genki_rocket: (MIKA!)



I had heard about Kumamoto ben (dialect) before I got here. One of my Japanese friends had been a tour guide before moving to the US and told me that Kumamoto people were very hard to understand.

The dialect of Kyushu is, in my opinion, awesome. To me, it sounds a bit rough and very different from the Tokyo dialect - which is considered 'standard Japanese'. I love it.

But to other people, I think that it sounds very...hick-ish hahaha.

I want to talk about Kyushu ben (specifically Kumamoto's dialect) for a few entries so I'll just start with probably the easiest, most recognizable difference: bai.

In Kumamoto, people tack on 'bai' to the end of their sentences. It takes the place of 'desu' or 'da yo'. I was skeptical when I read this, but upon getting here I found it was 100% true. Here's an example.

'Hontou desu yo!' (Really!) becomes 'Hontou bai!' in Kumamoto ben.

At recess, my kids often say 'Ian Sensei! Ikou bai!' (Let's go!)

There are a bunch of other instances in which people say it. You can really just tack it on to whatever you want, it seems.

I think that it's a super cool thing and I've definitely made a conscious effort to adopt it into my vernacular. This has caused some weird looks whenever I talk to people who are from other places in Japan, but I don't care. I just really like speaking the local dialect of where I live. I did the same thing when I lived in Spain because I feel like when you eventually leave that place, you'll have always have a part of you that reflects where you used to live. It becomes part of your identity and I like that.

So whenever curious locals ask me if I'm visiting from somewhere, I grin and say "いや、ここに住んでいるばい!" (Nope, I live here, yo!) . This both surprises them and puts them at ease, I think. I've noticed that using Kumamoto ben with older people always works out favorably for me - they're the ones who use it the most!

Have any expats in Japan or other countries picked up on any words or dialects?? What do you think about it all?

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Genki Rocket

July 2012

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