When you are learning a new language, one of the most important phrase to learn is how to express a genuine apology. Since cultures are different, what may occasion someone to apologize in Japanese may be different from Singapore or any other part of the world. Also, the phrases to use may vary with the situation. For instance, we can say “I’m sorry” when you inconvenience a person or hurt them. But, we say “Sorry for your loss” to express sympathy. In both cases, the primary word is sorry but the expression varies with the situation.
You don’t want to be tongue-tied or use the wrong phrase when it comes to apologizing. Not only is it embarrassing but it can also be deemed rude.
Here are some occasions when you will need to apologize and how to apologize in the Japanese culture:
When to Apologize
There are various scenarios that can call for an apology. These three represent the most common among language learners. You can ask your tutor to help you to role-play the scenarios during your Japanese classes.
- When you inconvenience a person or hurt a person unintentionally.
- When a person goes out of their way to do for you a favor. The apology is an outside gesture of your gratitude.
- When you cause a minor accident or want to interrupt someone. For instance, if you accidentally bump into someone or stop a person on the street to ask for directions.
How to Apologize
Say Sorry — ごめんなさい
Sorry is the most common word used to apologize, not just in Japanese, but also in many cultures and languages around the world.
You can say ごめんなさい when you inconvenience a person or hurt them. Most Japanese speakers will be able to tell what you want to express and will understand the expression.
However, it is considered impolite to use it when addressing your seniors. If you are addressing a superior, you say これは失礼しました or “sorry that was rude of me.” So, be mindful of the age, or official rank of the addressee.
Say, Excuse me — すみません
This is a popular way of expressing an apology amongst native Japanese speakers. It is used when you want to apologize for minor social accidents. For instance, when you sneeze in public or accidentally bump into another person on the street.
You can say お邪魔します to interrupt someone in a sort of non-apologetic scenario. For example, if you want to interrupt someone on the street and ask for directions you can say おじゃま します or “excuse me for disturbing you.”
Say, I’m Sorry to Trouble You —ご面倒をお掛けして、すみません
Learning Japanese culture is part and parcel of any meaningful Japanese course in Singapore, and this is one of the practices you will learn. When someone does you a favor, you should apologize for the “inconvenience” you have caused them.
It’s what we have mentioned earlier. You can apologize as a polite way of expressing your gratitude. Don’t worry, it’s not some deep reverence act, but rather a deeper, more intense way of expressing your gratitude the Japanese way.
Apologizing will enhance your interactions with other Japanese speakers. The above phrases will help you use the correct expression towards an appropriate audience.