How do you say “I don’t understand Japanese” in Japanese?

When you travel in Japan, you may meet some Japanese people who speak to you in Japanese. Ideally, you want to understand them, but it might not be the case.

What can you say in Japanese when you don’t understand their Japanese?

At first, let’s learn the verb which means “to understand”, “wakaru”.

How do you say "I don't understand Japanese" in Japanese?

Wakaru is a Godan verb (ru-verb). The conjugation is;

Casual form

  • わかる wakaru: present tense
  • わからない wakaranai: negative present tense
  • わかった wakatta: past tense
  • わからなかった wakaranakatta: negative present tense

Polite form

  • わかります wakarimasu: present tense
  • わかりません wakarimasen: negative present tense
  • わかりました wakarimashita: past tense
  • わかりませんでした wakarimasendeshita: negative past tense

The Japanese language is “日本語(にほんご)nihongo” in Japanese. Please note that “Japanese people” is slightly different from it. It’s “日本人(にほんじn)nihonjin”.

Therefore, when you want to say”I don’t understand Japanese”, you can say

日本語はわかりません。
Nihongo wa wakarimasen

I don’t understand Japanese.

If you want to be polite to them, you can add “すみませんSumimasen” which means a light apology “sorry”.

すみません、日本語はわかりません。
Sumimasen, nihongo wa wakarimasen

Sorry, I don’t understand Japanese.

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