How to talk like a Japanese schoolgirl

While working as an English teacher at an all-girls’ high school in Yokohama, I quickly learned that Japanese schoolgirls speak a dialect all their own.

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Schoolgirls are often criticised by teachers for having small vocabularies, and so their speech isn’t too difficult to decode... Ready to learn some girly Japanese slang?

How to talk like a yakuza

If for some reason you want to sound like them, all you really have to do is use the following words as often as possible:

うち (uchi)

This word is used instead of 私 (watashi), meaning “I/me.” Many more conservative adults consider this improper though, because in standard Japanese うち actually means “we/us,” as in “our family,” “our company,” “our school,” etc.

プリクラ撮りに行くの?うちも行きたい! Purikura tori ni iku no? Uchi mo ikitai! Are you going to take purikura? I want to go too!

AKB48 Purikura

Purikura are photo booth pictures that can be decorated and turned into stickers. This one is from the popular schoolgirl pop group AKB48.

見て、うちの彼氏の写真だよ。かっこいいでしょ? Mite, uchi no kareshi no shashin da yo. Kakkoii desho? Look, it’s my boyfriend’s picture. Isn’t he cute?

きもい (kimoi)

This is a contraction of 気持ち悪い (kimochi warui), meaning “disgusting” or “gross.”

2組の三浦君に告白されたって信じられる?きもいよね! Nikumi no Miurakun ni kokuhaku sareta tte shinjirareru? Kimoi yo ne! Can you believe Miura-kun from Class 2 said he liked me? He’s so disgusting!
なにこれ、きもっ!うちこんなの絶対食べない。 Nani kore, kimo’! Uchi konna no zettai tabenai. Gross, what is this? There’s no way I’m eating it.

Adjectives like きもい (kimoi), 暑い (atsui), 寒い (samui), etc. often become きもっ (kimo’), 暑っ (atsu’), 寒っ (samu’), etc. when used as a single exclamation or at the end of a sentence.

やばい (yabai)

This word has no real English equivalent, but literally it means something like “dangerous.” It can be used in an incredibly wide variety of situations.

やばい、バスに遅れちゃう! Yabai, basu ni okurechau! Oh no, I’m gonna miss the bus!
やばっ、このケーキ超おいしいんだけど。 Yaba’, kono keeki chou oishii n da kedo. Oh man, this cake is sooo good.
今日の英語やばいよ、うち寝ちゃいそう。 Kyou no eigo yabai yo, uchi nechaisou. I’m afraid I’m going to fall asleep in English class today.

The construction 〜んだけど (~n da kedo) is often used by schoolgirls to express emphasis and/or indignation at the end of a sentence. Be careful though, because when 〜んだけど comes in the middle of a sentence (before a comma) it simply means “but”!

うざい (uzai)

This word is probably best translated as “annoying,” but its usage is far more varied than any equivalent we have in English.

放課後に出かけたいんだけど、親がうざいからすぐ帰らないと怒られる。 Houkago ni dekaketai n da kedo, oya ga uzai kara sugu kaeranai to okorareru. I want to go out after school, but my parents are on my case so I have to go straight home or they’ll get mad at me.
A: ねえ先生、うち成績やばくね? Nee sensei, uchi seiseki yabakune? Hey Sensei, my grades are looking bad right? B:いつも授業中に寝てるんだから、それはそうでしょうね。 Itsumo jugyouchuu ni neteru n da kara, sore wa sou deshou ne. You’re always sleeping in class, so yes probably. A: 先生うざい。 Sensei uzai. Shut up.

In schoolgirl speak, the construction 〜くない? (~kunai?), meaning “Isn’t it ~?” often becomes 〜くね? (~kune?). So for example, 暑くない? (atsukunai?), meaning “Isn’t it hot?” becomes 暑くね? (atsukune?).

ウケる (ukeru)

This word is used as an exclamation when something is funny or ridiculous.

男に思われたの? ウケる! Otoko ni omowareta no? Ukeru! You were mistaken for a guy? That’s hilarious!
A: あの二人、付き合ってるらしいよ。 Ano futari, tsukiatteru rashii yo. I hear those two are dating. B:え〜っ、マジで?! 超ウケる! E~’, maji de?! Chou ukeru! What, seriously?! That’s so funny!

かわいい (kawaii)

You probably already know that this means “cute” or “pretty”.

キャーッ、子犬だ、かわい〜いっ!! Kyaa’, koinu da, kawai~i’!! Aww~, a puppy, it’s so cu~te!!
いやだ、なんでこんなださい制服着ないといけないの? かわいいの着たいんだけど。 Iya da, nande konna dasai fuku kinai to ikenai no? Kawaii no kitai n da kedo. This sucks. Why do we have to wear such lame uniforms? I want to wear a cute one!

かっこいい (kakkoii)

This can mean “cool”, or “cute/hot” when referring to a guy.

うちの学校にかっこいい人誰もいないよね。うざっ。 Uchi no gakkou ni kakkoii hito dare mo inai yo ne. Uza’. There are no cute guys in our school, are there? So lame.
A: 田中先生ってさ、なんかかっこよくね? Tanaka sensei tte sa, nanka kakkoyokune? Isn’t Tanaka Sensei kind of hot? B: えっ、マジなの? きもいじゃん。 E’, maji nano? Kimoi jan. What, are you serious? Eww.

マジ (maji)

This means “really” or “seriously.” マジで (maji de) is often used instead of the standard Japanese 本当に (hontou ni).

うち何もしてないのに先生に携帯とられた! マジうざい。 Uchi nani mo shitenai noni sensei ni keitai torareta! Maji uzai. I didn’t do anything, but the teacher took my cell phone! So totally annoying.
A: 学校はもういやだ、うち退学する。 Gakkou wa mou iya da, uchi taigaku suru. I’m sick of school. I’m dropping out. B: マジで? Maji de? Seriously?

(chou)

This prefix is added to the beginning of adjectives to exaggerate them.

いやだ恥ずかしい、なんでうちの古い写真持ってるの?超きもいんだけど! Iya da hazukashii, nande uchi no furui shashin motteru no? Chou kimoi n da kedo! Oh no that’s so embarrassing, why do you have my old picture? I look so gross!
あの子ってモデルかな?超きれい! Ano ko tte moderu kana? Chou kirei! I wonder if that girl is a model? She’s so pretty!

〜さ (~sa)

This is a conversational particle added to the ends of sentences or phrases. It indicates that the speaker is engaging the other person in the conversation. But some schoolgirls seem to use it in just about every sentence!

なんかさ、みーちゃんさ、放課後にマック行かない? Nanka sa, Miichan sa, houkago ni makku ikanai? So hey, Miichan, do you wanna go to McDonald’s after school?

〜じゃん (~jan)

This is a contraction of the more proper 〜じゃない (~janai). It’s added to the ends of sentences, usually to illicit the listener’s agreement or engagement with what’s being said.

A: 席替えであの子の隣に座ることになったんだけど、いやじゃん! Sekigae de ano ko no tonari ni suwaru koto ni natta n da kedo, iya jan! We changed seats and I was supposed to sit next to that girl, but I didn’t want to right? B: うん。 Un. Uh-huh. A: だから先生に言ったんだけどさ… Dakara sensei ni itta n da kedo sa... And so I told the teacher...

There are a few other things that I don’t have the space to cover in this post, but the above words alone should allow you to understand an amazingly large percentage of schoolgirl speak. Just use them with caution, because unless you’re actually a schoolgirl yourself, talking like this will probably just make you sound totally uzai.

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