that natural flow we desire in Japanese!

Like the English language, there are many ways to express ourselves; there are a variety of words we use instead of the word ‘very’. We’re accustomed to hearing ‘so’, ‘like’, ‘really’ and the list goes on. The Japanese have their own lingo too!

If you have had the chance to listen to native Japanese speakers communicate, you may notice that the word ‘totemo’ is rarely used when expressing themselves. While it is a safe word, it gives off a rather polite vibe to your expression. What if the ramen was really delicious? Or that actress you saw on TV was just so cute?
In situations like these, you may have heard these words being used instead:

– めっちゃ (meccha)
– 超 (chou)
– まじ(で)(maji (de))

These are just common Japanese ‘slang’. Here are some examples of the 3 slang words being used:

この ラーメンは めっちゃ おいしいです!
Kono ramen wa meccha oishii desu!
This ramen is very delicious!

あの 女の子は ちょうかわいい!
Ano onna no ko wa chou kawaii!
That girl is super cute!

A:せんしゅうの テストは めっちゃ易しかった。
A: Senshuu no tesuto wa meccha yasashikatta.
A: Last week’s test was so easy.
B:ええっ!まじで?
B: EE! Maji de?
B: What! Seriously?
Now you’re talking! ‘Chou’ and ‘meccha’ mean the same thing, but if you’re in the Kansai area, you will hear ‘meccha’ more often as the word originates from the Kansai area.

‘Meccha’, ‘chou’ and ‘maji’ can be used interchangeably, but ‘maji’ is mostly used to express shock, be it positive or negative. It loosely translates to “seriously?” as a sentence on its own, and the particle ‘de’ is optional.
Here are more examples of using maji:
あのローラーコースターはマジで怖いみたい。
Ano rooraakoosutaa wa maji de kowai mitai.
That rollercoaster ride seriously looks scary.

A: ねえ、松本潤と井上真央のこと知ってる?結婚だったそうで!
A: Nee, Matsumoto Jun to Inoue Mao no koto shitteru? Kekkon dattasou de!
A: Hey, did you hear about Matsumoto Jun and Inoue Mao? I heard they got married!
B:マジでダサいよ、あのうわさ!
B: Maji de dasai yo, ano uwasa!
B: That rumour is so old, seriously!

In situations where one did not expect the outcome to turn out differently, ‘maji’ is often used instead of ‘meccha’ and ‘chou’ as well. For example, if you are a girl and you didn’t expect your blind date to be handsome, but it turned out that he is! In this case, you can then use the word ‘maji’ when describing his looks to your giggling girlfriends. Because ‘seriously’, he’s cute!

While all this is fun to learn, it is important to note that that these words are only to be used around friends. At work, it’s always best to be polite and use ‘totemo’ or ‘hontou ni’ instead.

So, today you have learnt how to use these three versatile words. It’s best to play safe when it comes to learning a new language, but you’ll find that sometimes, you learn more by taking exciting risks from time to time. ‘Meccha’, ‘chou’ and ‘maji’ are three of possibly endless number of ‘slang’ that the Japanese use. Instead of being daunted by how many there are, it’s always better to look at learning with a positive mindset. Soon, you’ll find that learning Japanese may be difficult at times, but also very fun!

-written by Nadiyah, currently in Pre-Advanced 2 at Bunka Language School