Is it "douzo" or "dōzo"?

"Wait, is it douzo? In the book it says dōzo..."

It's both. And it's neither!

In the beginning stages I use rōmaji (English letters) to write Japanese in class. This is to give you a head start in learning to speak.

Some people think you shouldn't use rōmaji at all, because it will give you bad pronunciation.
That might be true if you're studying by yourself.

But if you have a teacher to teach you how to pronounce Japanese words correctly, and correct your mistakes, you can learn Japanese correctly using rōmaji.

I'm pretty strict on pronunciation, I think. My students have good pronunciation - even the beginners.

Anyway, there are different systems for writing Japanese in the English alphabet. Depending on which system is being used, a word could be spelled quite differently.

どうぞ (do-u-zo) means "here you are" / "go ahead".

Some writing systems use a macron (a horizontal bar over the letter) to write the long vowel sound: ā ī ū ē ō.  Then, it would be written "dōzo".

Another method is to spell out the letters: aa, ii, uu, ei, ou.   That gives us "douzo".

Both "dōzo" and "douzo" are correct.

Sometimes, the long vowel isn't written in: "dozo". This is wrong!

You might also see ee and oo used instead of ei and ou: "doozo".

Personally I think "doozo" is just asking for trouble. That's not how the word is spelled in Japanese (it's どうぞ  do-u-zo).

Of course, the only truly correct way to spell the word is to write it in Japanese: どうぞ.

But both "dōzo" and "douzo" are fine too. Just don't forget the long vowel!

Your First Ever Beginner Japanese Class

You've signed up, bought the textbook and are on your way to class. The day is here! It's your first ever Japanese lesson!

So, what are we going to do? What are you going to learn? Can't you just stay home and talk to the dog instead?

Your first class can be exciting, but also a bit daunting.

I've taught lots of first-ever Japanese classes to beginners over the years. Here's what we do.

A brief introduction to the Japanese writing system

Lots of people are really interested in the Japanese writing system, and it's a bit complex. So I usually start with a quick rundown of the three "alphabets".

The main reason I start with alphabets is that it helps you with pronunciation.

Pronouncing words in a new language can be difficult. Especially when those words are as long as:

Hajimemashite. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.

"Nice to meet you."
Understanding the sounds of Japanese from the start will help you pronounce words correctly.

Introduce yourself!

Next, we learn to introduce ourselves in Japanese:

  • "Nice to meet you!"

  • "My name is..."

  • "I'm from..."

  • "I'm a teacher / engineer / lawyer, etc."

You'll learn to say your job, of course - not just the generic ones in the textbook. This is important.

By this point, you've learned to introduce yourself politely. And to tell a Japanese-speaking person something about yourself. Awesome.

Time for a break, and a cup of ホットコーヒー (hot coffee) from the reception cafe.

Question time!

Next up, we learn some questions:

  • "What's your name?"

  • "Where are you from?"

  • "What's your job?"

We'll practice them over and over, until they're glued into your brain. 

Depending on how much time we have, we might practice introducing each other:

"This is Agnes. She's from Poland. She's a structural engineer."

With lots and lots of practice, that's probably all we have time for. But look what you've learned in one lesson!

Hopefully, you'll go home with your head full of new phrases, ready to test out on the dog.

(Pictured: graduating Beginner class students, 2016-17)