When speaking Japanese with my Japanese friends, the inevitable question arises: “What Japanese do you like most?” or, as it is said in Japanese, 好きな日本語はなんですか？ “Suki na nihongo wa nan desu ka?” I am always at a loss for how to respond. After all, the Japanese language is full of different dialects, idioms, characters, onomatopoeia, and levels of politeness, all of which could qualify as “Japanese”. So, how should I answer this tricky question?
I’ve asked my Japanese friends and here is what I found out:
The answers to this question can include, but are not limited to:
- A word or phrase with a pleasant meaning
- Some Japanese cute suffixes that don’t change the meaning of a word, but add a cute sparkle to your speech. These suffixes, called AGEPOYO in Japanese, are sometimes used by high schoolers, so it may be questionable whether I should choose this as my favorite Japanese at my age.
- An idiom
- Lastly, a word from your language that has entered Japanese. For example, if you are Portuguese, your answer could be “castella”, if you are Chinese, then perhaps “panda”, if you are Italian, then definitely “pizza”, and so on.
To be honest, neither I nor my friends have any idea what they really want to know by asking this question. My Japanese friends have told me that it is a polite question and that some answers can serve as conversation starters. Since it is meant to be a conversation starter, I suggest a smart solution – making a joke. Jokes are the best icebreakers, right? So, how about I respond with something like this:
- What Japanese do you like?
- Oh, I don't know, there are so many options. What will you recommend?
- 好きな日本語はなんですか？(Suki na nihongo ha nan desu ka?)
- そうですね。おすすめはなんですか？(Soudesune. Osusume ha nan desu ka?)
Pleasant conversations with your Japanese friends!