I spoke to my first ever 日本人 IRL last week!

I’ve spoken with a handful of people online but last week I actually spoke with my first ever real life Japanese person!!

I was on holiday in Barcelona with my family, on the rooftop terrace when I caught sight of a grandfather and daughter minding their own business trying to enjoy their holiday. Well never mind what they want! I’m a Japanese learner, I’m sure they’ll really appreciate my broken incorrect Japanese!

I siddled up next to the gentleman. I needed to confirm his status as bonefide 日本人 as I wasn’t sure. Sure enough I caught a 大丈夫 emanating from his lips. By the way, my family were on the other side of the rooftop, wetting themselves with laughter all thoughout this. My family were really supportive during this time my wife corrected told me

I had no idea how to start. Before I’d realised it, I’d blurted out a すみません、日本人ですかぁ. The おじいさん turned and looked at me with surprise. My bum felt very squeaky in this moment. Then he beamed a brilliant smile at me and replied, はい、日本人です。日本語を勉強しますか (I think!).
We then had a little chat for what felt like a long time but was actually maybe 5 minutes. Broken Japanese, broken English, a lot of えぇぇぇぇとぉぉぉ from me but we managed to understand each other. I chucked in a cheeky little bunpro move ~ことがありますか question.
It honestly felt like juggling with chainsaws but it was really exhilarating and a lot of fun. I made tons of mistakes, I most likely insulted him inadvertently (I’d not spoken to someone older than myself and couldn’t remember what honorific to use) but I hope he didn’t mind.

I walked back to my family. They were impressed. My Japanese was terrible but never forget how low the bar is for people who know zero Japanese!

Apparently whilst we were chatting (almost embarrassed to call it that mind!), another European guy walked around the corner, saw/heard me talking and his jaw almost hit the floor with surprise. Yeah kids! Who’s cool now :sunglasses:

No doubt the next opportunity I get, it will still be hard to cross that chasm of nerves to start a conversation but it will be a tiny bit easier!

Nameless おじいさん of the rooftop, I salute you!

And I’m sorry I didn’t introduce myself, or ask your name or any other many of polite things I should have done. :bowing_man:


You are so hyped about it. How cute.

I tried to speak a Japanese person online once. It was a language exchange app, and he stone walled me with one-word answers.
Eventually, I figured out that everyone is there to date, and I’m a guy so I was of little interest to him.


Hahaha, this is an excellent story. Thanks for sharing :smiley:


Congrats! Approach strangers in a new language takes a lot of confidence, definitely more than I have most days. But now the both of you have a wonderful new memory about this; I’m sure the おじいさん from your story has already told everyone about this fun encounter!


Congrats, I’m happy for you! And a little jealous :stuck_out_tongue: I’ve also had a handful of encounters with Japanese folks online now and again, and I’m pleased enough (though not entirely satisfied) with my ability to keep up a back-and-forth, but yeah! I’m sure there’s no substitute for a face-to-face conversation, but even through other mediums, it’s so exciting isn’t it!? And rewarding! It really makes you feel accomplished when you realize that you’ve already climbed up and thrown one leg half-over the language barrier, and the path ahead is just polishing up!


Reminds me of when I was at the japanese garden in Kaiserslautern and a japanese family came and bought their tickets while I was browsing the souvenir shop. I was so tempted to stalk them through the garden and make some “listening practice”. In the end I decided that I would be a normal person for today and did not do that XD

A month back however I was able to see ASCA at a convention and at the signing the day after her concert I was able to blurt out a 昨日コンサートはすごかったです
After her initial surprise she thanked me and then I thanked her for the autograph.

There was also a japanese man that was selling tableware at the con and I wish I would have mustered up the courage to talk to him like you did. My abilities do extend a little beyond just telling someone a concert was great but I would be to scared that I can´t understand them properly and embarass myself



I have a Japanese friend I see about once a month IRL. Although that’s kinda normal since she isn’t a stranger and she knows enough English.

The biggest step I did lately was joining a Japanese-only Discord for my FFXIV guild and hopping in voice chat, so definitely takes some nerve speaking to new people.

Keep it up! Totally different skill than reading, but way more engaging.


that is too cool for me to comprehend fully


I’ve seen that there are a few Japanese people in my town on HelloTalk but a couple of attempts to engage haven’t worked and left me feeling like a Japanese learning cyberstalking weirdo, so stopped.


That’s very good! Good for putting yourself out there and trying!

I ran into a Japanese student I taught in grade 5 (she is in Grade 12 now) yesterday. I said a loud, ’ O Genki desuka?!’ And her eyes bugged out. ‘WHAT! HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN STUDYING JAPANESE!?!?!?’ She didn’t believe it.

And at the beginning of the year, there was a new family coming in, and I could tell they were Japanese. So I was all, ‘O genki desu ka! Hajimamashite! Yoroshuku onigaisemasu! Go gaku sei?’ And just other random words I knew, thinking I’d look foolish, but whatever.

The mother’s eyes lit up and she later told the counselor how happy she was to hear someone speaking Japanese.

Now, I know my Japanese is horrible. Just horrible. Level 0.01 horrible. But I think as we are all trying to learn Japanese, we don’t realize how little Japanese is spoken outside of Japan. All my interactions have only been positive, even though I know I’m terrible. They are always just shocked that someone is trying or knows anything. I think I’d be more nervous speaking in Japan.

Anyway, it’s been a much better experience than when I was learning Chinese and went to buy water dumplings…and the woman thought I was asking to pay to have sex with her. >< Stupid tones.


“Hey, baby… how about you and I make some dumplings? :smirk:


I know the words for both dumplings and water in Chinese so that a little scary to hear, especially as I like both of those!


Congrats. Never an easy thing to do, and it may actually be the hardest step in language learning. You’d be surprised how many people actually never make the leap into speaking in the wild.

Keep at it, before you know it you’ll be having a 30 minute conversations and might even forget you’re speaking Japanese in the first place.


Water dumplings and sleep are the same word…just different tones.

So even though the ONLY thing the place sold was water dumplings, and the person was a dowdy, late 40’s housewife, she thought I was asking to buy ‘sleep time’. Which has its own meaning… Sigh.

Kind of gave up Chinese after that. Haha.


This sounds like the story a husband tells his wife. “Honestly, I was just asking for water dumplings and the next thing I know…” :rofl:


First of all, congrats! It may have been a conversation with a lot of えええええs, but still you could communicate, which is what counts. Next time you’ll have an conversation, you it will go a little bit smoother, since you already said a few things, so you’ll reinforce what you already put out :slight_smile:
Reminds me a lot of the time I was just starting to speak. My japanese was utter shit, but I took every opportunity to practice, especially outside of Japan.
If the opportunity opens up and you can go to Japan, make sure to hit some bars in the evening and have a few drinks with the locals. When they see that you’re making an effort speaking japanese, they will be happy and you will have more opportunity to practice what you learned. Also, after a few beers your japanese will magically become much better :wink:

Ah, and for the insulting part: I’m like 99,9999% sure that he didn’t care about polite speech. Most natives pretty much know that 敬語 is one of the more difficult parts of japanese and you’d be surprised how many natives screw it up, too. You’re still at a comperatively beginner’s level, so nobody expects you to have 敬語 down.
Actually I know a few foreigners living in Japan who don’t ever use 敬語 (except for the usual です/ます-stuff), since they don’t need it at work and talk in ため口 (=ためぐち、casual speech) with their japanese friends. Does anyone care? Not a single soul.