People studying the Japanese language have probably heard that there is a large number of dialects that differ in vocabulary, pronunciation, particles, etc. Sometimes, Japanese from different regions simply can not understand each other. There are cases when students from other countries came to Japan in the hope of enhancing their knowledge of the language. They found themselves in a village that speaks one dialect that is known only to it, as a result of which the poor students completely did not understand those around them and left disappointed with the thought “I learned wrong Japanese”. Such a huge variety of dialects is explained by many factors, among them the remoteness and isolation of territories from each other, separated by the sea, political isolation, etc.
Standard dialects are divided into northern (Tokyo pronunciation) and southern (Kyoto-Osaka, it is also called Kansai). There is also a division into eastern (Hokkaido, Tohoku, Kanto, and eastern Chubu) and western dialects (western Chubu, including the city of Nagoya, Kansai regions, including the cities of Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe, Chugoku, Kyusu and Okinawa).
Dialects are also divided by region and even by individual settlements and dialects. In this article, we will look at some of the most common dialects and you will see how difficult Japanese translation can be.
As a rule, foreign students study the so-called standard Japanese, which in fact is the Tokyo dialect, since it is where TV programs are broadcast, newspapers are written, literature is published, and the capital prefecture speaks it. It is this kind of Japanese that is the official language. There are two names for such a dialect: 標準 語 (Hyōjun go) or 共通 語 (Kyōtsū go). Despite the fact that standard Japanese is taught at schools, the provinces pay a lot of attention to local dialects as part of the country’s culture and history.
The real Tokyo dialect (漢 答 弁 Kantō ben) has a number of differences from the modern standard. For example, Tokyo people often use the particle さ as “well …”, じ ゃ ん as an abbreviation for じ ゃ な い か “right?” Also, the Tokyo dialect has such types of dialects as, for example, Yamanote and Sitamati.
It is spoken in the densely populated city of Fukuoka and therefore it is sometimes called 福岡 弁 (Fukuoka ben). Fukuoka-ben is used along with standard Japanese in local news. One of their differences is that the particle よ often turns into ば い, for example: 言 っ た よ (ittayo) “said” – 言 っ た ば い (ittabai).
It is better to learn in advance what dialect you will encounter while visiting Japan. If you need a translation, you can address a professional service where experienced specialists will know how to deal with different dialects.