What You Need to Know About Kansai Dialect

Have you ever heard Dialect in Japanese before? If you visit the area outside Tokyo or watch local TV shows, you will meet in the local dialect of the region.

You have to face that not everybody speaks the Japanese you were taught at school! The most powerful dialect in Japan is the “Kansai [Osaka] Dialect” spoken by over 20 million people in the Kansai area in Western Japan, including the major cities such as Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe.

You may be shocked to see the differences in pitch, intonations, and even grammar between these two language varieties. you might wish to have had at least learned the characteristics of the dialect as preparation. No worries! This helps you for sure.

“Standard” VS “Kansai Dialect”

The Japanese taught as a foreign language is what we call “Standard Japanese.” Descriptively speaking, the Standard Japanese is the variety used in the Tokyo area.

The originalStandard Japanese” was in large part the product of political considerations during the last half of the Meiji era (1868 -1912) under the “Genbun itchi” (the unification of the spoken and written language) movement. 

“Standard Japanese” based on the dialect of the Tokyo area has got power since the Meiji government adopted it as the national language and began standardizing language education in schools.

However, Japan is a small island country, yet people from different regions of the country speak differently even nowadays and Kansai is the second most populated urban region in Japan after Kantō, with a population of about 20 million, so “Kansai Dialect” is still the most widely spoken, known and influential non-standard Japanese dialect.

The Kansai dialect’s idioms are sometimes introduced into other dialects and even standard Japanese. Many Kansai people are attached to their own speech and have a strong regional rivalry against Tokyo. Since the Taishō period, the manzai form of Japanese comedy has been developed in Osaka, and a large number of Osaka-based comedians have appeared in Japanese media with “Kansai dialect”.

What is the “Kansai Dialect” [Kansai-ben]

“Kansai-ben” refers to a group of dialects spoken in the Kansai region. But, in popular usage, the term most commonly refers to the dialect spoken in Osaka, the largest city in Kansai, therefore it is also called “Osaka-ben”. The Kinki region consists of southern Honshu’s [本州] two main prefectures Osaka-fu [大阪府] and Kyoto-fu [京都府], as well as the five prefectures Hyogo-ken [兵庫県], Mie-ken [三重県], Nara-ken [奈良県], Shiga-ken [滋賀県] and Wakayama-ken [和歌山県].

While Kinki and Kansai are basically synonymous words, the word Kansai [関西] is usually used to refer to the ‘triangle’ region Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe [神戸]. The “Kansai Dialect” in Japan is a “Powerful” dialect historically and culturally, spoken by dozens of millions of people who live or used to live in the Kansai area, including major cities such as Osaka and Kyoto.

The Kansai dialect is thought to symbolize the strong local identity of the people within the Kansai domestic culture. They are proud to be of the Kansai people, and of the Kansai local culture. In fact, my mother is also from Osaka, so she always speaks “Kansai Dialect” and is proud of herself even she lives in Yokohama.

Typical Phrases of “Kansai Dialect”

Introducing the words and phrases unique to Kansai. The above-mentioned general and detailed intonations are different in each dialect, but they can be used immediately when visiting Kyoto or Osaka. Introducing a typical Kansai dialect!

First, I would like to introduce the basic Kansai dialect that appears frequently in the daily conversations of the Kansai people.

If you remember the “Kansai Dialect” introduced here, it will be easier for you to travel to the Kansai area. Let’s talk to local people using below.

(1) “Kansai Dialect” for Beginner

Please take a look at the following table to find out vocabulary and very common phrases that might be very useful for you when visiting the Kansai area.

Standard Japanese Kansai DialectMeaning in English
1.こんにちは(Konnichiwa)まいど(Maido)Hello!/Thank you
2.ありがとう(Arigato)おおきに(O-kini)Thank you
3.ほんと(Honto)ほんま(Honma)Really
4.良い(Yoi)ええ(Ee)Good
5.ダメ(Dame)あかん(Akan)No
6.そうだね(Soudane)そ/せやで(So / Seyade)I see
7.すごい(Sugoi)めっちゃ(Meccha)・ばり(Bari)Amazing!
8.むずかしい(Muzukashii)むずい(Muzui)Difficult  
9.早く(Hayaku)はよ(Hayo)Hurry!
10.ちがう(Chigau)ちゃう(Chau)Wrong
11.なんで(Nande)なんでやねん(Nandeyanen)Why?
12.さようなら(Sayounara)さいなら(Sainara)ほな(Hona)See you
13.とても(Totemo)  めっちゃ(Meccha)Very
14.かまわない(Kamawanai)かまへん(Kamahen)No worry
15.じゃあ行こうか(Jyaa Ikouka)ほな いこか(Hona Ikoka)Let’s go
16.しかたない(Shikatanai)しゃあない(Sha-nai)Can’t be helped
17.わたし (Watashi)うち(Uchi)I
18.あなた(Anata)あんた(Anta)You
19.おもしろい(Omoshiroi)おもろい(Omoroi)Interesting
20.どうしよう(Doushiyou)どないしよう(Donaishiyou)What should I do?
21.そうだよ(Soudayo)せやねん(Seyanen)Yes
22.できない(Dekinai)でけへん(Dekehen)I can not do
23.このあいだ(Konoaida)こないだ(Konaida)The other day

(2) “Kansai Dialect” for Advanced-Learners

In the following table, please take a look at the advanced vocabulary that might be heard when you are interacting with the native person of Kansai. Learning these phrases would enrich your knowledge and the culture of Japan.

Standard JapaneseKansai DialectMeaning in English
1.あたたかい (Atatakai)ぬくい(Nukui)Warm
2.かたづける(Katazukeru)なおす(Naosu)Tyde up
3.変な(Henna)けったいな(Kettaina)Wired
4.つきあたり(Tsukiatari)どんつき(Dontsuki)At the corner
5.すてる(Suteru)ほかす(Hokasu)Throw it away
6.新しい(Atarashii)さら(Sara)New
7.せっかち(Sekkachi)いらち(Irachi)Hasty
8.くすぐったい(Kusuguttai)こそばい(Kosobai)Tickles
9.しらじらしい (Shirajirashii)しんきくさい(Shinki kusai) Gloomy

(3) Let’s Use the “Kansai Dialect

The following are examples of the sentences using the Kansai Dialect.

NoJapanese SentencesHow to ReadMeaning in English
1.めっちゃ、うまいわ
This phrase is used when you eat
delicious food and express your impression
Meccha umaiwa!

Taste very good!

2.これなんぼですか?
This phrase is used when asking the price
Kore nanbo desuka?

How much is it

3.まけてーやー
This phrase is used when you negotiate the price
Makete-ya             Please make it cheaper
4. えっ?ちゃうちゃう
In case when the food brought to the store was wrong
E..?Chau Chau       What? It’s wrong! It is not my ordered

How to use “Kansai Dialect” in a sentence?

1. S sounds in standard Japanese tend to be replaced with H sounds.

Ikimasen (行きません) for "Will not go" become Ikimahen (行きまへん)
San (さん), usual polite name suffix become やまだHan (はん) Yamada-Han

2. The copula “Verb” is → Ya [や]

Da (だ) for copula "be" become Ya (や)
それや! Sore-ya!  This!
Dewanai / Jyanai (ではない/じゃない) for copula negation become Yanai (やない)
それやない! Sore-yanai  Not this!

3. Long vowel sounds at the end of words are often shortened

Souda (そうだ), "that's how it is",  gets shortened to Soya (そや),  or Seya (せや)
Ikou (行こう), "Let's go", gets shortened to Iko (行こ)

4. Nigation “N +Jyanai [じゃない] became → Chau [ちゃう]”

Standard JapaneseKansai Dialect
1.日本人じゃない
Nihon-jin Jyanai  
日本人ちゃう
Nihon-jin Chau
2.しずかじゃない
Shizuka Jyanai 
しずかちゃう
Shizuka Chau
3.このパソコン、便利じゃない
Kono-pasokon Benri Jyanai 
このパソコン、便利ちゃう
Kono-pasokon Benri Chau

             

    

     

. Nigation”V + Nai” [~ない] become → ”~Hen” [~へん]

Standard JapaneseKansai Dialect
1.Tabenai [食べない]Tabehen [食べへん]
2.Nomanai [飲まない]Nomahen [飲まへん]
3.Agenai [あげない]Agehen [あげへん]

6. Others

Standard JapaneseKansai DialectMeaning in English
1.~Ne [~ね]~Na [~な] 
2.あつい Atsuine あつい AtsuinaHot isn’t it?
3.はじまる Hajimaruneはじまる  HajimarunaIt will start now
4.~Yo [~よ]~De [~で]
5.よかった Yokattayoよかった YokattadeIt was good 
6.たべた  Tabetayoたべた    TabetadeI ate
7.~Dayone [~だよね] / ~Deshou [でしょう]~Yanka [~やん(か)]
8.うそだよね Usoda-yoneうそやん Uso-yanReally?
9.みたよね  Mita-yoneみたやん  Mita-yanSee, did you?
10.ひまだけど Hima-dakedoひまやけど HimayakedoI have time, but
11.ひまだったら Hima-dattaraひまやったら Hima-yattaraIf you have a time
12.きれいだし Kirei-dashiきれいやし Kirei-yashiBeautiful, so
13.明日でしょう Asu-deshou明日やろ Asu-yaroTomorrow right? 
14.~Teiru [~ている]~Teru [~てる(Both)] /
~Toru [とる(Men)]
15.飲んでいる  Nondeiru飲んどる  NondoruN is drinking
16.ていない  Miteinai見てへん   MitehenN is not looking
17.しているの Nani shiteirunoしてんねん  Nani shitennden?What are you doing?

Great Tips you need to know!

In the Kansai area, “Aho” [Stupid] is proof that it is praised. Generally, the word “Aho” [Stupid] is known as the negative Japanese used for bad words and slander. However, Kansai people, especially those in Osaka, often use “Aho” as a compliment.

For example,
"Anta, Honma Aho-yana" [You are so stupid]
This is a word that expresses a parental stain on the other person.

So, if you are said to be “Aho” by the Kansai people, please do not get angry, because you have become friends with the Kansai people. Please keep in mind that. Also, it’s okay to say “Anta aho-yana” to a close Kansai person but be careful because it’s frustrating to say “Baka”. Let’s keep in mind that!!

Summarize

  • “Kansai Dialect” is the most famous and used Direcet in Japanese due to historical reason.
  • “Kansai Dialect” is totally different from Standard Japanese in pitch, intonations and even grammar, but so powerful and unique.
  • It is better to learn basic “Kansai Dialect” phrase if you go to Kansai area in Japan to communicate with local people.
  • Sometimes “Kansai Dialect” has different meaning from Standard Japanses such as “Aho”, so if you use it, keep in mind that.

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ABOUTこの記事をかいた人

I am Yuri. I have worked for several companies, involved in assisting foreigners and teaching Japanese. I have also worked in Vietnam, teaching Japanese. I would like to help students abroad and teach Japanese culture. My hobbies are traveling abroad and sports, like tennis. Following excitement and discovering new things inspires me a lot. My joy in life is to help people overseas so that I can pass on the charm of Japanese culture.