How to Say “Can You Speak English?” in Japanese (+Examples) | AlexRockinJapanese (2023)

In today’s survival phrase lesson, we will take a look at different ways how to say “Can you speak English?” in Japanese. If you can start your conversation with a Japanese phrase like this it will help a lot not to scare away the Japanese person you would like to talk to.

To ask someone in Japanese if they can speak English you use the phrase “Eigo o hanaesmasu ka?” (英語を話せますか). “Eigo” is the Japanese word for “English” and “…o hanasemasu ka?” means “Can (you) speak …?”. To sound even politer you can add “Sumimasen” (すみません) at the beginning of the sentence.

Below you will find a couple of other ways how you can ask if someone speaks English and the possible responses you might get. I have also added the translations of a few related phrases like for example “Do you speak…?” or “I can’t speak…” and a vocabulary list with other useful words for this situation.

How to Say “Can You Speak English?” in Japanese

How to Say “Can You Speak English?” in Japanese (+Examples) | AlexRockinJapanese (1)

Now that you know the most basic phrase to ask if someone speaks English is “Eigo o hanaesmasu ka?” (英語を話せますか) in Japanese, let’s look at some other ways how you can ask this. All of the phrases below generally mean the same. They are just other natural ways how you can frame the same question.

“Can you speak English?” in Japanese

  • Eigo ga hanasemasu ka?
    Can you speak English?
    えいご が はなせます か?
  • Eigo ga wakarimasu ka?
    Do you understand English?
    えいご が わかります か?
  • Eigo o hanasu koto ga dekimasu ka?
    Can you speak English?
    えいご を はなすことができます か?

In order to start the conversation more politely I would always add the word “Sumimasen” (すみません) at the beginning. It means “Excuse me” and is usually used when you start talking to someone you don’t know or when you need to ask for a favor, etc. It can be added to all of the sentences mentioned above.

Ask more politely by adding “Sumimasen”

  • Sumimasen, eigo o hanasemasu ka?
    Excuse me, can you speak English?
    すみません、えいご を はなせます か?
  • Sumimasen, eigo ga wakarimasu ka?
    Excuse me, can you understand English?
    すみません、えいご が わかります か?

If you have had Japanese lessons before or if you are taking lessons right now you might be wondering why the “Anata wa” (あなたは, you) is missing. Well, two reasons. It is not really polite to use “anata” especially when talking to a stranger and in Japanese the subject is usually omitted when it is clear. So while “Anata wa eigo o hanasemasu ka?” (あなたは英語を話せますか) is grammatically correct it is just not natural.

The most common responses you will get are probably “I don’t speak English” or “Yes“. However, just in case the person answers in Japanese you might want to know that “Hanasemasu” or “Hai/Ee hansemasu” means they can speak English. While “Hanasemasen” or “Iie, hanasemasen“, on the other hand, means they don’t speak English. You might also hear “Sukoshi hanasemasu” which means that they can speak English a little, but we will learn more about that in the next section.

Related Phrases & Useful Words

Instead of focusing on just one phrase, I thought it might be useful if we can combine it with related survival phrases. So here are a couple of other phrases that might come up in the same situation. The first one of the examples is usually an easier one for beginners, while the other ones are a bit longer and could be a bit more complicated.

Do You Speak (English/Japanese/…)?

This is very easy to remember because it is essentially the same phrase. “Eigo o hanashimasu ka?” (英語を話しますか) is the actual direct translation, but nobody says this. So just stick to the phrase we have learned a minute ago with hanasemasu (話せます).

If somebody wants to know if you speak Japanese they will ask “Nihongo o hanasemasu ka?” (日本語を話せますか). So any time you want to ask about another language just replace “Eigo” with the Japanese word for the other language.

Eigo o hanasemasu ka?
Kanji: (英語)を話せますか?
Kana: (えいご)を はなせます か?
Meaning: Do you speak (English)?

Nihongo o hanasemasu ka?
Kanji: (日本語)を話せますか?
Kana: (にほんご)を はなせます か?
Meaning: Do you speak (Japanese)?

Yes, I (Can) Speak (English/Japanese ….)

“Hai, hanasemasu” (はい、話せます) or the less natural phrase “Hai, eigo o hanasemasu” (はい、英語を話せます) mean “Yes, I speak English” or “Yes, I can speak English”. As with “you” it is clear that you are talking about “English” or the beforementioned language so there is no need to repeat that.

A very similar phrase is “… koto ga dekimasu” (…ことが出来ます) which means “can do ….” or “able to do…”. So when you say “Nihongo o hanasu koto ga dekimasu” it also means “I can speak Japanese”.

Hai, hanasemasu.
Kana: はい、はなせます。
Meaning: Yes, I speak (English/Japanese/…).

Hai, (nihongo o) hanasemasu.
Kana: はい、(にほんご を)はなせます。
Meaning: Yes, I speak (Japanese).

Hai, (eigo o) hanasu koto ga dekimasu.
Kana: はい、(えいご を)はなす こと が できます。
Meaning: Yes, I can speak (English).

No, I Don’t/Can’t Speak (Japanese/English/…)

To say that you don’t or can’t speak English you just have to change the verb hanasemasu (話せます) into its negative form which is hanasemasen (話せません). You do this by simply replacing “masu” (ます) with “masen” (ません).

In the same way, you can change other verbs like for example dekimasu (出来ます, able to do) or wakarimasu (分かります, understand) into their negative form. Let’s try it!

Iie, hanashimasen.
Kana: いいえ、はなせません。
Meaning: No, I don’t speak (language).

Iie, (nihongo ga) wakarimasen.
Kana: いいえ、(にほんご が)わかりません。
Meaning: No, I don’t understand (Japanese).

Iie, (eigo o) hanasu koto ga dekimasen.
Kana: いいえ、(えいご を)はなす こと が できません。
Meaning: No, I can’t speak (English).

I Can Speak a Little (Japanese/English/…)

You can say this by using “Sukoshi dake nihongo o hanasemasu” (少しだけ日本語を話せます). Sukoshi (少し) means “a little” or “a bit” and dake (だけ) means “only” or “just” so when combined Sukoshi dake it emphasizes “just a little” or “only a bit”.

Sukoshi dake nihongo o hanasemasu.
Kana: すこし だけ にほんご を はなせます。
Meaning: I can speak a little Japanese.

Sukoshi dake nihongo o hanasu koto ga dekimasu.
Kana: すこし だけ えいご を はなす こと が できます。
Meaning: I can speak only a bit of Japanese.

I’m sorry, I Only Speak (English/Japanese/…)?

To respond a little bit politer in case you can’t speak or understand a language you can use the phrase “Sumimasen, eigo shika hanasemasen” (すみません、英語しか話せません) which means “I’m sorry, I (can) only speak English”. Shika (しか) means “only” or “nothing but” and it is always used together with a negative form like for example “masen”. There are also some other even politer phrases to say “I’m sorry”, but let’s stick with Sumimasen for now.

Sumimasen, eigo shika hanasemasen.
Kana: すみません、えいご しか はなせません。
Meaning: I’m sorry, I only speak English.

Sumimasen, nihongo shika wakarimasen.
Kana: すみません、にほんご しか わかりません。
Meaning: I’m sorry, I only understand English.

I’m sorry, Can You Say This in (English/Japanese/…)?

If you want someone to repeat what they just said in English you can say “Sumimasen, eigo de itte moraemasu ka?” (すみません、英語で言ってもらえますか). Itte (言って) is the te-form of the verb iu (言う, to say) and Moraemasu (もらえます) comes from the polite verb Morau (もらう, to receive, to get someone to do something) and means “can you (do …) for me”. So, in this case, it means “can you say … for me”. Eigo de (英語で) translates as “in English”.

You can also combine it with the phrase Mou ikkai (もう一回, one more time). So “Sorry, can you say this one more time in English?” is “Sumimasen, mou ikkai eigo de itte moraemasu ka?” (すみません、もう一回英語で言ってもらえますか) in Japanese.

Sumimasen, eigo de itte moraemasu ka?
Kana: すみません、(えいご) で いって もらえます か?
Meaning: I’m sorry, can you say this in English?

Sumimasen, mou ikkai eigo de itte moraemasu ka?
Kana: すみません、もう いっかい(えいご) で いって もらえます か?
Meaning: I’m sorry, can you say this one more time in English?

Useful Words & Vocabulary List

to speak話す
can speak話せます
can’t speak話せません
to understand分かる
can understand
don’t understand
can’t understand
to be able to do出来る
able to do出来ます
not able to do出来ません
to talk喋る
can talk喋られます
can’t talk喋られません
to say言う
English (language)英語
Japanese (language)日本語
Spanish (language)スペイン語
Portuguese (language)ポルトガル語
German (language)ドイツ語
Italian (language)イタリア語
Dutch (language)オランダ語
Russian (language)ロシア語
Chinese (language)中国語
Korean (language)韓国語
Hindi (language)ヒンディー語
Arabic (language)アラビア語
Bengali (language)ベンガル語
Lahnda (language)ラフンダー語


Can you speak English in Japan? ›

With the exception of random romaji interspersed into kanji and kana, English in Japan mainly serves as a way for the Japanese to communicate with foreign visitors, particularly non-Asian foreigners. Do people speak English in Japan? Yes, at least when they have to.

Can you speak or could you speak? ›

So we could be asking the other person to speak to us in English, rather than another language. Both “Do you speak English?” and “Can you speak English?” are correct. “Could you speak English?” does not ask for ability.

What is Dekimasu? ›

You can express ability or potential if you use the dictionary form of verbs, and attach to it KOTO GA DEKIMASU (can do / Literally, can do the thing of). Let's make a sentence, using KOTO GA DEKIMASU. When you say "I can go," "I" is WATASHI. "To go" is IKIMASU. And its dictionary form is IKU.

How do you ask someone if they speak English? ›

" May I request you to speak in English?" "Would you please say that in English?" assuming something has been said. You can be ultra-polite, "May I please request you to speak in English?" You can also be firm and to the point, yet polite - "Please speak in English".

What is your name to Japanese? ›

おなまえは?” (o namae wa?)

Is Japanese easy to learn? ›

The Japanese language is considered one of the most difficult to learn by many English speakers. With three separate writing systems, an opposite sentence structure to English, and a complicated hierarchy of politeness, it's decidedly complex.

Could Can English? ›

Be able to is possible in all tenses - but "can" is possible only in the present and "could" is possible only in the past for ability. In addition, "can" and "could" have no infinitive form. So we use be able to when we want to use other tenses or the infinitive.

Could I may I can I Could you or can you? ›

"Can I" is best for semi-formal situations. "Could I" is best for semi-formal situations. "May I" is best for semi-formal situations.

Can US vs Can we? ›

When you want to use we or us before a noun, first decide whether or not the noun is the subject. If it is, use the pronoun we. If it's not, you must be dealing with an object and you'll want to use the other first-person plural pronoun: us.

What is te Kudasai? ›

When you ask somebody to do something in Japanese, you say TE-form verbs and then KUDASAI (Please, or I would ask you to).

What is dakara? ›

だから ( = dakara) : because of that, that's why, therefore. それで ( = sorede) : then, so, as a result, because of that, that's why.

Is Kimi polite? ›

Informal “you”: 君 (kimi): used by men toward people of lower status. Typically not rude. (not inherently formal/informal, but makes the status hierarchy explicit, and is therefore better suited to formal situations)

How do you ask can you talk now? ›

So now you know 3 ways to ask to speak with someone else: “Could I have a word with you?” for asking to speak with someone privately, and get them away from a group, “Do you have a moment?” as a way to ask about the other persons availability for a conversation, and the most informal phrase, “Could I talk to you for a ...

Can you ask if someone speaks another language in an interview? ›

If you ask, you could be accused of discriminating against them.” Employers cannot ask if English is a candidate's first language either. If it's relevant to a position, you can ask what other languages a candidate might be able to read, speak or write fluently.

How are you doing answer? ›

I'M DOING WELL. This is a good answer if you want to be gracious and share something but not get into a heavy discussion. The “thank you for asking” up front warms up your response by showing that you appreciate the question. Saying that you are doing well indicates that you want to offer some insight into your life.

Is Siri a Japanese name? ›

Siri is a Scandinavian feminine given name.

How do I spell my name in Japanese? ›

To write your name in Japanese, the easiest way is to find a Katakana letter that corresponds to the pronunciation of your Japanese name. For example, if your name is “Maria,” look for the Katakana character for Ma, which is マ, then the character for Ri, which is リ, and then character for A, which is ア.

Is your name Japanese or Korean? ›

Your Name is a Japanese light novel written by Makoto Shinkai. It is a novelization of the animated film of the same name, which was directed by Shinkai.

What are the ABC's in Japanese? ›

The Japanese alphabet is really three writing systems that work together. These three systems are called hiragana, katakana and kanji.

Is Japanese harder than Chinese? ›

Japanese is slightly easier to learn. But, Chinese is much more widely spoken. Both languages have their pros and cons.

Is Korean easier than Japanese? ›

Unlike other East-Asian languages, Korean isn't a tonal language. This means, that the meaning of the word doesn't change, regardless of what your accent is like. This makes learning Korean much easier than Japanese.

Can I vs May I? ›

The word 'May I' is used to ask for permission. The word 'Can I' is used to refer to possible abilities or to seek permission. It is used as a verb.

What is the negative of May? ›

The negative form of may is may not + base form. We never use a contraction for this negative. (You might find the word mayn't in a dictionary, but it is not used.)

Can example sentence? ›

She can speak several languages. He can swim like a fish.

Can I or should I? ›

Usually, CAN is used to give options or explain that you have the ability to do something, while SHOULD is used to give a personal opinion. E.g. You CAN walk home at night, but it's dangerous. So I think you SHOULD get a taxi. English exercise "Can or Should" created by anonyme with The test builder.

Can I or may I go to the bathroom? ›

Using can in this sense isn't incorrect but it is considered informal. If you want to sound formal, use may. We all know the joke (or, rather, “joke”): a student raises their hand and asks the teacher “Can I go to the bathroom?” and the teacher responds, “I don't know—can you?”

Can Can t sentences? ›

You can run fast. She can ride a bike. We can't speak Japanese. They can't play the guitar.

Can I vs can't I? ›

So the two tricks here are: 1) If the sound is abrupt and chopped, can't, can't, then it's the word can't. And 2) if the vowel sound changes to the schwa, then it's the word can. Kn, kn, I can do it. That's it, and thanks so much for using Rachel's English.

What is cant short for? ›

Can't is a contraction of cannot, and as such it's sometimes unsuitable for formal writing. In everyday writing and in speaking, it's ubiquitous: I can't go out until I proofread my paper.

What word is mine? ›

Mine is a possessive pronoun, being a possessive form of I. It can refer to a singular or plural noun, and it can be used as the subject, object, or complement of a verb or the object of a preposition: The glass on the left is mine.

What word is Yamete? ›

Simply put, “yamete” means “stop” or “stop it” in Japanese. However, it is quite informal. It can be used between friends and acquaintances – either for lighthearted situations or even more serious ones.

What is Yomimasu? ›

So, YOMIMASU (to read) becomes YOMIMASEN. To make it into a question, we add the particle KA at the end of a sentence, and say it with a rising intonation. The question form of YOMIMASU (to read) is YOMIMASU KA. Go to this lesson's page. Go back to the list.

What is Gambatte Kudasai? ›

In Japanese, the phrase Ganbatte Kudasai (Please Do Your Best) is often used to encourage people to always do their best in everything they do.

What is Sugoi desu ne? ›

Wow! It's like a professional cook! “すごい” (sugoi) is used for people who are very close to you, but when you are not yet close to the person you want to praise or when the person you are talking to is older, you use a honorific expression and say “すごいです” (sugoi desu).

What is Nandemonai? ›

Nandemonai is Japanese for nothing or nothing special You can use it in general conversation to indicate “no big deal” etc.

What Tabi means? ›

tabi (plural tabis or tabi) Traditional Japanese ankle socks with a separate section for the big toe.

Is Kimi a girl? ›

Kimi is a feminine name of Japanese origin.

Is Anata wa rude? ›

If you use “anata” with someone who you know, it is rude. So it's better to use name plus san. You might already have known that Japanese people often leave out 'watashi', because you say, for example, “Hiroko desu.” to mean 'I'm Hiroko.” We leave out “watashi” when it's obvious.

Is Anata polite? ›

あなた — Anata

Typically written with hiragana, あなた is the standard, polite way to refer to the listener in a conversation, though generally it is only used when you do not know the name of the person you are speaking to.

Can I speak to or with? ›

To speak to someone is usually a one-way thing, perhaps you are giving instructions to a colleague. To speak with someone is more or a conversation or discussion (2-way).

How do you say can we talk? ›

Alternatives to texting someone “we need to talk”

For example: “Hey, when you have a moment would you mind meeting/calling me to discuss [insert topic]?” Another alternative they suggest is, “Hey, I've got a couple of questions about [insert topic] – do you mind giving me a call when you have time to discuss it?”

Can we talk sometime meaning? ›

Sometime (one word, without the S) is also an adverb, but it means “at an unspecified time in the future/past.” We should go out for coffee sometime. He'd like to talk to you sometime.

Can you ask if someone speaks English in an interview? ›

Sure. As answered elsewhere: you're allowed to ask interviewers questions. It is good to try to make yourself look good when asking such questions.

How do you ace an interview when English is not your first language? ›

Let's look at a few interview tips and tricks for non-native English speakers!
  1. Research the Company in Advance. ...
  2. Prepare an Introduction. ...
  3. Familiarize Yourself with Common Interview Questions. ...
  4. Focus on Relevant Vocabulary. ...
  5. Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses. ...
  6. Practice, Practice, Practice. ...
  7. Be an Active Listener. ...
  8. Be Positive.

Can I survive in Japan with English? ›

You'd really be surprised how many people in Japan know English, whether they speak it fluently or simply know key phrases that will help you when you're stuck. This is especially the case in more touristy areas such as Tokyo, Osaka and Harajuku.

Can you live in Japan with just English? ›

Working, living, and traveling in Japan without speaking Japanese is feasible, and there are countless examples of foreigners doing so. Having said that, learning Japanese will put you at an exceptional advantage in both your professional life and daily life.

Can an English speaker work in Japan? ›

There are plenty of opportunities in a lot of industries, even if you only speak English. In fact, a lot of foreigners, who've lived here for more than 10 years, can't speak Japanese. There's a catch, though: you're closing a lot of doors if you don't bother to learn at least conversational-level Japanese.

Is Japan friendly to foreigners? ›

Luckily, Japanese society is very welcoming of foreigners and forgiving should you commit a faux pas.

Do Japanese schools teach English? ›

English-language education in Japan began as early as 1600 with the initial contacts between the Japanese and Europeans. Almost all students graduating from high school in Japan have had several years of English language education; however, many still do not have fluent English conversation abilities.

Do Japanese people work long hours? ›

Despite 40 hours a week being the legal recommendation, many Japanese workers can only dream of having a normal 9-5 workday. In many companies, there is an “untold rule” which expects people to work long (and often unproductive) hours of overtime.

Do doctors in Japan speak English? ›

Most doctors in Japan have a basic understanding of English, which can be quite helpful- whether they can communicate with you fully, is a different matter, though.

Can I go to Japan without knowing Japanese? ›

The good news is that you don't need to be able to read or write Japanese to enjoy Japan. Japanese people don't expect you to be able to read the Japanese language, and you'll find English-language signage throughout the country.

Can I live in Tokyo If I speak English? ›

Tokyo can be a difficult place to acclimate to and get around in unless you already speak Japanese. There aren't a lot of accommodations made for English speakers. And, while you'll certainly meet Japanese citizens who speak English, you can't expect that it will be the norm everywhere you go.

How long does it take to learn Japanese? ›

According to the US Department of State, Japanese is one of the hardest languages for English natives to learn. It doesn't have many similarities in structure to English. They estimate it takes 88 weeks of learning, or 2200 hours, to reach fluency.

Is it hard to move to Japan? ›

Unlike some Asian countries, relocating to Japan is not difficult as long as you are prepared. This means having all of the right documents together before you even board your flight to the island nation.

Are English teachers allowed in Japan? ›

There is a high demand for English teachers in Japan, and high competition. To teach English in Japan, you will need a TEFL certification and a 4-year college degree. You must be a native English speaker without a criminal record. You can expect an average salary of about $2,500 - $3,000 USD per month.

Can I teach English in Japan with a family? ›

East Asia is one of the best places to teach English abroad with a family. Specifically, countries like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, and China offer wages high enough (and low enough living costs) to raise a child on an English teacher's salary.

Can you hug in Japan? ›

Best not greet a Japanese person by kissing or hugging them (unless you know them extremely well). While Westerners often kiss on the cheek by way of greeting, the Japanese are far more comfortable bowing or shaking hands. In addition, public displays of affection are not good manners.

Is Japan nice to live in? ›

In Japan, tradition and modernity meet in a collision of incredible food, beautiful landscapes and highly urban city areas. Incredibly safe, culturally exciting and full of incredible food – here are six reasons why you should consider international removals to Japan for a new place to live and work.

Is Tokyo safe? ›

Tokyo is the fifth safest city in the world per the Safe City Index 2021. For comparison, New York City ranks twelfth, Washington DC fourteenth, and London fifteenth. But that doesn't mean you can throw caution to the wind. It's still a city and all cities have some level of crime.

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